In their second season under manager Joe Maddon, the Chicago Cubs went from lovable losers to juggernaut, pacing the Majors with a 103-58 record en route to winning their first World Series since 1908. Thus far in 2017, they’ve been supplanted by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers were the first team to 90 wins this season, reaching that point faster (both in games played and by date) than any other team in franchise history. What’s more, no team had more than 78 wins when the Dodgers reached 90 last week.
Meanwhile, the reigning world champions were mired in a slow start, seemingly suffering from the proverbial World Series hangover. The Cubs went into the All-Star break with a 43-45 record and 5.5. games back of the Milwaukee Brewers for first place in the National League Central.
While the Dodgers are the World Series favorite, the Cubs, behind a strong second-half surge, and Washington Nationals are hardly castaways.
And even with the Dodgers pacing the NL and Majors with the best record by a wide margin, Maddon has zero qualms over a potential matchup, according to Tyler Kepner of The New York Times:
“Listen, I’m very confident playing against them, too — absolutely,” he said. “As we continue to get well, we need to finish this off strongly, which we’re very capable of doing. But I like the way we match against them — a lot, not a little bit.”
Maddon voicing confidence in his club is hardly groundbreaking. In May, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he believed his team was superior to the 2016 champions.
Roberts made his comments during the three-game series at Dodger Stadium that Los Angeles swept. During the first week of the season, Chicago took two of three at Wrigley Field.
Both teams addressed their roster prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, with the Cubs acquiring Jose Quintana, Alex Avila and Justin Wilson, and the Dodgers adding Yu Darvish, Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson. The Dodgers have since traded for Curtis Granderson.
If the World Series hopefuls are to meet again, it would need to come in a rematch of the 2016 NL Championship Series. That would change, however, if the Cubs slide out of first place in their division and enter the Wild Card picture.