2017 Chicago Cubs Have More Similarities to 1985 than 2004 Team

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Your 2017 Chicago Cubs have been sometimes compared to the 2004 version, perhaps the most detestable edition to call 1060 W. Addison home. Now let’s not say things in the heat of the moment that we can’t later take back.

Sure, there are similarities to that squad, but Cubs history has a more appropriate lesson to teach us nine years prior.

The current team is 43-45 and tied with the hated St. Louis Cardinals for second place in a very watered down NL Central Division. Both the Cubs and Cards are 5.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers at mid-season, and if this was any other division, and if the Cardinals were having a usual Cardinals campaign, then this year’s already over and we’re moving on.

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However, the story of the 2017 Chicago Cubs is still to be told because as media talking heads will say over and over until your ears bleed- “it’s a 162 game grind/a marathon not a sprint.”

The Cubs’ current .488 winning percentage equates to a 79-83 finish. That’s strikingly similar to the 77-84 record of the 1985 team. However, sports books still have the 2017 Chicago Cubs backed as very solid favorites to win the division. In Vegas, the house always wins and they still substantially favor Chicago.

FiveThirtyEight.com gives the Cubs a 38% chance of making the playoffs, a 29% chance of winning the division and 3% of winning the World Series. They project a 83-79 finish this season.

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Fangraphs projects a 85-77 record, as does Baseball Prospectus, so both foresee a 42-32 finish down the stretch. Still, Miguel Montero’s “We are good” is now “we are who we are” after 88 games. Ke$ha is spot on, after a sample size this large, and “we’ll be forever young youn-youn youn-youn-young.

Of course, Miggy Montero is no longer on the team, and rightfully so after he graduated with honors from the Milton Bradley School of How to Be an AWFUL Teammate. Montero is a cautionary example of why the 2017 Chicago Cubs aren’t the 2004 edition…at least not yet.

Montero’s bus tossing is really the only true act of selfishness worthy of almost universal loathing.

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With the 2004 team, at least three immediately come to mind:

Sammy Sosa and his boom box (which was later smashed), Kent Mercker calling the press box because he was what would be called a “snowflake” today, and Latroy Hawkins attacking the media with his tired “I can do your job, but you can’t do mine” bit.

There were more despicable incidents in ’04, so feel free to list those out in the comments section.

While the 2017 Chicago Cubs have been labeled a group of “pretentious pariahs” by a San Diego media member, they have a very long ways yet to reaching ’04 level villainy. Like 2004, they are a Cubs team coming off a season in which the franchise FINALLY accomplished something no other team had done in a VERY LONG time, and maybe that success got to their heads a bit.

2003 brought the club’s first postseason series victory since 1908; last year the first World Series title since the same oft-quoted season. In 1985, the Cubs were coming off a year which saw the franchise accomplish its first real triumph in a very long time.

The 1984 Cubs won the NL East crown, the first title of any sort since the 1945 National League pennant. Also, the 2004, 1985 and 2017 Chicago Cubs had this commonality- they returned the major nucleus from the prior year’s team. You could make a case that in all three of these underachieving seasons, the next year’s side was better on paper.

However, the season story arcs unfolded quite differently.

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In 2004, the Cubs faltered down the stretch to finish 89-73 and 16 games out of first. They lost six of their final eight, and ended up three behind the Houston Astros for the NL Wild Card. The Cardinals won the division, with a ridiculous 105-57 record!

That Cubs team was a victim (although victim is a word that inspires sympathy, and that team deserves none) of a ludicrously strong NL Central, while the 2017 Chicago Cubs are beneficiaries of a sorry grouping.

This year’s club would have to go 56-28 down the stretch in order to match the ’04 record. Good luck with that!

In early June 1985, the Cubs were still in first place, ahead of the Cardinals and the New York Mets for the East. Then disaster struck as Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Trout, Scott Sanderson and Dennis Eckersley all got injured, and the Cubs suffered a 13-game losing streak that essentially eliminated them from the running.

No team can recover from losing four of their five starting pitchers to the disabled list and still expect to accomplish anything. Especially so with the 98 win Mets (who stayed home that postseason) and 101 victory/NL champion Cardinals above you.

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The current Cubs can’t use the injury excuse. Kyle Hendricks is one pitcher, not four. They’re also a younger group than the ’85 edition (Ke$ha was right, they are very young). The 1985 Cubs, at least on paper, did not have the wide open championship window that the 2017 Chicago Cubs have, at least in theory. What unites the ’85 and ’17 Cubs, perhaps even more than the former’s final record and the latter’s exact pace to finish there, is the general feel.

They both have that 1984 Chicago White Sox style “hey, we’ll just get ’em tomorrow…it’s a long season, we were really good last year, we have the same team this year, it’ll eventually work itself out.”

With apologies to Garth Brooks, “but if tomorrow never comes…?”

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The 162 game season is absurdly long, and it’s one very long market correction because it automatically adjusts for all bizarre extremities. Unfortunately, it can also lull you into complacency, because there are seemingly endless amounts of tomorrows to get it right…until one day they’re gone.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network and News NowBanks, a former writer for the Washington TimesNBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes to WGN CLTV and KOZN

Follow him on TwitterInstagramSound Cloud, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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