Ex-Cub Factor? Oh, SPARE Me!

Tuesday, October 04 2005 @ 12:00 AM EDT

Contributed by: Mick Doherty

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, writing for The Boston Herald, author and lifelong Cub fan Ron Berler coined the phrase and idea of "The Ex-Cub Factor."

Berler's theory was simple, as summarized by our friends over at All-Baseball.com: "Since the Cubs last won the NL pennant in 1945, only once has a team with three or more ex-Cubs won the World Series." Remarkably, this is still true -- and Berler even came up with a cockamamie way to explain away the single anomaly, postulating that 1960 PIT 3B Don Hoak had somehow overcome his "Cub-ness" and thus did not officially count against the Pirates that year.

This so-called "Ex-Cub factor" is a much-quoted (and often-mis-quoted or mis-represented) theory of the baseball universe, so there's something to this; but there are other factors to consider, too, as we head into the post-season starting ... yikes! ... later today. Let's see ...

The following is a list of ex-Cubs on the eight playoff teams; more specifically, these are players on current (expanded, regular-season) rosters -- including the DL. At least some won't make it to post-season rosters; some aren't even eligible. But it's a starting point:

Should Berler's theory hold, the Yankees and Cardinals are in real trouble, the Red Sox are out of it, the Padres and Braves are teetering on the edge, and we should all be preparing for the Astros to sweep through to the World Series and await the winner of a drawn-out, seven-game Chisox-Angels ALCS.

But is that the most accurate way to predict a winner? I think not. Writing to you from DeepintheHearta, I can tell you that if you're looking for a signal that a team won't advance far in the post-season, you should be looking for those who have worn the colors of the hometown Texas Rangers and Houston Astros ... neither team has ever made it to the Series, despite quite a bit of regular season success over the past decade-plus (less so more recently for the Rangers, but still) ... you don't stuff your roster with good post-seasons karma by stacking up on ex-Rangers and ex-Astros.

In fact, way back in 2001, in a day and age long ago when the Yankees were still defending champions for the last (that's "most recent," not "final") time, I penned a column for ESPN.com that examined the possible consequences of "Sorry Postseasons: Astro, Ranger Expatriates" on the participating teams. (The story is no longer available to link to; alas, it has apparently not been SPAREd the archivist's axe.)

So let's see how SPARE each of this year's "Eight Teams. One Champion." participants really is; I could use a little help here, so please let me know if I miss anyone who played for the Rangers or Astros or {{{shudder}}} both.

The Astros, of course, are stocked with a full roster of future ex-Astros, so we'll limit our looking there to ex-Rangers (also known as stRangers).

So the Red Sox not only break the limit of the Ex-Cub Factor, they blow away everyone else in the SPARE Factor as well. So what can we conclude? Well, other than the obvious "I have no earthly idea," it's clear that this Red Sox franchise brings much of its own misery, its own "curse" if you will, upon itself, which is why it hasn't won a World Series title in eighty-six ...

Oh. Never mind.