Chicago Cubs: No weight attached – Cubs can just play ball


The Chicago Cubs are in the postseason for a third-straight year. For a change, the Cubs can go out and play without the weight of pressure attached.

The Chicago Cubs are in the playoffs for a third-straight year. As the defending World Series champions, the Cubs, for a change, are one of the few teams that have very little pressure on them, at least from outside sources.

Remember how you felt in 1984, 1998, 2003? Okay, you get the point. Now think about today as opposed to last year. It is a world of difference, right?

Weighing the field

Of the eight-team field standing, a few teams that do carry high expectations are most noted.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball’s best team in the regular season, and historically great during the summer months, are in a World Series or bust mode.

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Chicago’s opponent, the Washington Nationals, have only been in D.C. since 2005, but have never advanced beyond the LDS. Most experts picked the Nats to win the series but also advance as far as the World Series. On paper, the Nationals are as good as any team.

As far as they are concerned, if not now, when? Bryce Harper is a year away from free agency.

Winning when it matters

For the Dodgers, 104 wins in the regular season and one of the best 50-game stretches at any point during a season in history (43-7), does not matter if the team comes up short in October.

The Cleveland Indians, who now hold baseball’s longest World Series drought of 69 years, came within one win of their elusive World Series title in 2016.

As we know, setting the bar high equates to higher expectations. For most fans, it is World Series or bust in 2017.

I likened Joe Girardi‘s New York Yankees to the Cubs of 2015.

Not many knew just how good the team would be, but everyone knew they would be very good very soon. New York made the playoffs, almost won the division, and have a core of key guys going forward no matter what happens right now.

Although most in New York would tell you it is World Series or bust every single year, it is a different philosophy now. Specifically for a team that is in the postseason for the first time since 2015.

Just sit back and relax. Well, try.

If you’re a Cubs fan, how great is it to watch the Cubs in the playoffs and not hear about goats, and is this the year? They haven’t been there since 1945. Haven’t won since 1908. The only mark that goes back to 1908 is the last time the Cubs did repeat.

Charlie Manuel‘s Philadelphia Phillies are the last team to win consecutive pennants (2008-09). The last team to repeat as World Series champions were the three-peat Yankees (1998-00). Pete Rose‘s Big Red Machine, the Cincinnati Reds, is the last NL club to repeat (1975-76).

Another thing I thought of while watching Game 1 of Cubs NLDS matchup Friday night: How many times does one inauspicious play, the innocent enough of a routine play, turn into something bigger?

The tiny elements that can pull at the thread of impending disaster.

History on the other foot

Through all the years, the Cubs have victimized themselves in these occurrences. Friday night, again, for a change, the Nationals were the team that this occurred to.

Stephen Strasburg was mowing down the Cubs. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and set a franchise record 10 strikeouts in a postseason game.

It took the controversial play at third base, Anthony Rendon — first error since July 22 — not handling the ground ball out by Javier Baez, that would help ignite the Cubs to the games’ first run.

In the ninth inning, Ryan Zimmerman was called out for running inside the baseline on a dropped third strike. With one out, and down three, it may not have mattered had he reached base. Yet, when it comes to postseason baseball, you know how the fluke, crazy occurrences, can turn into something bigger.

Instead, it went the Cubs way. That’s exactly the opposite that used to happen to the once Lovable Losers, is it not?

Next: Chicago Cubs not to blame for strikeout numbers tonight

Anyway, this is not about whether the Cubs can pull the quest of repeating off. This is not to say the Cubs don’t have pressure, or still carry the burden of ultimately triumphing through October glory.

It is refreshing to watch a team in the postseason that can just concentrate on winning one game at a time, without all the extra years of history attached.