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The Cubs and "Sustained Success"

Pic: USA Today

The concept of "sustained success" has been thrown around quite a bit recently on the ol' interwebs, particularly as it relates to the Cubs and their seasons since winning it all in 2016.

In case you forgot...

It's been bubbling for a while now, but especially heated up after the team failed to make the playoffs in 2019 after an offensive collapse down the stretch allowed the Cardinals to overtake them and win the NL Central for the first time since 2015. Comparisons to teams like the Dodgers and Yankees abound, like this one:

This take was, as the kids say, ratio'd within an inch of its life... angry Cubs fans in droves replying with their reasons why ol' Matthew there was way off base. And you know what? He was! You can't call the Yankees or Dodgers perennial winners and say the Cubs aren't without acknowledging that the Cubs haven't had a losing season since 2014, the Yankees haven't won a World Series since 2009, and the Dodgers just now got their first title in 32 years during a COVID-shortened season after seven previous failed postseason attempts. I mean, eight division titles for the Dodgers are fun and all, but I'm sure their fans would much rather have three World Series championships to flaunt like their hated rivals up in the Bay Area.

If you don't think this is better than 8 division titles, you're... not being honest.

So why are we now saying things like the Cubs haven't achieved "sustained success" when they clearly have thus far? Is the only measure of that championships? Because if that's the case, then no team in the past decade has achieved sustained success other than the Giants who, uh, had down years in between those rings and hasn't won a division title since 2012.

The truth of it is... the Cubs have achieved the kind of success fans always hoped for during the Tribune years but were denied because ownership was terrible. No, not the kind of terrible so many people seem to think the Ricketts are, but genuinely terrible. Under current ownership and the Thed Regime, the Cubs have rebuilt into a perennial contender, been a Wild Card team twice, and won the division three times--those last things have happened in the last six years. Even when the Cubs failed to make the playoffs they carried a winning record, and the abomination that was 2018 happened because a surging Brewers team came from nowhere to tie the Cubs for the division--both teams actually had the best records in the National League. Yes, even better than the Dodgers. Funny how we forget THAT, isn't it?

Yes! But you finally won and I'm happy for you!

The true test of the Cubs' ability to sustain a successful model for winning is coming in the next few years, and this is what the fans should really be watching for. With their core players all hitting free agency in the next year or two, can the team rebuild on the fly the way the Dodgers and Yankees have without having to go into full on tank mode again? This offseason is already shaping up to be highly unusual, with teams declining options on some very important pieces to their rosters--the Rays, for example, declined Charlie Morton's team option after he was a key part of taking them to Game 6 of the World Series, and the Brewers are practically kicking Ryan Braun out of Miller Park.

Okay, that's pretty funny.

But up until now, Theo and Jed have done nothing but put a winning squad onto the field six years running. Was it the "dynasty" you might have hoped for? Maybe not, but unless you go all the way back to the late 90's, you'd be hard pressed to find one of those in MLB. And maybe you'd feel better if the championship had come later, after all of those successful seasons like it did for the Dodgers (although maybe not in a season shortened by a pandemic), but it still shouldn't be so hard to admit that the Cubs have sustained a successful ballclub for a very long time now.

Unless, of course, you just hate winning.


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