En route to finally winning their respective World Series championships, the Red Sox and Cubs were inundated with stories about the "Curse of the Bambino" and the "Billy Goat Curse." In their current iteration, having relocated from Montreal in 2005, the Washington Nationals are a fairly new franchise, but perhaps we should start talking about their curse, which we'll call the Curse of Self-Affliction.
In Washington's case, the curse is all the more painful because it's of their own making. In 2012, having won a still-standing franchise record of 98 games (even including the Expos years) Washington's front office decided to shut down the completely healthy staff ace, Stephen Strasburg. Not only have the Nats never won a playoff series in three tries since, it seems like they are never healthy. Last year, injuries to Strasburg and Wilson Ramos hampered the team in a 3-2 series loss to the Dodgers, and this year there are questions around Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and most concerning of all, Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer.
Despite coming off a 92-win season, the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs are the underdog in this series and were as low as fifth or sixth in pre-playoff futures markets to repeat as champions. This from the team that had, by far, the shortest odds to win before the season started. Then again, the Cubs do have a losing record against every team that made the playoffs in the National League this season, including a 3-4 mark versus Washington. Still they easily had the best record in the National League after the All-Star break, backed by the highest-scoring team in baseball during that time.
Chicago isn't entirely without injury concerns of its own, as Jake Arrieta's status for the series is in question. Cubs skipper Joe Maddon is giving the Game 1 starting nod to Kyle Hendricks, as last season's ERA champ and World Series Game 7 starter, has been the most consistent starter for the Cubs down the stretch. For the Nats, it'll be Strasburg making the start and a shutdown gem would go a long way toward banishing the memories of 2012.
I certainly have fond memories of each Cubs playoff series last year, after backing them every step of the way. For this year's take on the Cubs' chances, keep reading.