2003 Cubs versus 2016 Cubs: Comparing each position

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The Chicago Cubs are back in the NLCS for the second consecutive season, a year after getting bounced in four straight games by the New York Mets. Only this time, things are looking a lot brighter. In fact, they are only 27 outs from the World Series.

While returning most of the dynamic 2015 team, this year's rendition of the roster -- with Ben Zobrist and Aroldis Chapman among the huge additions -- should not have to worry about something going awry (like it always does for this team). There's something special about this group.

The last time the Cubbies were within a sniff of the Fall Classic? Fans certainly don't like to hear it, but the year was 2003 -- the year of Steve Bartman, of course. The good news though: Up and down the lineup, this year's team blows that one out of the water.

This year's 103-win Cubs were the best team in baseball, and one of the most complete teams we've seen in some time.

For fun, we took a look at how this team compares to the last World Series contender to play its home games at Wrigley. WAR numbers, via Baseball-Reference, tell the story.

Catcher

Paul Bako (0.6 WAR) vs. David Ross (1.7 WAR)

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At 39 years of age, David Ross enjoyed his best season in terms of WAR since 2009. He and WIlson Contreras create a tandem behind the plate that not many teams can compare with.

First Base

Randall Simon (0.4 WAR) vs. Anthony Rizzo (5.7 WAR)

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Eric Karros manned first base for much of the season, but come playoff time, manager Dusty Baker turned to Randall Simon. Of course, in 2016, Chicago's first baseman is one of the best players in all of baseball: Anthony Rizzo.

Second Base

Mark Grudzielanek (2.3 WAR) vs. Javier Baez (3.4 WAR)

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After Ben Zobrist spent most of the season at second for the Cubs, Javier Baez's sizzling glove and bat haven't been able to be restrained. He's played himself into the starting lineup, and while Mark Grudzielanek was one of the most consistent players of 13 years ago, Baez's ceiling is MLB stardom.

Shortstop

Alex Gonzalez (1.1 WAR) vs. Addison Russell (4.3 WAR)

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A 20-home run season for Alex Gonzalez was the best of his career -- a pretty decent career at that. But Addison Russell is one of the league's best young players -- at just 22 years old, the All-Star hit 21 home runs while driving in 95 and saving 19 runs defensively at short.

Third Base

Aramis Ramirez (1.9 WAR) vs. Kris Bryant (7.7 WAR)

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A midseason acquisition for Chicago in '03, Aramis Ramirez played a big part in getting Chicago to the NLCS -- but, again, pitted against Kris Bryant, Ramirez's accomplishments look miniscule. Bryant is on the short list of National League MVP competitors this year.

Left Field

Moises Alou (1.1 WAR) vs. Ben Zobrist (3.8 WAR)

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Now moved to the outfield after the emergence of Javier Baez, Ben Zobrist is still producing for the Cubs. Moises Alou, at 36, was one of the Cubs' primary contributors. But Zobrist's all-around skill gives him the edge.

Center Field

Kenny Lofton (1.8 WAR) vs. Dexter Fowler (4.2 WAR)

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Lofton was another mid-year addition by the Cubs 13 years back, and played well in a Chicago uniform at age 36, but in 2016, Dexter Fowler's .840 OPS was the second-highest of his career.

Right Field

Sammy Sosa (2.7 WAR) vs. Jason Heyward (1.5 WAR)

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At last, the 2003 Cubs have the edge at a position -- and it's thanks to Jason Heyward's putrid first season as a Cub after signing a $184 million contract last winter.

Starting Pitchers

Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Matt Clement (21.9 WAR) vs. Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, John Lackey (16.2 WAR)

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The Cubs' 2016 rotation was arguably the best in the league, but the 2003 squad was even better. A healthy Mark Prior and Kerry Wood headlined it, while a youthful Carlos Zambrano and Matt Clement rounded out the foursome that carried Chicago through the postseason.

Bullpen

Joe Borowski, Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Remlinger, Dave Veres, Antonio Alfonseca, Mark Guthrie (5.5 WAR) vs. Aroldis Chapman, Hector Rodon, Mike Montgomery, Travis Wood, Carl Edwards, Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop (4.5 WAR)


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The one true weakness for the Cubs in 2016 was solved at the trade deadline with the acquisition of star closer Aroldis Chapman. While the 2003 team had more depth, this year's bullpen employs one of the most imposing figures in all of baseball.

Bench

Eric Karros, Damian Miller, Tom Goodwin, Ramon Martinez, Troy O'Leary, Doug Glanville (-2 WAR) vs. Willson Contreras, Miguel Montero, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, Chris Coghlan, Tommy La Stella (4.2 WAR)

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There just wasn't a lot for Dusty Baker to work with on his bench in 2003. In 2016, Joe Maddon's creativity combined with surplus talent has proven Chicago to have one of the deepest rosters in the league. Miguel Montero, namely, single-handedly won the Cubs a game this postseason.

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See photos of the Steve Bartman incident:

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Steve Bartman incident
Chicago Cubs left fielder Moises Alou reaches into the stands unsuccessfully for a foul ball tipped by fan Steve Bartman against the Florida Marlins in the eighth inning during Game 6 of the National League championship series in an Oct. 14, 2003, file photo at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Marlins won the series and went on to beat the New York Yankees in the World Series. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)
In this Oct. 14, 2003 file photo, Chicago Cubs left fielder Moises Alou falls back after unsuccessfully reaching into the stands for a foul ball against the Florida Marlins in the eighth inning during Game 6 of the National League championship series at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The ball was caught by spectator, Steve Bartman, shown with his arms out wearing headphones and a Cubs hat. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)
In this Oct. 14, 2003 file photo, Chicago Cubs left fielder Moises Alou's arm is seen reaching into the stands, at right, unsuccessfully for a foul ball along with a fan identified as Steve Bartman, left, wearing headphones, glasses and Cubs hat, during the eighth inning against the Florida Marlins in Game 6 of the National League Championship Seriesin Chicago. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)
The infamous cursed Chicago Cubs foul baseball from the 2003 National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins on display in it's last intact resting place at Harry Caray's Restaurant before being destroyed on February 26, 2004 in Chicago, Illinois. The alleged curse comes from a play during the NLCS where Luis Castillo of the Marlins hit a foul ball that Cubs fan Steve Bartman touched. This prevented Cubs' leftfielder Moises Alou from catching the ball which would have been the 2nd out of the 8th inning, instead the Marlins started a rally and went on to win the game, which forced a game 7 that the Marlins also won, on their way to becoming World Series Champs. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Actor/Director Harold Ramis emcees an auction to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation before the ceremony to destroy the cursed Chicago Cubs baseball on February 26, 2004 at Harry Caray's Restaurant in Chicago, Illinois. The alleged curse comes from a play during the NLCS where Luis Castillo of the Marlins hit a foul ball that Cubs fan Steve Bartman touched. This prevented Cubs' leftfielder Moises Alou from catching the ball which would have been the 2nd out of the 8th inning, instead the Marlins started a rally and went on to win the game, which forced a game 7 that the Marlins also won, on their way to becoming World Series Champs. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
A baseball sits inside a case moments before being blown up Thursday, February 26, 2004 in Chicago. The baseball was deflected by a fan during the Chicago Cubs' loss in Game 6 of the 2003 National League championship series against the Florida Marlins and blown up to help Cubs fans forget about the loss. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Oscar-winning special effects technician Michael Lantieri gets a look at his work after successfully blowing up a baseball for Cubs fans Thursday, February 26, 2004, in Chicago. The baseball was deflected by a fan during the Chicago Cubs' loss in Game 6 of the 2003 National League championship series against the Florida Marlins and blown up to help Cubs fans forget about the incident. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
CHICAGO - FEBURARY 26: Smoke, chards and thread at the bottom of a bullet proof container are all that is left of the cursed Chicago Cubs baseball after it was destroyed on February 26, 2004 at Harry Caray's Restaurant in Chicago, Illinois. The alleged curse comes from a play during the NLCS where Luis Castillo of the Marlins hit a foul ball that Cubs fan Steve Bartman touched. This prevented Cubs' leftfielder Moises Alou from catching the ball which would have been the 2nd out of the 8th inning, instead the Marlins started a rally and went on to win the game, which forced a game 7 that the Marlins also won, on their way to becoming World Series Champs. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Cubs fans show their support as the Florida Marlins take on the Chicago Cubs in game four of the National League Championship Series on October 11, 2003 at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida. The Cubs defeated the Marlins 8-3 to take a 3-1 series lead. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Starting pitcher Mark Prior #22 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Florida Marlins during game two of the National League Championship Series October 8, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Nate Bump #40 of the Florida Marlins throws against the Chicago Cubs in the third inning of game two of the National League Championship Series on October 8, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Marlins 12-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Shortstop Mark Grudzielanek #11 of the Chicago Cubs gets knocked over by Miguel Cabrera #20 of the Florida Marlins in game five of the National League Championship Series on October 12, 2003 at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida. The Marlins defeated the Cubs 4-0 and the Cubs lead the series 3-2. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Alex Gonzalez of the Florida Marlins makes a play from his knees during the Marlins 8-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs in game 6 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Sporting News via Getty Images)
Todd Hollandsworth of the Florida Marlins slides home safely ahead of the tag by the Cubs Paul Bako during the Marlins 8-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs in game 6 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Sporting News via Getty Images)
Ivan Rodriguez #7 of the Florida Marlins celebrates after scoring in the eighth inning against the Chicago Cubs during Game 6 of the National League Championship Series October 14, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Starting pitcher Kerry Wood #34 of the Chicago Cubs confers with teammates Damian Miller #27 and Alex Gonzalez #8 in the fifth inning against the Florida Marlins during game seven of the National League Championship Series October 15, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
A Chicago Cubs fan trys to maintain hope as he watches through a window across the street from Wrigley Field as the Cubs play the Florida Marlins during game seven of the National League Championship Series October 15, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A preacher fan of the Chicago Cubs says a prayer during the Cubs 9-6 loss to the Florida Marlins in game 7 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Sporting News via Getty Images)
Closer Ugueth Urbina #74 of the Florida Marlins celbrates with catcher Ivan Rodriguez #7 after the final out against the Chicago Cubs during game seven of the National League Championship Series October 15, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The marlins defeated the Cubs 9-6 to advance to the World Series. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Florida Marlins celebrate their 9-6 win over the Chicago Cubs during game seven of the National League Championship Series October 15, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Members of the Florida Marlins celebrate their 9-6 win over the Chicago Cubs during game seven of the National League Championship Series October 15, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Aramis Ramirez of the Chicago Cubs during the Cubs 9-6 loss to the Florida Marlins in game 7 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Sporting News via Getty Images)
A fan waits for the final outs between the Florida Marlins and the Chicago Cubs during game seven of the National League Championship Series October 15, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The marlins defeated the Cubs 9-6. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs during the Cubs 9-6 loss to the Florida Marlins in game 7 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Sporting News via Getty Images)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 15: A somber Ted Zegarski hangs out with others Chicago Cubs fans in front of Wrigley Field near the end of the game as the Chicago Cubs were defeated 9-6 by the Florida Marlins in game 7 of the National League Championship Series October 15, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Juan Encarnacion #43 pours champagne on Luis Castillo #1 of the Florida Marlins in the locker room after their 9-6 win over the Chicago Cubs during game seven of the National League Championship Series October 15, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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