Even if fans of every team didn’t necessarily love the Cubs and cheer along with them, they could certainly empathize with the organization’s situation. From 1908 until 2016, the Cubs failed to win a World Series, and didn’t even have the chance to try from 1945 onward. That made them underdogs, which in turn made them lovable, even as their collection of young talent and superior everything stomped on the neck of the rest of Major League Baseball last summer.
That’s all over now. Well, the part where the Cubs are lovable underdogs, anyway: Their feet are still firmly planted on the rest of the league’s faces. If anything, they’re just going to become more villainous with time: We saw it happen to the Red Sox, we saw it happen to the Giants, the Royals gave a sped-up version of this a shot after winning in 2015, and now, we’re going to see it happen to the Cubs.
In fact, it’s already happening. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo showed up at spring training and immediately explained why the Cubs will never be hated by sports fans. Dude, you were drafted by the Red Sox in 2007, at the time they were going for their second World Series in four years, and were already hated after being the sympathetic underdog for the better part of a century ... and in part because their fans couldn’t conceive of anyone disliking them.
They’re going to hate you, Anthony. And saying they won’t is one way to make it happen.
That’s just one thing, though. The thing the Cubs are doing that is going to make everyone hate them is their catchphrase. Introduced for 2017, when the Cubs do something good, or someone on the Cubs has a highlight or moment of smart baseball or whatever, the thing to now say is, “That’s Cub.” It was infuriating when it began, but now Chicago has trademarked the phrase — it’s not going anywhere except for on all kinds of apparel, and if it doesn’t bother you yet, it will.
Luckily, we figured out a way to track the Cubs’ move from underdog to villain. This is the Cubs Villainy Meter:
This requires a little explanation. The Padres are the least-villainous team in MLB mostly because a majority of fans don’t even know that they exist. Sure, A.J. Preller cheated his way to trades of major prospects by avoiding divulging information about player medicals, but that’s only true if you believe the Padres are real.
The Pirates and Brewers are basically endpoints for most of the rest of the league: The Pirates haven’t won in forever and have likable players like Andrew McCutchen, and the Brewers haven’t won in ages, either, but they have Ryan Braun, and there are plenty of fans out there who object to the known PED user. It’s a little thing, but it’s what has them where they are on the scale.
All in all, though, those 23 teams are harmless. And the Cubs used to be with them, if not where the Padres sit. Now, though, after winning, after Rizzo denying anyone could hate the Cubs, after the introduction of “That’s Cub,” the Cubs are, well, they aren’t villainous, but they no longer have a free pass. They’re a step below the Mets, who have foisted Tim Tebow and the Wilpons upon us, but any further steps towards villainy will vault them ahead of New York’s other team.
The other five teams ahead of the Cubs are the Dodgers, who spend more than anyone and win the NL West constantly, but haven’t even been to the World Series since 1988. The Giants have won three World Series this decade and aren’t going anywhere, and are villains even if the even-year magic is gone. The Red Sox and Cardinals are basically tied for the next spot, but since Cubs fans have a more personal rivalry with St. Louis, the Cards get the nod as more villainous.
And, obviously, the Yankees and their fans are the most villainous.
Just picture everyone in that image wearing “That’s Cub” logos instead of pinstripes, celebrating Kris Bryant’s game-winning homer in the Cubs’ fourth World Series in a row, and you see the dark future that lies ahead for the North Side.
We’ll keep the villainy meter updated throughout this season and beyond if necessary, in order to see if the Cubs are just going to be run-of-the-mill disliked, or if they’ve got that extra gear in them to truly be reviled.
I believe in you, Cubs.