The Chicago Cubs are off to a fantastic start this season. They have a league-best 47-28 record led by a strong pitching staff and a formidable lineup.
The Cubs are one of the most storied franchises in sports. Every person who considers him/her self a sports fan knows the curse that surrounds the Cubs.
The most famous is the Curse of the Billy goat in 1945. Legend has it that Billy Sianis brought his goat to Wrigley Field in game four of the series. He and his goat were eventually ejected from the game and he allegedly claimed that the Cubs would never win another pennant or play in a World Series at Wrigley Field again.
Now, of course, the Cubs have won the division since that time. But they have not reached the World Series. Their closest attempt came nearly five years ago, five outs away from their first World Series appearance in almost sixty years.
Here emerged a new curse. The curse of Bartman. In game six of the NLCS, five outs away from the World Series, leading 3-0, a ball off the bat of Luis Castillo was moving foul as Moises Alou closed in. A fan, Steve Bartman, knocked the ball away from Alou. The Marlins proceeded to score 8 runs and win game six and then closed the deal in game seven.
Over the past 100 years, the Cubs have had their ups and downs, but Cubs fans are waiting for that taste of victory. These fans were not alive when the Cubs won the title back in 1908 and these die-hard fans would love nothing more than to see their Cubbies win exactly 100 years later.
The other tenured curses in baseball have been broken in the past couple of years. In 2004, the "Curse of the Bambino" was seemingly broken as the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918 and have gone on to win another.
The Chicago White Sox won in 2005 sweeping the Houston Astros to end the "Curse of the Black Sox." Cubs fans are hoping it's time for the next Chicago team to end their own historic curse.
The Chicago Cubs come in this year with a strong manager in Lou Piniella and a strong coaching staff around him.
The offense is also one of the best in the league, yet of the more underrated, but certainly not under-appreciated, in the league. The team sports a wealth of solid athletes, most notably Alfonso Soriano.
The infield is very solid with Aramis Ramirez at third, Ryan Theriot at short, Mark DeRosa at second and the underrated Derrek Lee at first base, not to mention the emerging Geovany Soto at catcher.
The outfield is very good with Soriano, Jim Edmonds and the latest star from Japan, Kosuke Fukudome.
The pitching staff is also an essential part of this team. They are led by ace Carlos Zambrano, who is a bonafide star when he can control his fastball.
They also have Ted Lilly, a great strikeout pitcher with a nasty curveball that is unhittable when he's on. Ryan Dempster is another strikeout pitcher, a closer-turned-starter who has shined this year collecting eight wins already and sporting an ERA under three.
Finally, they have Jason Marquis and Sean Gallagher who have been good enough thus far. Both have provided the Cubs with quality innings, keeping the Cubs in games. And with the lineup mentioned above, neither has to be perfect for Chicago to pick one up in the win column.
Finally, they have a strong bullpen. Jon Lieber, the former starter, has been a nice reliever who gives the Cubs a couple of strong innings late in games. Wuertz and Marmol have each proved to be solid, both with ERAs under three. And for the first time since Rod Beck's departure, the Cubs seem to have found their closer in Kerry Wood.
Wood's injury-plagued career has been well documented after he, along with Mark Prior, appeared to be the next ace in Chicago. While injuries and an unusual throwing motion have hurt the elbow. Less innings and less work on the arm has done wonders for him and he is pitching as well as he has in years. Wood's velocity is still in the 90s, his control is better than ever, his strikeouts are rising and he is feeling as healthy as he has.
All that being considered, do the Cubs have a shot at the World Series this year? They currently hold a small lead over the St. Louis Cardinals, while the red-hot Milwaukee Brewers always have a shot as well. I see the Cardinals being their biggest threat. However, I still see them making the playoffs regardless of whether it's with a division title or a wild-card berth.
Once they reach the playoffs, as the saying goes, it's a crapshoot.
Who would they be facing in the postseason? If the early season is any indication, the Diamondbacks and Phillies figure to be there. And I would say the Cubs have a great shot of being the NL representative.
If they can make it back to the World Series, it would be quite a sight. Fans cheering wildly at Wrigley for their Cubbies to take home the grand prize that has eluded them for so long.
With all the hype, all the fireworks and all the support from Cub Nation, I don't see any way they wouldn't be able to cap off the historic victory this year.
Cubs fans are eagerly waiting, as they have for 100 years now, to see their Cubs in the World Series, and to see their Cubs celebrate.
Could the curse finally be broken? Could the losing finally cease?
Could it all happen exactly 100 years after their win in 1908?
What a moment that would be for the the baseball world, for the city of Chicago and for the players and the fans of the Chicago Cubs.
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