Let's ask Chip Caray, 51, in his 11th season broadcasting games for the Braves, the team his father helped make famous. You remember the late Skip Caray? He served as the legendary voice of the Braves for three decades through his death in early August 2008. He was known for his dry wit, memorable calls and love affair with straight talk regarding what was happening on the field.
To translate, Skip was blunt.
"I'm sure he would say the Cubs are a terrific team," Chip said. "He'd say, 'They proved it during the regular season by winning 103 games, and they are the best team in the National League, if not all of baseball with their regular season play.' But he would also say, 'The slate is now wiped clean, and for the Cubs now, you've got to go win 11 (playoff) games.' He would say, 'That 100-win stuff, all that does is give you seating. If nothing else, you've got to go win it.'"
OK, that sounds like Skip. There also was Harry, an iconic baseball announcer for much of the latter 20th century. Just when you thought his fame reached its highest peak, it zoomed beyond that in the 1980s and 1990s after he became as much of the Cubs as the ivy-covered walls. When the bottom of the seventh approached at Wrigley Field, folks rose around the ballpark to study the WGN TV booth, where the friendly-faced guy with the huge eye glasses delivered his "Let me hear ya" cry before leading the crowd in the most captivating version of "Take me out to the ballgame" you'll ever hear.
So you think Skip was blunt?
Compared to Harry, Skip was Mister Rogers.
Then again, no matter the weather conditions around Wrigleyville, Chip's grandfather still saw more sunshine than clouds.
"He was truly the eternal optimist," Chip said of Harry, who died in February 1998. "So, as far as my grandfather goes regarding this Cubs team, he probably would be planning the parade, sizing up the rings, getting his tuxedo picked out for what he would expect to be a World Series celebration in Chicago. But he also would have the full knowledge that doom is never more than one pitch away in the hearts and minds of Cubs fans.
"There was nobody better at playing to those heart strings and understanding the culture and the mindset. Not only was my grandfather an eternal optimist, but I think every Cubs fans is the same as well."
Which brings us to Chip, who joined the family business five years after he graduated from the University of Georgia in 1987. Chip became a broadcaster for Mariners games. That was nice, but that wasn't sharing the same booth with his grandfather. Weeks before the tandem of Caray and Caray was slated to make its debut for the 1998 season, Harry died, but Chip remained with the Cubs for seven seasons.
During that time, Chip never saw a Cubs team like this.
"Wow," Chip said. "No. 1, I think their strength is versatility. They've got a lot of guys who can play a bunch of different positions. Kris Bryant can play first, he can play third, he can play the outfield. Ben Zobrist can play all over the diamond. They have interchangeable parts behind the plate, and they have a lot of youth and athleticism. Their starting pitching rotation is deep and very strong, and every fifth day, they give you six or seven innings, almost every time out, which shortens the bullpen. Then, when the game's on the line, they've got Aroldis Chapman, who can eliminate all of the really good left-handed hitters in a close game and in a pinch-hitting situation.
"So, really, the strength of their team is their organizational depth, their versatility and that I don't see many weaknesses on their team."
Here's one . . . the Cubs' past.
They haven't grabbed the World Series since 1908, and they've lacked an NL pennant since 1945. Plus, they've had infamous near-misses, such as their collapse down the stretch in 1969 to miss the playoffs, the Leon Durham gaffe in the 1984 NLCS and the Steve Bartman fiasco during the 2003 NLCS.
Which was the toughest for Cubs fans?
"Well, I mean, that is like picking what is worse: An appendectomy without anesthetic, a root canal without anesthetic or having your head chopped off," Chip said, chuckling. "The '69 Cubs, you can say all you want about how great the Mets played, but the Cubs played .333 baseball in September, and they did that despite having THE All-Star team in baseball. The '84 team had the ball go through Durham's legs after having the big lead, but that one doesn't sting for me as much as the Bartman game, because I was working for the Cubs then."
That's when Bartman hindered Cubs' left-fielder Moises Alou from catching a foul ball late in Game 6, and the Marlins rallied to win that game and Game 7.
"What people forget about the Bartman game is, the Cubs were winning. (Mark) Prior was cruising and Alex Gonzalez messed up a double-play ball," Chip said. "They also forget the Cubs led in Game 7. Kerry Wood hit a home run in that game. So for today's fans, 1969 might as well be 1869. And 1984, that was a short playoff series (best-of-five instead of best-of-seven), and it just didn't work out. For me, and for my generation, '03 will be the most difficult of those three to swallow."
Now these Cubs can avenge all of that. Big time.
"Well, (these Cubs aren't) the best team ever, because they haven't won a World Series," Chip said, chuckling. "With the Cubs, we talk about curses and hexes and billy goats and all of that kind of stuff, so they have a chance for immortality, and they have the burden of expectations. That's going to be the big elephant in the room. It always has been for the Cubs, and it always will be."
Until they win it all.
If that happens this time, "Holy cow."