Up to this point, the easiest thing for me when ranking the teams on a weekly basis was this:
Every week, just right off the top. It was easy. Hell, It was automatic. I didn't even have to think about it. The Cubs started mid-February at number one, got better in the spring (by bringing back Dexter Fowler), went 2-0 before my Week 1 rankings, were 6-1 before Week 2 and 11-3 in time for the next week.
After Saturday, May 14, they were 27-8 and holding an absurd nine-game lead in the NL Central.
Since then, though, they've done something that should have been at least remotely expected by anyone who knows anything about baseball. They've hit a rough patch. They were on a 125-plus win pace, so it was going to happen at some point.
Now, with losses in six of their last nine games, do I need to move them down? This is the first time I've even thought about it. The rankings are a confluence of record, personnel and current level of heat. In the case of the latter, the Cubs were sputtering before Tuesday's 12-3 slump-busting "hey, remember us?" game against the Cardinals. They do still have the best record in baseball and what I believe to be the best roster.
But they haven't been playing well for roughly two weeks. Shouldn't we consider a demotion? I see two main candidates.
Giants: The hottest team in baseball has won 12 of 13 and just took two of three from the Cubs. The only loss since May 10 was a Jake Peavy vs. Jake Arrieta matchup, which, c'mon. They even took the Matt Cain vs. Jon Lester bout against the Cubs. We can't forget that they've lost five more games than the Cubs all season and at one point lost eight of nine. The Cubs haven't had a spiral even remotely that bad.
Red Sox: The offense is a veritable wrecking crew. Just relentless. The Cubs offense has been most of the season, too, though. The Cubs' pitching is much better and they overall have a 2 1/2 game lead in record. The Red Sox +71 run differential is second only to the Cubs, but it's dwarfed (the Cubs are +118).
Ultimately, I still think the Cubs are the best team. The record, run differential and personnel (arguably, in the case of the latter) back that up. Is a 3-6 stretch really that bad anyway when framed in the context of a team that started 25-6? I will say, though, it was nice to have to think about it for a bit this time around. This is the first time that I'd accept other answers without laughter, too. I'd only respectfully disagree (even though that's against the bylaws of Internet commentary).
The Red Sox and Giants have good arguments, I think. The White Sox, Orioles, Mariners, Nationals, Mets et al are knocking on the door but don't really have great arguments as better teams than the Cubs. The Pirates might but they've been beaten to a bloody pulp by the Cubs in head to head action, five games to one with the Cubs outscoring the Pirates 38-13.
Please feel free to contact me with comments either on Twitter (@MattSnyderCBS) or via email: email@example.com. As always, allow me to remind you that if we disagree about something, one of us is either stupid or biased -- maybe both. It’s probably not me, either.