Stories

There are no dynasties in modern baseball

Illustration of a hand breaking apart a Cubs logo
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In 2016, the Cubs snapped a 108-year World Series drought and seemed destined to build a modern dynasty. 3 years later, they've been eliminated from the playoffs following a late-season collapse — and could be set for sweeping changes this offseason.

Why it matters: The death of the Cubs' dynasty (that never really existed) proves just how difficult it is to sustain greatness in baseball.

  • Unlike basketball, where a trio of superstars can win you a title, 3 baseball players aren't able to carry a team. And you can't remake your roster in one offseason, either. You need organizational depth — and a long-term plan.
  • Unlike football, where a new offensive/defensive scheme can make all the difference, baseball has no "schemes." For the most part, every team is playing the same game. There's no outsmarting your opponent.
  • Unlike hockey, where someone like Cale Makar can make an impact literally 2 days after his college career ends, baseball requires years of player development. The Cubs failed in that department, especially with pitchers.
  • Unlike soccer, where a few game-winning goals can alter the course of a season, baseball is such a slog that a team's record after 162 games is more about how well the roster was built, rather than whether or not you made a few game-winning plays.

The bottom line: "Ultimately, maybe none of the Cubs' struggles should come as too much of a surprise," writes WSJ's Jared Diamond (subscription).

  • "Dynasties rarely happen in today's baseball — no team has won consecutive championships since the New York Yankees completed their three-peat in 2000."

Worth noting: The Astros have dynasty written all over them after taking a similar path as the Cubs (tank, rebuild, emerge as contender), all while relying more heavily on analytics and doing a much better job developing talent.

Go deeper: Baseball's season of extremes