New York City and Chicago,Illinois are two of the biggest media markets in America and with it comes bigger expectations for the sports teams that reside in those two metropolises. The New York Mets came into existence in 1962 as the Big Apple was desperate for a National League team after the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and the New York Giants moved to San Francisco. The Mets have two World Series Titles to their credit, but they are in the shadow of the New York Yankees who have owned the Big Apple and Major League Baseball as well. Unfortunately for the Chicago Cubs, they’ve developed the moniker as the “Loveable Losers”. The Cubs haven’t played in the World Series since 1945 and they have not won it since 1908 after the infamous “curse of the billy goat”. Since 2000, the Cubs have sat by and watched the Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, and their crosstown rivals, the Chicago White Sox end their long, respective droughts without winning the World Series, but they’ve been unable to do it themselves. Both the Cubs and Mets have teased their respective fan bases, but to no avail.
The Mets would reach the World Series in 2000 as they would face the Yankees. And in spite of the fact that the Mets had a better record than the Yanks, they were unable to rise to the occasion as they lost in five games. In 2006, the Mets had the best record in the NL as they won 97 games, but they fell one game short of the World Series as the St. Louis Cardinals were too much for them in the National League Championship Series. The next two seasons would see the Mets collapse in the month of September as they would watch the playoffs from home. Since then the bottom fell out for the Mets as their principal owner Fred Wilpon was a victim in Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme which severely crippled the team’s funds.
The Cubs pain goes deeper than that of the Mets. Both of these teams were bitter rivals in the old National League East. The Cubs had a 9.5-game lead over the Mets in mid-August of 1969 and they watched the Amazins’ surpass them in the standings that September en route to winning their first World Series Title. The Mets and Cubs were contenders in the 1980’s and it was Chicago that won the NL East in 1984. The Cubs would win the first two games of the National League Championship Series, but they would lose the next three to the San Diego Padres. The Mets on the other hand would win the NL East in 1986 en route to claiming their second World Series Title. On the back and power of outfielder Sammy Sosa, the Cubs would win 90 games in 1998 as Sosa hit 66 home runs. But in the National League Divisional Series, the Cubs were swept by the Atlanta Braves. In 2003, the Cubs were able to overcome the Braves in the playoffs as they advanced to the NLCS. There the Cubs built a 3-1 series lead over the Florida Marlins only to watch things unravel as fan Steve Bartman became a household name. In 2007, Lou Pinella was named as the manager of the Cubs and in his first two years in the Windy City, he was able to get Chicago to the postseason, but they never won a playoff game on his watch.
Since the late 2000’s, both the Cubs and Mets have been in rebuilding mode. In 2009, Tom Ricketts purchased the Cubs who were in financial turmoil at the time as he looked to start over from scratch. The Mets were broke and they went to Major League Baseball for help. And at the advice of former MLB commissioner Bud Selig, the Mets named Sandy Alderson as their general manager in 2010. After losing 91 games in 2011, the Cubs attached their wagon to Theo Epstein who was named as the team’s president of baseball operations. Epstein was the architect of the success of the Red Sox in the 2000’s as he was their general manager when they won the World Series in 2004 and once again in 2007. And now with Alderson and Epstein at their respective helms, the Mets and Cubs began the rebuilding.
But in big cities like New York City and Chicago, the fan bases haven’t always been patient as they are frustrated. After winning 89 games in 2008, the Mets have not had a winning season since as they’ve taken a backseat to the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, and Washington Nationals in the National League East. But in spite of winning 79 games in 2014, the Mets finished in second place in the NL East for the first time since 2008. And with the return of starting pitcher Matt Harvey this season after missing all of the 2014 Major League Baseball season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Mets were optimistic about their chances this year. Riding the coat tails of an 11-game winning streak last month, the Mets have been in the catbird’s seat in the NL East and they have the folks in Queens thinking about the postseason. Led by Harvey and starting pitcher Bartolo Colon, the Mets have had dominant starting pitching as their 2.86 team earned run average is second in the NL this season. The Cubs went out this past off-season and signed manager Joe Maddon after he opted out of his deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. In their first 30 games under Maddon, the Cubs have shown improvement as they are 15-15 and they are nowhere near the team that lost 89 games last season and 101 in 2012. And like the Mets, the Cubs are thinking about the playoffs this October.
The Mets and Cubs are currently meeting at the renovated Wrigley Field which is fitting as both clubs have rebuilt rosters. Since Wrigley is a designated landmark in Chicago, the Cubs could not tear down the historic venue, but amenities such as LED scoreboards and new seats in the bleachers have made it more modern. This series could also give folks a preview of future of the top baseball teams in the National League as both the Mets and Cubs are building towards becoming consistent contenders.
Along with Harvey, the Mets have some young arms that are poised to carry them. Starting pitcher Jacob deGrom is coming off of a season in which he became the first Mets player since Dwight Gooden in 1984 to be named as the National League Rookie of the Year. Starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard is set to make his Major League Baseball debut tonight and this is all while starting pitcher Zack Wheeler is recovering from Tommy John surgery. While the Mets are building their core around starting pitching, the Cubs have built their team around their everyday lineup. The Cubs young core of outfielder Jorge Soler, third baseman Kris Bryant, second baseman Addison Russell, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo are the guys that the Cubs are hopeful can reverse the curse of the famed billy goat.
The Mets will have a dog fight over the summer with the Nats in the NL East while the Cardinals are still the class of the NL Central as they have a 6.5-game lead over the Cubs for first place. But if nothing else, there is now some optimism for the Mets in the Big Apple and the Cubs in the Windy City which is the first time in a long time that this has been said.