In “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request,” famed Chicago Cubs fan and songwriter Steve Goodman sang that the Cubs’ decades of misery led him to discover “alcohol, gambling, dope … What do you expect when you raise up a young boy’s hopes and then just crush ’em like so many paper beer cups year after year after year, after year, after year, after year, after year, after year?”

Goodman has long since passed from leukemia, so he’s not around to talk about how much the Cubs’ 2016 World Series championship means to him. When Cubs fans say this victory “means the world to them,” as a friend told me in the wee hours of Thursday morning, they’re not exaggerating.

I’ll posit one more reason Cubs fans should be proud of their victory: They had the best team in baseball all year long and truly deserved the championship. The Cubs won 103 games in the regular season, eight more than any other team. They didn’t just get lucky in the increasingly random MLB postseason — as Cubs fans know, their team’s luck has historically been in short supply, especially in the playoffs.

It’s a lot easier now than it used to be to have a relatively mediocre team sneak into the playoffs and then ride a hot streak to a World Series.

Through 1968, only the best team from the American and National Leagues made the Major League Baseball postseason. If you had the best record, you won your league’s pennant, and then you played in the World Series.

Subsequently, the introduction of two and then three divisions in each league created more playoff berths. Today, the playoffs have expanded to three rounds, plus a one-game wild-card playoff round, so that 10 of baseball’s 30 teams make the playoffs.

Take, for example, the 2014 San Francisco Giants. They were a relatively mediocre 88-74, but that was good enough to get them into the playoffs as a wild-card team. From there, they rode a hot streak to a championship.

The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals have a similar story. They were lucky to play in a terrible division, and managed to get into the playoffs with just 83 wins. There were five teams with better records that didn’t get into the playoffs because of the divisional playoff system. But the Cardinals got hot in the playoffs and managed to get a World Series championship. (And no, I’m not just salty because they beat my Detroit Tigers.)

Since the playoffs expanded to eight teams or more in 1995, the 27 teams with the best record in MLB have only won the World Series five times. They have better odds of winning than if the playoffs were completely random, but it shows that being the best team in baseball during the regular season means less than it used to.

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Why is baseball so much more random than other sports? Unlike say, football or basketball, a single baseball game isn’t a good measurement of whether one team is better than another. The best team in baseball can lose a game to the worst team on any given day, and no one bats an eye when it happens.

That’s partly why baseball has 162 games in the regular season, so that one unlucky game doesn’t change an entire season. Every single team is expected to win at least 55 games and lose 55 games, and their season depends on how the other 52 games go.

Of course, pure win-loss record isn’t a perfect measurement of success. FiveThirtyEight uses an Elo ratings system that gives teams more points for quality wins and higher margins of victory. By this metric, the Cubs were the best team in baseball all season long.

In Goodman’s song, the chorus goes, “Do they still play the blues in Chicago when baseball season rolls around?” For the first time in more than a century, jubilation will replace the blues when the Cubs open their season next spring. Luck had nothing to do with it, and Cubs fans should be proud.

Jason Russell is the contributors editor for the Washington Examiner.

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