Texas Rangers

Does anyone have what it takes to tame the Cubs?

The Chicago Cubs, celebrating the franchise’s first World Series since 1908, have plenty of talent to repeat the feat, but will they be as hungry for success this year?
The Chicago Cubs, celebrating the franchise’s first World Series since 1908, have plenty of talent to repeat the feat, but will they be as hungry for success this year? TNS

Can anyone take down the Chicago Cubs? A year ago, they were the darlings of nearly every preseason prediction.

They lived up to the hype and held off the Cleveland Indians to win their first World Series title since 1908.

The question in 2017, however, is whether or not the Cubs can handle their success. Will high expectations, without the desperation to break the curse that no longer exists leave the Cubbies in a lazy honeymoon hangover with no edge?

That’s unlikely to be the case for much of their lineup, with young stars such as Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist. But how about their pitching staff? Do veterans such as Jon Lester, TCU ex Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey have the tread left on the tires to take the Cubs back to the mountaintop? Just from a health aspect, will they hold up? Hendricks is the youngest at 27. Lackey the oldest at 38. Lester and Arrieta are still in their early 30s and still seemingly in the prime of their careers.

The question is not whether the Cubs can win a lot of games again in ’17. A 100-win season is within reach. The question is whether their starters, after another slog through 200-plus innings, will still have it in the postseason.

Aces such as the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, the Nationals’ Max Scherzer, the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, or the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard could be enough in a short series to topple the less-hungry Cubs.

And what if the Cubs do return to the World Series? Will they need another miracle comeback like their rally against the Indians after falling down 3-1 in the series?

The Indians, despite their loss of Mike Napoli (Rangers fans say thank you!), should be even better in ’17. Not only do they have arguably the best rotation in baseball, but they’re also all relatively healthy. They won their first AL pennant in 19 years despite injuries to Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Trevor Bauer even had to pitch through a bloody cut on his pitching hand after a drone accident (say what?). Corey Kluber, the ’14 Cy Young winner, battled hamstring issues late in the season.

The Red Sox should be stout with the addition of Chris Sale, and if David Price comes around in the playoffs could give Boston the one-two punch of aces to match anyone.

The Texas Rangers, of course, have won the AL West the past two seasons but have been dismissed in the ALDS by the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rangers had the best record in the AL a year ago but were swept by the Jays after disappointing playoff outings from Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish.

The Jays will have to find offense to replace the void left by Edwin Encarnacion, who joined the Indians. If they don’t, perhaps the Jays won’t be a playoff roadblock for the Rangers in ’17.

AL Cy Young

1. Yu Darvish, Rangers

2. Chris Sale, Red Sox

3. Corey Kluber, Indians

AL MVP

1. Mookie Betts, Red Sox

2. Mike Trout, Angels

3. Jose Altuve, Astros

NL Cy Young

1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

2. Kyle Hendricks, Cubs

3. Noah Syndergaard, Mets

NL MVP

1. Kris Bryant, Cubs

2. Corey Seager, Dodgers

3. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs

AL West

1. Rangers

2. Astros

3. Mariners

4. Angels

5. Athletics

AL Central

1. Indians

2. Tigers

3. Royals

4. Twins

5. White Sox

AL East

1. Red Sox

2. Orioles

3. Yankees

4. Blue Jays

5. Rays

AL Wild Card

Astros vs. Orioles

ALCS

Rangers vs.

Red Sox

NL West

1. Dodgers

2. Giants

3. Diamondbacks

4. Rockies

5. Padres

NL Central

1. Cubs

2. Cardinals

3. Pirates

4. Brewers

5. Reds

NL East

1. Nationals

2. Mets

3. Marlins

4. Braves

5. Phillies

NL Wild Cards

Mets vs. Cardinals

NLCS

Dodgers vs.

Nationals

World Series

Rangers vs. Dodgers

World Series winner

Rangers

Rangers vs. Indians

6:05 p.m. Monday, FSSW, ESPN

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