As the Chicago Cubs get ready to start a four-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, they find themselves in a position that few defending champions of recent vintage have found themselves in.
According to MLB.com, the Cubs are the first defending World Series champion to reside in first place in their division on Labor Day since the 2010 New York Yankees accomplished the feat after they captured the 2009 Fall Classic.
Since the turn of the century, the Cubs are the seventh champion to sit in first place this late in the season. The 2009 Philadelphia Phillies also managed to get to the top of their division on Labor Day, as did the 2005 Boston Red Sox and 2002 Arizona Diamondbacks.
In what can only be viewed as good news for the Cubs, the last team to repeat as champions also sat atop their division on Labor Day, as the 2000 Yankees led the American League East as they romped to a third consecutive World Series championship.
Of the defending champions that have resided atop the standings on Labor Day of the following season, a remarkable five of the eight have returned to the World Series that season. The Yankees did it every year from 1999-to-2001, and the Phillies got back to the big series before being eliminated by the Yankees in 2009.