The Ex-Cubs Factor: A Look at Its Implications for 2013


The recent delivery of a goat’s head to Wrigley Field has renewed debate — at least in the circles I travel in, which consist mainly of myself — over the efficacy of the original, now-68-year-old Curse of the Billy Goat. The Cubs themselves are in little danger of overturning it, and yet there is indirect evidence for a weakening in its considerable force. I refer of course to the CBG’s principal corollary, the notorious Ex-Cubs Factor, which states in its purest form: “It is utterly impossible for a team with three or more ex-Cubs to win the World Series.”

This proposition has been interpreted, amended, and expanded ad nauseam over the years, but was considered fairly unassailable until around the turn of the millennium, when exceptions began to accumulate with alarming frequency. Way back in 1960, the Pirates — world champions despite the three ex-Cubs among them — had been explained away by Don Hoak’s failure to fully “develop his Cubness.” But in 2001, not only did the Diamondbacks win it all with four erstwhile Northsiders on their roster, they did so with two of those bedevilled gentlemen actually helping to win Game 7. That seemed to open the floodgates: the Phillies thwarted the Factor again in ’08, and a scant three years later, St. Louis snuck off with a championship despite harboring two full-fledged ex-Cubs plus Chicago draftee Kyle Lohse. With its corollary springing leaks left and right, the exalted Curse suddenly seemed vulnerable. Might the winds be shifting at Wrigley?

A full examination of the events of the past decade-plus will have to fall to cleverer and more patient minds than mine. For my part, I can only set the stage for the season now before us. Should the caprine omen on Tom Ricketts’ doorstep portend great and terrible things, it may be important to have preserved a snapshot of the league as it appears at this moment. So, here are the teams that are purportedly excluded from championship contention this year, according to the Ex-Cubs Factor in its strictest interpretation (which includes only players who have actually played for the major-league Cubs):

Rays (3 ex-Cubs)
Angels (3)
Mets (3)

Relaxing the ECF to account for all players who have at some time been a part of the Cubs organization, we derive the following list:

Rays (4)
Blue Jays (4)
Tigers (3)
Astros (3)
Angels (4)
Mets (4)
Brewers (4)
Giants (4)
Padres (3)

— while the only teams completely uncontaminated by Cubness are the Yankees, Royals, Twins, Mariners, and Cardinals. Of particular interest here are the highly touted and notably underachieving Blue Jays. While high-profile acquisitions R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, and Josh Johnson got the bulk of the press, Toronto’s truly fateful decision this offseason may have been its signing of no fewer than three ex-Cubs, namely Henry Blanco, Mark DeRosa, and Dave Bush. Bush (and last season’s pickup Darren Oliver) may not have logged any big-league time with the Cubs, but it’s clear that the Jays are playing with fire here, and may be paying the price already.

It must be said that no correlation seems to exist at this point in the season between Cubness and performance. However, as we know, it’s not till October (or even November) that the Factor can be expected to rear its head. This fall, we’ll be watching with bated breath.

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9 Responses to “The Ex-Cubs Factor: A Look at Its Implications for 2013”

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  1. gnomez says:

    The 2011 Cardinals used 3 ex-Cubs over the course of the season (Miguel Batista, Ryan Theriot, and Corey Patterson), but there were never more than 2 on the team at a time, and only Theriot was on the postseason roster.

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  2. Mr. Observant says:

    As a longtime Toronto resident, I feel it’s now necessary to behead a bear cub to avoid this contamination and ensure the Blue Jays have a chance to really contend this year. Mr. Mississippi, do you recommend a panda cub or a brown bear cub? Is there a dark tome that might guide me a little in these matters? Cthulhu, save us! Save us from the Cubs of the Damned!

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    • Bill says:

      Seriously? You’re a Canadian and you don’t have severed Cub head lying around? What did you do with the leftovers last night? You are seriously wrecking all my long held beliefs about Canadians.

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      • Mr. Observant says:

        We’re having a national crisis over whether a polar bear cub is American enough to count towards this project. We usually use the severed heads to play ice soccer. And use it as a creche for our babies. Once our God-King, the Great Beaver, stops watching Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi (google this) he’ll issue his new law-command. Fingers crossed.

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  3. olethros says:

    But how many ex-Cubs did the opponents have? My understanding of the Factor is that of the two WS teams, the one with the most ex-Cubs will lose.

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  4. Bill says:

    Andy MacFail in Baltimore liked to pick up ex-Cubs. His teams lost. Perhaps, Duquette is given too much credit for the O’s turn-a-round. All he did was can the Cubs. Lee, Pie, probably others I’m missing.

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  5. Cidron says:

    Soon they will have another, similar curse.. The “No Team of Loria’s will win World Series” (yes, he did win, but was that his team, or the prev)

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  6. Tamara says:

    It’s called ‘Cubness’….and it appears to be true. It was coined by a Sun-Times columnist, Mike Royko who used it during a World Series in the 1986 between the Mets who had no ex-Cubs and the Red Sox who had ex-Cub Bill Buckner to suggest that the winner of the series would be the team with the fewest number of ex-Cub players. He was right….. The Mets won sue in large part to an error by Bill Buckner. Too much Cubness…..

    And, since it has been several months since this article was written, the Yankees now have Alfonso Soriano to erase their no-Cubness factor. Uh, oh!

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