This content was produced in partnership with Gambler Labs.

It seems like decades ago that the Chicago Cubs were a dominant force in the National League. 

But it was really only five seasons ago that the Cubs won 95 games, at the tail end of a four-year run that saw Chicago finally break a century-plus World Series hex in 2016 and also go to the NL Championship Series in 2015 and 2017. 

Since 2018, though (outside of the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign), the Cubs have been trending downward in an ever-changing Major League Baseball landscape. They finished third in the NL Central in 2022–only because two of the worst teams in baseball, the Reds and Pirates, play in the division–at 74-88. With the NL East and NL West both looking like tough divisions for the next few years, it might take the Cubs a little while to get back into the mix. 

But hold on: Chicago has one of the best farm teams in baseball, and there is some hope that the Cubbies might be able to turn it around in 2023 and make a push toward the playoffs. Yes, the St. Louis Cardinals won 93 games in the Central, and the Milwaukee Brewers finished second with 86 wins. But the Brewers traded players away in 2022 to tank their campaign, and Cubs played 51 one-run games last year, going 24-27. 

Think about where the Cubs would have been if that record was 30-19: yes, they would still have been just under .500, but they most likely would have been in a playoff race until the final week. 

Going into the 2023 season, most sportsbooks around the country do not have a lot of faith in the Cubs to do much in the National League: Chicago is the 11th choice (out of 15 teams) at +4000 odds with the Illinois online sportsbooks to make a run to the NL Pennant for the first time since 2016. But if you remember back a few months, there were not too many people around the country that thought the Philadelphia Phillies could win the National League–especially as a Wild Card–but they did just that, and gave the Houston Astros all they could handle in the World Series. 

Surprises can happen in baseball, especially with teams that can throw money around like the Phillies or Cubs. 

Would it be a shock if the Cubbies won the pennant? Yes, even the most optimistic people would probably say that. But in the division Chicago plays in, would it be out of the realm of possibility that the Cubs improved enough to make it into the playoff race? 

With the new six-team MLB playoff format, the Phillies got into the postseason with 87 wins. Remember back to the Cubs record in one-run games, and think about a path for them to improve 13 games. 

With free agent spending, some new prospects in the fold, and a little bit more luck in tight games, Chicago might just be in the mix in 2023. 

After all, hope springs eternal in the preseason, and even more so with Cubs’ fans! 

If you or anyone you know has a gambling problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER.

More From WROK 1440 AM / 96.1 FM