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Commentary: Are the Cubs the latest one-hit-wonder for Chicago?


by - Staff Writer -
Patrick Gorski - USA Today Sports
Patrick Gorski - USA Today Sports

An interesting topic that has been discussed on various sports radio shows over the last half-decade and especially now with the absence of sports and the timeliness of the 'Last Dance' documentary -- Are the Cubs recent run of teams more like the 1985 Bears or the 1990s Chicago Bulls?

Let me preface this debate and discussion by saying two things, the Cubs’ best season of 2016 was nowhere near as dominant or as impressive of that of the 1985 Bears. Those Bears may be debatably the best team of all time, with the greatest defense ever and one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game. The one knock on the 1985 Bears is that they were not able to capture a second Championship, going down as one of the biggest one-hit-wonders in NFL history.

The second thing is that the Cubs “sustained success” was nowhere near as consistently spectacular as the run of the 1990s Bulls. The Cubs’ one ring does not compare to the Bulls’ six rings in eight seasons, and there is nobody on the Cubs who is comparable to Michael Jordan, the greatest player ever to play basketball. Michael Jordan’s Bulls are arguably the best dynasty of all-time, a feat that the current Cubs can not quite compare too.

This is simply a discussion as to which the Cubs are more like.

During the Cubs’ run from 2015-2019, which is still somewhat ongoing, they made the NLCS three times, the playoffs four times, won the World Series in 2016, won the National League Central twice, and missed the playoffs just one time. The Cubs have been amongst baseball’s best in the last half-decade, stacking up with the greatest the league has to offer recently.

However, since winning that World Series in 2016, the Cubs have been on a bit of a downfall since. Their record has slipped to 84 wins, and in each season following the World Series, the Cubs have downgraded. The Cubs went the NLCS in 2017, the Wild Card game in 2018, and then missed the playoffs in 2019.

Ownership and the front office has received complaints about being too attached to their young players and not willing to move on from contributors to the World Series team, in addition to financial and luxury tax burdens as well as a lack of homegrown pitching puts the Cubs desperate to keep winning, with their competitive window expected to be closing following 2021. After that season, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Kyle Schwarber, among others, are set to hit free agency.

The Cubs have two years left to maximize the winning window and try to turn this Cubs’ run from a one-hit-wonder into a dynasty of sorts. The issue is the Cubs may or may not have one, one and a half, or two cracks at it depending on how much baseball the Covid-19 pandemic allows to be played over the next calendar year and then some. To me, if the Cubs can win a second ring with the same core, same ownership, and same front office, that would be enough to distinguish them as a baseball dynasty — especially in a sport that is extremely difficult to win in, let alone repeat or consistently win.

As it stands right now, with a bit of disappointment surrounding the Cubs’ downfall since their World Series win and potential dynasty never coming to fruition, the Cubs look more like a one-hit-wonder of baseball. In 2016, the Cubs were riding high, with an outstanding core that was both young and extremely talented, mixed with a string veteran pitching staff and a few up and coming prospects. That all turned Ito a few trades, a few busts, and a lot of money thrown at problems while development has been lacking. Adding this all up, the Cubs look relatively similar to the 1985 Bears, a team that dominated one season, broke a streak, and lit a city on fire — but was never able to do it again.

But if Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer can make the right decisions, and new manager David Ross can pull the right strings, and the Cubs can get back to the promised land in the next few seasons, the Cubs would qualify in my mind as a dynasty — with not one ring but two. That second championship would make the current Cubs more comparable to the 1990s Bulls than the 1985 Bears.

The Cubs have some work to do to avoid becoming Chicago’s latest one-hit-wonder.

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