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Not a Cubs fan? Here's all you need to know about this year's team

The Chicago Cubs are making a lot of news this year. So far, they appear to be living up to hype that they're the best team in baseball. Many oddsmakers picked them in the preseason to win the World Series this year.

A lot of South Siders and south suburban residents simply don't care how well the Cubs are doing. They'll root for their White Sox through thick and thin. Others, however, don't pay much attention to baseball, but want to know enough about what's happening to keep up with water cooler conversations.

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For non-Cubs fans, here's a primer about this year's team as the 2016 Major League Baseball playoffs approach.

Q: Are the Cubs going to make the playoffs?

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A: Yes. They have the best record in baseball. Tuesday's division lead of 17 games is the team's biggest since 1907, a year the Cubs won the World Series.

Q: Didn't the White Sox win their division by 20 games in 1983?

A: Yes. Ron Kittle won AL Rookie of the Year and LaMarr Hoyt won the AL Cy Young Award, but the Sox lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the playoffs.

Q: Why does the American League team have home-field advantage in the World Series this year?

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A: Because the AL won the 2016 All-Star Game.

Q: That's dumb.

A: I know.

Q: When do the playoffs start?

A: The Wild Card games are Oct. 4-5. The Cubs will likely host of winner of the National League Wild Card game when the National League Division Series begins Oct. 7.

Q: What channel are playoff games on?

A: Wild card, division and league championship series are mostly on cable channels TBS and Fox Sports. The World Series is on Fox, which is WFLD, channel 32 in Chicago.

Q: How about the radio?

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A: The Cubs are on WSCR-AM 670 The Score.

Q: When did that happen? I thought they were always on WGN.

A: Radio broadcasts moved to The Score this year, after one year on WBBM-AM 780. Ownership bid the contract and awarded a seven-year deal to CBS in 2013.

Q: Who owns the Cubs?

A: The Ricketts family bought the team from the Tribune Company in 2009. Tom Ricketts is board chairman.

Q: Didn't the Ricketts family make their money in the stock market?

A: John Joseph Ricketts, father of Tom and his siblings, is founder and former CEO of TD Ameritrade, an online discount brokerage.

Q: Do they make those commercials with the talking baby?

A: No, that's E-Trade.

Q: Those are funny.

A: Yes, they are.

Q: Weren't the Cubs really bad after the Ricketts family bought the team?

A: Yes. The team had a losing record its first five seasons under Ricketts ownership. The worst season in that span was 2012, when the team went 61-101.

Q: Then what happened?

A: The team improved to 97-65 in 2015, finishing third in the division behind the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs beat the Pirates in the Wild Card game and defeated the Cardinals in the division series before being swept by the New York Mets in last year's league championship series.

Q: Those Mets. Remember 1969?

A: I'm not old enough to remember 1969, but I know all about the Cubs collapse that season.

Q: How good are the Cubs?

A: They're the first team to win 90 games this year. The last time that happened was in 1945, the last year they were in the World Series. This is also the first year since 1930 the Cubs have reached 90 wins in consecutive years.

Q: Are you sure about that? What about 2007 and 2008? They made the playoffs both those years.

A: Yes. They were swept in the playoffs by the Diamondbacks and Dodgers, respectively. The Cubs won 97 games in 2008 but only 85 in 2007.

Q: What's different this year?

A: The Cubs have a lot of depth in offense, defense and pitching and very few weaknesses. Manager Joe Maddon has a lot of flexibility to adjust lineups to match opponents.

Q: Didn't the Cubs hire that guy who helped the Boston Red Sox win the World Series after all those years?

A: Theo Epstein was general manager of the Red Sox in 2004 when Boston won its first World Series in 86 years. They also won championships in 2007 and 2013. In 2011, Epstein became president of baseball operations for the Cubs and is credited with rebuilding the team through its farm system and trades.

Q: So what if the Cubs have the best record in baseball? They could still lose in the playoffs.

A: True. In 2001 the Seattle Mariners tied the record set by the 1906 Cubs for most wins in a season with 116, but lost to the New York Yankees in the ALCS.

Q: When is the last time the Cubs won a World Series?

A: 1908. The team last won a pennant in 1945.

Q: What about the Cubs curses — the goat, the black cat, Steve Bartman?

A: Superstitions seem to have no effect on this year's Cubs team. The ball that Bartman interfered with was blown to bits and served in spaghetti at Harry Caray's restaurant. No word on what happened to the goat and cat.

Q: Who are the best Cubs players?

A: Kris Bryant, who plays third base and left field, is near the top of the league in home runs, RBI and batting average. First baseman Anthony Rizzo and infielder Addison Russell are having great years. Statistically, the infield defense is the best ever, according to analysis by CBS Sports, with players like Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez.

Q: What about pitching?

A: The five Cubs starters rank among the top nine league leaders in ERA including three in the top five: Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. The bullpen is solid with relievers like Hector Rondon and closer Aroldis Chapman, who holds the MLB record for fastest pitch ever recorded at more than 105 mph.

Q: Are the Cubs as good as the 1985 Bears, the Bulls teams that won six championships in the 1990s or the Blackhawks teams that have won three titles since 2010?

A: Not yet. Let's see if the team wins the World Series, then we'll talk.

Q: Are the 2016 Cubs as good as the 2005 White Sox?

A: It depends what happens in the postseason, but it would be difficult to match the dominance of the Sox that year. The Sox won 99 regular-season games in 2005 and went 11-1 in the playoffs en route to winning the World Series.

Q: What's former Sox manager Ozzie Guillen up to these days?

A: From his social media feeds, it looks like he's active with his charitable foundation, which helps sick children.

Q: That's nice.

A: Yes, it is.

Twitter @tedslowik

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