There’s nothing magical about this team, which might be the biggest magics of them all.
Admit it. When–if, I suppose–you imagined the Cubs making it to the World Series, you pictured some scrappy team that came out of nowhere, that was maybe scraping around .500 in June and then caught fire, riding a wave of some castoffs, some plucky rookies, and a grizzled manager who never had the breaks, but now seemed to be getting them, a capstone of a difficult baseball life. It would have been magical; it would have been like the movies.
This isn’t that.
There’s nothing “magical” about this team in the way that we understand general sports narratives. This is a team of unbelievable, almost jaw-dropping talent at every position. It was created through a relentless process that rebuilt the franchise from the ground up, in every aspect, including spending in international recruiting. It was the blueprint of how to create greatness out of nothing.
And that’s exactly what it did. The Cubs are far and away the best team in baseball, and will be for many years. They have the best hitting, the best pitching, and the best fielding. Now, pitching is fickle, and what is good today can be gone next year (hi, Royals!), but they have the resources and the talent to keep reloading.
So in a way, there’s nothing magic about that. It’s following a blueprint and getting lucky. But that’s incredible. So few teams can, or will, do that. It’s so amazing that one slips back into a predetermined narrative: the Cubs, symbols of slapdick futility for literally a century, have this? That they’ve turned into not just the best team, but certainly the best franchise in baseball, and among the premiere in all of sports?
It’s amazing, and deserved, because there is nothing irritating or fluky about this. Except for one thing: this almost never works. A lot of teams have plans. A lot of teams rebuild. Look at the 76ers. Every team is run by a smart person (note: untrue!).
That’s why, even as a bitter White Sox fan, who is watching this with unquenchable jealousy, it is actually a joy, a real pleasure to watch, because it is proof that sometimes being smart can win. In creating this team, Theo and Jeb actually pulled some order out of the chaos that is baseball. Of all the prospects that bust and the signing that wash out and the pieces that don’t quite click, they made something damn near perfect. That is the real baseball magic.
That’s not to say they are going to win this year; who knows? But they’ll be in contention for a long time. Winning a World Series with the Red Sox, and now (maybe) with the Cubs, has secured Theo’s place in the Hall of Fame. But he shouldn’t be done. He should show that with the right management, it can work anywhere. How about 7.6 miles south?