While posting all of those losing seasons, the Cubs have played with class and enthusiasm and had many Hall of Fame players, most notably Ernie Banks. Having Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray broadcast for the Cubs didn't hurt their popularity, either.
From 2008, when the Cubs were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series, until last season, the Cubs struggled. The poor finishes had a silver lining, allowing the Cubs to have high Draft picks. The organization spent time developing its young talent without rushing top prospects to the Majors before they were ready.
During this period, the new ownership hired Theo Epstein to be president of baseball operations. While with the Boston Red Sox, Epstein was the architect of the 2004 team that ended an 86-year World Series championship drought. He also helped renovate Wrigley Field, the nation's second-oldest baseball stadium. While keeping the park's old charm, the renovations added the modern amenities that bring enjoyment to both fans and players. Having Epstein has also helped the Cubs lure veteran players, namely left-hander Jon Lester.
After the 2014 season, manager Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. A few days later, Maddon became the manager of the Cubs. For some time, he has been highly regarded as one of the best managers in baseball. He finds new ways to keep his team loose and enjoying the game. Unlike some managers, Maddon enjoys working with young players. He tries new strategies to win games.
The Cubs entered Thursday 39 games over .500, with a 15 1/2-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. Seldom has a team dominated the league like this year's Cubs. How are they doing it?
The Cubs have scored the second-most runs in the NL, just behind the Colorado Rockies. Kris Bryant, last year's NL Rookie of the Year, leads the Cubs' offensive attack with 36 home runs, the second most in the NL, and 91 RBIs, fifth in the NL. He has also scored the most runs in the Majors (112).
Although the Cubs play in the friendly confines of Wrigley, they have the lowest ERA in baseball. They don't allow many hits. Last season's NL Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta, and Lester lead the starting rotation, along with Kyle Hendricks, who leads the Majors with a 2.07 ERA. Although Arrieta hasn't enjoyed the same dominance as he did last season, he leads the NL in victories with 16.
The Cubs had a decent bullpen even before they obtained closer Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees just before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Most big leaguers find Chapman and his 100-plus-mph fastball nearly impossible to hit. Knowing that they have one of the best closers in the game gives the Cubs much more confidence when they have a lead going into the ninth inning.
One problem with having a large lead in the standings is that the Cubs likely won't be playing many meaningful games in September. This will allow Maddon to give his regulars adequate rest and to align the starting rotation the way he wants to for the postseason. However, clinching early sometimes lets a team become complacent, and it can be difficult to turn on the competitiveness when the postseason begins.
Since it has been so long since the Cubs have appeared in the World Series, many baseball fans are hoping the Cubs win a World Series championship in 2016.