It happened, five years ago. Seem longer? Not to me.
Depending on your age in 2016, you’d lived through 10, 20, 30, maybe 50 or more years of the Cubs’ 108-year World Series drought.
On the current Chicago Cubs roster, there remain just three players who were part of that World Series championship that was won five years ago today: Kyle Hendricks, Willson Contreras and Jason Heyward. Four, if you want to count manager David Ross, who was a key part of the World Series victory.
11:47 p.m. Central time, November 2, 2016 is a time and date that every Cubs fan will remember forever. That’s when Kris Bryant’s throw on a dribbler by Michael Martinez nestled snugly in Anthony Rizzo’s mitt to complete the Cubs’ 8-7 win over Cleveland in 10 innings, making them World Series champions and ending the longest drought in North American sports history. In so doing they also became the first team to come from a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series in 31 years, as if just breaking the drought wasn’t in and of itself enough.
We will all remember this moment forever:
It felt, at that time, that perhaps the Cubs could do what the San Francisco Giants did earlier in the decade: Win three titles in five years. The players were young — among the youngest groups to ever win a World Series:
Youngest Position Players, World Champs, 1969-2016
Mets (1969): 25.9
Cubs (2016): 27.4
Reds (1990): 27.5
Marlins (2003): 27.7
A’s (1972): 27.7
Pirates (1971): 27.7
Giants (2012): 27.8
Twins (1987): 27.8
Cardinals (1982): 27.8
Braves (1995): 27.9
What do those teams have in common? Only a handful managed to become World Series champions more than once within a couple of years, one of them the aforementioned Giants. The A’s won three in a row from 1972-74. The Twins won again four years later with mostly the same group, the Pirates with somewhat different players eight years later.
The rest? Like the Cubs, most of the rest of those clubs just plain failed. Some are in droughts (Reds, 31 years and counting).
Why? Injuries, bad trades, bad luck, “because baseball,” essentially.
Now we stand with an entirely different Cubs team, as noted above, and uncertainty about where this team is headed as we look toward 2022.
You can look at the Chicago Cubs right now in two different ways, I think:
- “Man, it’s been five years since the Cubs won the World Series. When is it gonna happen again?”
- “It’s been only five years since the Cubs won the World Series? I can handle that… because that drought used to be a lot longer!”
I’m definitely in the second group, and I feel that way even though I am older than many of you and if you are, say, in your 20s and 30s you have lots of time to see another Cubs champion.
Five years? That’s nothing. I think often of the 1969 Chicago Cubs, the star-crossed, beloved ballclub that was supposed to win it all, my childhood baseball heroes. That core group not only didn’t win that year, they never won anything.
When the Cubs defeated the Dodgers to win the National League pennant in 2016, that league pennant drought was 71 years. That’s eight years longer than the World Series drought was in 1969, as I wrote here 11 days ago.
I’ll repeat — five years? Pffft. That’s nothing. The crosstown White Sox passed the five-year anniversary of their 2005 World Series title… 11 years ago. The vaunted New York Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2009, haven’t even been in a Series in the 12 years since. Five years is a blip, a jiffy, a flash, a tiny moment in time. I can remember every moment of that postseason run five years ago, where I was for each game, what happened, how I felt. Those memories sustain me through tough seasons like 2021.
And if you really want to think about a drought, think about fans of the Cleveland team the Cubs defeated in 2016, the club soon to be renamed Guardians. Their World Series drought now stands at 73 years, with just three AL pennants since (1995, 1997, 2016). If Cleveland gets back to the World Series, I’ll be rooting for them to win — unless, of course, they’re playing the Cubs.
Better years are coming, and soon, for the Chicago Cubs. I believe in Jed Hoyer and his baseball ops team. They acquired a lot of talent in the deadline deals this year. Are all those guys going to be big league stars? Of course not, baseball just doesn’t work that way. But if only a handful of them come through, and Jed & Co. can supplement them with good signings and trades, the Chicago Cubs might return to contention — even next year. Yes, I absolutely believe that.
Back in 1991, so did Harry Caray:
I’ll leave this five-year anniversary piece with that, the thought of better days and years to come. “Sure as God made green apples, the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series, and maybe sooner than we think.”
You tell ‘em, Harry.