I don't believe in curses, but circumstances can make you wonder. Cubs fans erroneously blamed Steve Bartman when he interfered with that ball in 2003, 12 years ago to the day that Chicago was finally able to get back to the NLCS, but it wasn't Bartman's fault that the Cubs couldn't then get the last five outs to advance to the World Series and that they then surrendered eight runs in an 8-3 loss. But it does make you wonder.
People believe that the Cubs' run of bad luck started after they won the World Series in 1908, but it's not like they were short of opportunities. They lost the World Series in 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945; most teams would have loved the chance to lose seven World Series in 35 years. Granted, losing sucks. But getting to the World Series is hardly bad luck. Perhaps not making the post-season for the subsequent 39 years also sucked. Losing the NLCS in 1984 and 1989, losing the NLDS in 1998, losing the aforementioned 2003 NLCS, and losing the NLDS in 2008 and 2009 - all of it would be hard to take.
Between 1908 and 2015 the Cubs won a single series - the 2003 NLDS - and perhaps that's more the culprit here than some stigma of the Cubs just not being able to win the big one. As Twins fans, we think we had it rough with the Yankees in the 2000s and the organization was derided for winning just one playoff series in six appearances. I tend to buy into poor outcomes in a small sample size over the stigma of "The Twins can't beat the Yankees in the playoffs," but when you compare Minnesota's lack of success over eight years to Chicago's track record over the last 106 years, well...it should put some things in perspective.
Knowing how we felt during the 2000s, it's suddenly very easy to put ourselves into the shoes of Cubs fans and empathize. This is a team that won a single post-season series in 106 years, and that win was clinched in Atlanta. Generations of Cubs fans were born and died without witnessing their team win a playoff series at home, because until last night it had never happened.
Until Tuesday night, when the Cubs defeated baseball's best team: the St. Louis Cardinals. Perhaps the NL Central was the best division ever in the history of baseball; it's easy to argue when three of the league's five playoff teams came from the NL Central and both Wild Card teams had more wins than either of the NL East or NL West division winners. If you believe that's true it makes Chicago's win more impressive than it already is, but the feat itself will still be overshadowed by the fact that it's Chicago's first series win at home - ever.
Congratulations to the Cubs for advancing to the NLCS, but perhaps more importantly: congratulations to the fans. Your team clinched a trip to the Championship Series at Wrigley Field, and you get to enjoy the victory just a little bit more.
And I'm sure the feeling of taking down the Cardinals won't hurt your joy this morning, either.
Here's the homer from Javier Baez, which really kicked things off properly.
Kyle Schwarber's solo shot in the seventh was more or less the nail in St. Louis' coffin. Over the scoreboard. I'm not sure they make tape measures long enough.
Remember, kids: when you can strike batters out, they can't put the ball in play. When they can't put the ball in play, they can't get on base. When they can't get on base, they can't score runs. And when they can't score runs, they can't win.
Hector Rondon didn't have any problems with the Cardinals in the ninth, picking up the save and sending Chicago to the NLCS.
Congratulations to the Cubs and congratulations to Cubs fans everywhere. This was a long time coming. Good luck in the Championship Series.