In falling to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the lack of a killer instinct finally caught up to the Chicago Cubs.
When the 2016 Major League Baseball season concluded, the Chicago Cubs were able to do something that no one in their current fan base had previously been able to enjoy. The Cubs World Series Championship marked the first time that they had won it all since 1908 and thus they became rock stars within the Windy City. Every place that the Cubs went they were adored and given the red carpet treatment. The love affair with the Cubs would continue this year in spring training as they were selling out the majority of their exhibition games. And when the regular season began last month, the Cubs were able to raise their World Series banner, while also receiving exquisite World Series rings. But one of the questions that I posed in my baseball preview for this year was whether or not that the Cubs would have a World Series hangover here in 2017; and right now it appears that they just might.
Through 43 games the Cubs find themselves with a record of 22-21 which is good for third place in the National League Central. And after the Cubs won a combined 200 games over the last two regular seasons, they are going to have to put in some work this time around.
The talent is still in place for the Cubs to be successful as they have the likes of starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and third baseman Kris Bryant who is the reigning National League MVP, while Joe Maddon is still the manager of this team. But after the Cubs spent this past winter hearing how good that they were from passers by along with the media constantly discussing them, they must now accept the fact that they’re going to play 162 World Series games this season just to make it back to the postseason.
In winning 103 games last year, the Cubs won the National League Central by 17.5 games, while they also went 50-25 within the division. This season the Cubs are 15-11 versus the N.L. Central and it appears that they’re going to be in for a dog fight as the teams within the division have improved in the hopes of overtaking Chicago.
The Cubs were able to win their series last week against the Cincinnati Reds whom they swept, but the same could not be said about their previous three series. The Cubs were swept at home by the New York Yankees, while they also dropped series’ versus the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals. And when you peel back the surface and take a look into the organs and infrastructure of the 2017 version of the Cubs, the key ingredient that is missing for them is hunger.
When Maddon joined the Cubs in 2015 after nine years as the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, he was the perfect person to lead this team that was young, hungry, and playing with house money as they all were attempting to establish themselves.The Cubs were the sweethearts in 2015 as they secured a wild card berth and made it to the National League Championship Series before being swept by the New York Mets. The Cubs would use the loss to the Mets as hunger for last year, but where will that extra desire come from this year?
The Cubs team earned run average of 3.94 is fourth in the National League, but that number is deceiving. Arrieta is 5-3, but his earned run average is 4.80, and he has been unable to get past the sixth inning in any start since April 9 as this is a far cry from a man who won the N.L. Cy Young Award in 2015. Starting pitcher Jon Lester was 19-5 last year with an earned run average of 2.44, but this time around he is 2-2 with an ERA of 3.57. In allowing relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman to leave as a free agent to re-join the Yankees, the Cubs didn’t skip a beat as they acquired relief pitcher Wade Davis from the Kansas City Royals. Davis already has 9 saves, but he could have more if the Cubs starters were handing him the ball with a lead in the ninth inning.
The Cubs offense is surprisingly a middle of the pack unit in spite all of their firepower. Last year the Cubs were the modern day Murderers’ Row as they decimated opposing pitching staffs. Bryant is off to another solid start as he is batting .296 with 10 home runs and 22 runs batted in. Rizzo has 8 homers and his 24 runs batted in lead the team. However Rizzo has not been consistent at the plate which is illustrated in his .222 batting average. Outfielder Kyle Schwarber is a power threat, but his batting average is south of .200. The Cubs are not getting quality production from youngsters such as infielder Addison Russell who is only batting .216, while even a dependable veteran in utility man Ben Zobrist has yet to get it going as he is only batting .252. And after the Cubs gave outfielder Jason Heyward $184 million over eight years, his signing could be one of the worst free agency deals in the franchise’s history as the oft-injured right fielder is only batting .255 with 3 homers and 17 runs batted in this season.
But little did we know of the impact that outfielder Dexter Fowler had on the Cubs lineup over the last two years. Fowler was the Cubs table setter over the last two seasons, however Chicago allowed him to hit free agency and he joined the rival Cardinals, while leaving Chicago without a guy to generate some life for their offense which is showing up this season.
The Cubs are in third place in the National League Central, but they aren’t far off of the pace as they’re only 2.5 games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs definitely have a run in them due to the fact that at some point their offense should be able to get clicking and the same is true in regards to their starting pitching staff. And even if the Cubs can’t get it going, I expect their president of baseball operations in Theo Epstein to use all of his resources to make deals in order to get this team back to the postseason.
The taste of victory was very sweet for the Cubs last year, but now that their appetite has been satisfied, will they have enough left for another helping of success this season?
It’s safe to refer to Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein as King Midas because anything that he touches indeed turns to gold. Epstein’s Major League Baseball journey began in 1995 as an intern for the Baltimore Orioles which would be followed by him gaining more experience in the front office of the San Diego Padres. But Epstein would get his big break in 2003 when he was named the general manager of the Boston Red Sox. Epstein would make several key moves which included acquiring starting pitcher Curt Schilling from the Arizona Diamondbacks. And by 2004, the Red Sox had won their first World Series Championship in 86 years.
The Red Sox would go on to win another World Series Title in 2007 and the marriage between Epstein and Boston appeared to be one that would last for a very long time. But following a late season collapse by the Red Sox in 2011 that would see them miss the playoffs, Epstein would step down from his post as general manager. However it wouldn’t take Epstein that long to resurface on the baseball scene as just a few days after leaving the Red Sox, he would join the Cubs.
Epstein’s arrival in Chicago was met with a hero’s welcome as he gave hope to a fan base that hadn’t seen their beloved Cubbies win the World Series since 1908. But unlike in Boston where Epstein simply needed to put the finishing touches on a championship club, he was taking over an organization in Chicago that needed to be built from the ground up. And the Rickets family who owns the Cubs gave Epstein free reign to build the team in his image.
The Cubs would lose 101 games in 2012, but it didn’t matter as Epstein was beginning to develop the team’s minor-league system. In 2012, Epstein would acquire first baseman Anthony Rizzo from the Padres in a deal that was centered around starting pitcher Andrew Cashner. In 2013, the Cubs owned the the second overall pick of the Major League Baseball Draft which they used on third baseman Kris Bryant. That year would also see Esptein pull off another steal when he acquired starting pitcher Jake Arrieta from the Baltimore Orioles in move that completely flew under the radar.
The Cubs were still a losing team, but they showed some improvement in 2014 when they went 73-89. That season would see Epstein make another key move when he acquired infielder Addison Russell from the Oakland Athletics in a move that was centered around starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija being shipped to Oakland.
But Epstein and the Cubs would have a gift fall into their laps following the end of the 2014 Major League Baseball season when manager Joe Maddon decided to opt-out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays in order to bring his talent to the Windy City. In nine years with the Rays, Maddon’s record was 754-705 which included four playoff appearances along with a World Series appearance in 2008. And like Epstein, Maddon was welcomed in Chicago with a hero’s welcome as the folks in the WIndy City saw things coming together for the Cubs.
After the 2014 Major League Baseball season, the Cubs would sign free agent starting pitcher Jon Lester who played under Epstein with the Red Sox. Bryant and Russell would be ready for their debuts in 2015 as they joined Rizzo and Javier Baez to give the Cubs one of the best infields in baseball, and all of the sudden this organization was no longer a door mat.
In 2015, the Cubs won 97 games which saw them make the postseason. But being that the National League Central was the best division in Major League Baseball, the Cubs had to settle for the second wild card spot as they finished in third place in the division behind the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates.
But the Cubs would have the ultimate revenge in the postseason as they defeated the Pirates in the National League’s Wild Card Game, while they defeated the Cardinals in the NLDS. The Cubs would run into a buzz saw as they swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS. The Cubs were dominated by the Mets to the point that they never had a lead at any point of the series. However the Cubs postseason run in 2015 was a sign of good things to come on the North Side of Chicago.
Epstein would continue to load up on talent as he signed veteran starting pitcher John Lackey in order to provide the Cubs starting rotation with some depth behind Lester and Arrieta who won the National League’s Cy Young Award in 2015. The Cubs would also sign outfielder Jason Heyward away from the Cards and all of a sudden, Chicago’s hopes of winning the World Series for the first time since 1908 were as real as they’ve ever been.
The Cubs would begin the 2016 Major League Baseball season at a torrid pace as they won 27 of their first 35 games and they never looked back. Five Cubs were voted as starters for the All-Star Game which included their entire infield. But even as the Cubs were showing that they were ready for another postseason run, they weren’t quite a complete team which led Epstein to acquiring relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees prior to MLB’s trade deadline. The Cubs would easily win the National League Central and now it was time to see if they could finally slay the dragon that has been the postseason.
The Cubs would draw the San Francisco Giants in the National League Divisional Series as they are always a scary team due to the fact that they’ve won the World Series in every even year since 2010. But the Cubs won the first two games of the series at home, and when the wheels appeared ready to fall off, they answered the bell.
Chapman would suffer a blown save in Game 3 of the National League Divisional Series which prevented the Cubs from clinching. The Cubs would face a three-run deficit heading into the ninth inning of Game 4 as it appeared that they would be heading back to Wrigley Field for a decisive Game 5.
But the Cubs would stage a furious rally in the ninth inning which saw them stun the Giants for four runs to win the game 6-5. The Cubs would slay the dragon as they became the first team since the Florida Marlins in 2003 to eliminate the Giants from postseason contention.
In the National League Championship Series, the Cubs would face another team that had a long World Series drought in the Los Angeles Dodgers who haven’t won it all since 1988. But unlike last year where the Cubs had to face numerous power arms that the Mets had, they only had to deal with one in the form of starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw with the Dodgers. After losing Game 3, the Cubs would find themselves down 2-1 in the series before their offense woke up and would win the next three games to win the NL Pennant for the first time since 1945.
The Cubs would meet a Cleveland Indians team in the World Series that was as equally determined as they were. The Indians had a long title drought as well as they hadn’t won the World Series since 1948. With the series tied at 1, the Indians would seize control when they won Games 3 and 4 at Wrigley to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. But just like the Cubs rallied against the Giants and Dodgers, they would once again answer the bell as they finally began to figure out an Indians pitching staff that had been unhittable throughout the majority of the postseason.
The Cubs would win Game 5 and would once again find their groove as their bats woke up in Game 6 to force a decisive Game 7. This energy and belief would ignite their fan base in Chicago who made the trek in droves to Cleveland to see their team possibly win it all. The Cubs jumped out to a 6-1 lead in Game 7 before the Indians rallied to tie it at 6 late in the contest. And when the Indians tied it up, thoughts of so many Cubs collapses over the years came to mind as it just didn’t appear to be in the cards for them again.
But this Cubs team would find a way as they would score a pair of runs in the top of the tenth inning which proved to be the difference as they would win the game and the series for their first World Series Championship since 1908. And when you haven’t won a title for so long like the Cubs, it is the equivalent of taking a strong laxative to clean out your system as folks in the Windy City will be partying from now until the cows come home. It is to the point in the Windy City that if Epstein wanted to run for mayor in Chicago, he would win by a landslide.
Epstein has now cemented himself as one of the greatest baseball minds of all-time as he has now taken two organizations that couldn’t win for so long and made them champions. The folks in Boston didn’t have hope before Epstein as “The Curse of the Bambino” haunted them for so long. The Red Sox had their epic collapse of 1978, along with the blowing the World Series in 1986 on their resume while they had to sit back and watch their arch rival in the Yankees collect more World Series Titles (27) than any other franchise. But that all changed when Epstein came to town as it was highlighted by the Red Sox overcoming a 3-0 deficit to the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series en route to winning it all.
The Cubs went down a similar path as “The Curse of the Billy Goat” haunted them which included blowing a huge lead in the National League East in 1969, while their own futility would cost them the N.L. Pennant in 1984, along with Steve Bartman becoming a household name in 2003 for all of the wrong reasons. And even though that the Cubs were done in for the 2015 NLCS by Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy who coincidentally has the same last name as the billy goat that the curse originated from, they didn’t sulk after being swept by New York in 2015. These Cubs found a way to win, but win in a fashion where they were able to illustrate that dreams do come true when you believe in yourself, and when leaders put a plan in place that will produce results.
Now aside from turning the Cubs in champions, Epstein has set them up for long-term success as the majority of their team is relatively young, while the Ricketts family doesn’t have a problem in spending money as far as winning goes.
Epstein is only 42- years of age, but he has already solidified himself to be Cooperstown bound one day for the Baseball Hall of Fame while he will never have to buy another drink within the city limits of Chicago.
The calendar has yet to shift to the month of September, but you can all but pencil in the Chicago Cubs for a second consecutive trip to the postseason. From 2010-2014, the Cubs endured five losing seasons which included them dropping 101 games in 2012. But last year under the guidance of former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, the Cubs took the field with young phenoms such as third baseman Kris Bryant, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo as they won 97 games en route to a berth in the National League Championship Series. And although that the Cubs fell short of making the World Series last October, they entered 2016 as one of the favorites to get there, while they are doing their part to meet the expectations.
The Cubs began this year with a record of 27-8 as they’ve been the team to beat in the National League. At the All-Star break, the Cubs were 53-35 and their entire infield were voted as starters for the Midsummer Classic. The second half of the MLB season has seen the Cubs once again catch fire as they are 29-10 and they haven’t lost more than two games in a row since July 9. And as the Cubs are currently 83-47, they’ve secured their second consecutive winning season, while they have a nice cushion to work with in the N.L. Central as the St. Louis Cardinals who are 14 games back with just 35 games remaining are their closest competition. The Cubs have to feel good about themselves as they are clicking on all cylinders with an eye on reaching the World Series for the first time since 1945, and winning it all which would be the organization’s first since 1908.
The Cubs turnaround began when Theo Epstein became the team’s president of baseball operations. In October 2011, Epstein joined the Cubs after a successful run as the general manager of the Boston Red Sox which included winning a pair of World Series Championships. Epstein got the Cubs back to the basics which meant rebuilding the organization’s minor-league system through trades and drafting. Within three months with the Cubs, Epstein acquired Rizzo from the San Diego Padres in a deal that saw him part with the likes of starting pitcher Andrew Cashner. In 2013, Epstein would acquire starting pitcher Jake Arrieta from the Baltimore Orioles, and in that same year, he would use the second overall pick of the Major League Baseball Draft on Bryant. In 2014, Bryant made a blockbuster trade with the Oakland Athletics that saw the Cubs receive infielder Addison Russell as he parted with starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija. And just like it was in the film Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come” as that is what Epstein has done with the Cubs.
When Epstein first arrived in Chicago, the Cubs were an organization in disarray that nobody from the outside wanted to touch with a 10-foot pole. But by the end of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, people that were associated with the sport were more than willing to catch a flight to O’Hare International Airport as the Cubs bandwagon began to grow.
Once Maddon had opted out of his contract with the Rays, he was more than willing to talk turkey with Epstein after they had battled each other in the American League East. Maddon’s style of keeping a clubhouse loose while also developing the young and talented Cubs roster was important. And once the Cubs began to show their potential last year, so did the baseball world. Last off-season the Cubs signed outfielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Ben Zobrist to contracts to give Chicago one of the deepest lineups in baseball. The Cubs also signed veteran starting pitcher John Lackey, and last month, flame throwing relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman was acquired from the New York Yankees to give Chicago a lights out closer that will be vital in the playoffs.
Now the Cubs have everything in place to make a run at the World Series as they have a powerful lineup that puts pressure on opposing pitchers. So far this year the Cubs are second in the National League in runs scored (663), third in slugging percentage (.434), and fifth in home runs (165). Bryant is becoming the superstar that most people expected him to be as he is batting .303 with 35 home runs and 89 runs batted in as he is on pace to become the first Cubs players to be named the N.L.’s MVP since Sammy Sosa in 1998. Rizzo isn’t that shabby either as he is batting .297 with 25 homers and 91 runs batted in. And the combination of Rizzo and Bryant fits right into a city such as Chicago that is very familiar with great sports tandems such as Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Arrieta is the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner and although that he more than likely won’t win 22 games like he did in 2015, he still leads the N.L. in wins with 16 as he is one of the few bona fide aces in baseball.
There’s a buzz around the Cubs that hasn’t been there for quite some time as this team’s fan base travels well on the road, while there isn’t an empty seat to find at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. The Cubs are on pace for their first 100-win season since 1935, but this team will be defined by whether or not that they’ll be able to get those 11 victories in October that have eluded them for more than 100 years.
The Chicago Cubs have been romanticized in books, on television, the internet, and overall fandom. The Cubs have played their home games at Wrigley Field since 1916 as the park itself is a national treasure. But more than anything the Cubs have been deemed as the “loveable losers” of professional sports as this organization has not won the World Series since 1908, while they’ve failed to advance to the Fall Classic itself since 1945. And the Cubs have had their fare share of heartache which includes blowing the lead in the National League East in 1969 to the New York Mets, failing to win the National League Championship Series in 1984 after defeating the San Diego Padres in the first two games of the series, and of course blowing the NLCS in 2003 after taking a 3-1 series lead over the Florida Marlins. In 2008, the Cubs won 97 games which was their best season since 1945. But in spite of the Cubs having home-field advantage that October in the NL, they were swept in the first round by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But after that foray in the postseason, things would change drastically for the Cubs. In the summer of 2009, the Cubs were sold to the Ricketts family after the team was on the verge of bankruptcy. The Cubs roster would be gutted as by the 2011, they had lost 91 games. Following the 2011 Major League Baseball season, Theo Epstein would resign as the general manager of the Boston Red Sox to become the Cubs president of baseball operations. Epstein’s arrival in Chicago was met with a ton of excitement as he was the architect that helped the Red Sox win a pair of World Series Titles while ending the organization’s 86-year drought of not winning it all.
Upon joining the Cubs, Epstein would bring his assistant general manager with the Red Sox in Jed Hoyer to the Chicago to be the team’s new general manager. The duo of Epstein and Hoyer had a philosophy of starting over from scratch which meant developing the Cubs minor-league system. In 2012, the Cubs lost 101 games for the first time since 1966, which was followed by a 96-loss campaign in 2013. Over this stretch the only thing that Epstein and Hoyer did to waver from their strategy was replacing managers as in 2013, Dale Sveum got the ax as the Cubs skipper, while his replacement Rick Renteria would only last one year on the North Side of Chicago.
Both firings were surprising, but in Renteria’s case, the market for managers changed following the 2014 Major League Baseball season when Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. Maddon had tremendous success with the Rays which included leading the team to five playoff appearances in a six-year span, and the organization’s only American League Pennant in 2008. On November 2, 2014, the Cubs named Maddon as their new manager and immediately the tenor of the team changed as Epstein’s plan was beginning to come together.
Maddon inherited a young team with the Cubs, in the mode that he did with the Rays. The Cubs had lost 89 games in 2014, but they were still expected to possibly contend for a playoff berth in 2015. The youngsters for the Cubs such as first baseman Anthony Rizzo and third baseman Kris Bryant would live up to their potential and then some as Chicago would win 97 games en route to their first playoff appearance since 2008. The Cubs took home a ton of individual hardware as Maddon was named the National League’s Manager of the Year, while Bryant was the NL Rookie of the Year, and starting pitcher Jake Arrieta was named the NL Cy Young Award winner.
But as good as the Cubs were, they could not win the National League Central as that honor went to the St. Louis Cardinals who won 100 games. The NL Central was so tightly contested that the Cubs finished in third place in the division behind the Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs would defeat the Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game before taking down the Cards in the NLDS. But the Cubs ran into a buzzsaw in the NLCS as they were swept by the New York Mets. However that didn’t stop the Cubs who still had high hopes with their core of youngsters heading into 2016.
Over the winter, the Cubs would sign veteran starting pitcher John Lackey and outfielder Jason Heyward away from the rival Cardinals, while it was a Tampa Bay reunion when utility man Ben Zobrist came to Chicago fresh off helping the Kansas City Royals win the World Series. The Cubs entered the 2016 Major League Baseball season with a loaded team that is living up to the lofty expectations that were thrust onto them.
Through 36 games the Cubs record of 27-9 is the best in Major League Baseball while they have already distanced themselves from the pack in the National League Central as the second-place Pirates are 8 games behind them.
The Cubs began 2016 by sweeping the Los Angeles Angels and they have yet to lose more than two games in a row all season long. Within the National League Central, the Cubs are 15-3 while they’ve only lost one series this season. The Cubs already have an eight-game winning streak under their belts as they’re not only well on their way to winning 100 games, but they could also become the first Cubs team to win at least 105 games since the 1907 Cubs who won 107 games en route to winning the World Series. And of course this start by the Cubs has people in the Windy City thinking about the Fall Classic and rightfully so.
Last year the Cubs pitching staff was soley Arrieta, but things are different this year. Even though that Arrieta is 7-0 with an earned run average of 1.29, he is not the only Cubs starting pitcher that is currently sporting and ERA below 2.00. Starting pitcher Jason Hammel is 5-0 with an earned run average of 1.77 while Jon Lester is 4-2 with an ERA of 1.88. And for Lackey, he is 4-2 with an earned run average of 3.54. The Cubs team earned run average of 2.66 is the best in the National League, and if their pitching wasn’t enough, opponents still have to contend with their lineup.
The Cubs offense is leading the National League in runs scored (213), runs batted in (202), and on-base percentage (.370) as there is not a soft spot in this lineup. Rizzo is leading the Cubs in home runs with 11, while Zobrist and outfielder Dexter Fowler are each sporting batting averages above .300. After the slow start by Bryant, he is getting it going as he’s batting .275 with 6 home runs and 25 runs batted in. Injuries had slowed down Heyward upon his arrival to the Cubs, however he is currently sporting a seven-game hitting streak which has seen his batting average jumps 24 points to .236. And after finishing second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2010, Heyward has shown that he is at his best when he is a part of a deep lineup that takes pressure off of him.
The success of the Cubs has some people believing that Epstein could be the best executive in Major League Baseball right now as he has not only set the Cubs up to win right now, but also for the foreseeable future. There have been renovations to Wrigley Field which has made it more modern, while the Cubs are enjoying life with their new television deal. And what the hot start by the Cubs has done is that is gives Epstein the opportunity to sit back and evaluate his team in the case of making a minor tweak at the trade deadline which could make this team that much more dangerous in October.
The Cubs transformation is the shining example of what happens when companies put the right people in place to succeed. Epstein was given free reign to build this team, and he got himself a manager in Maddon that knows how to develop young players while keeping the atmosphere in the clubhouse loose. And now what the Cubs have is a team that enjoys coming to the ballpark on a daily basis, while their opponents dread it being that this roster doesn’t have any soft spots. The Cubs are expected to go wire-to-wire in the National League Central as they’ve established themselves as the team to beat. Now it just a matter of whether or not they’ll be able to do what no Cubs team has done since 1908, which is to win it all and “reverse the curse”.
The Chicago Cubs are in the midst of their best year since 2008. The Cubs currently have a record of 72-51 as they are on the cusp of eclipsing their win total of 73 games from last year. And only the stellar seasons of the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates respectively are preventing the Cubs from being in first place in the National League Central.
Joe Maddon is in his first year as the manager of the Cubs and he’s always been known to do things a little bit differently. For nine years, Maddon was the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays and during his time in Tampa, he led the Rays to their only American League Pennant in 2008 along with three additional postseason appearances. Maddon has never been a conventional manager which is perfect for a Cubs organization that is desperate to re-write their record book.
Whereas the Cubs have not made the playoffs since 2008, they have not played in the World Series since 1945 and they haven’t won the Fall Classic since 1908 as this is a franchise that is hungry for a title.
When Tom Ricketts purchased the Cubs in 2009, he looked to revitalize every aspect of the organization which included renovations to Wrigley Field which has been the team’s home ballpark since 1914. Ricketts would simply love to build a new ballpark for the Cubs, but the City of Chicago has designated Wrigley as a landmark which hasn’t stopped him from building and developing the actual team.
In 2011, the Cubs hired former Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein to be their new president of baseball operations. During Epstein’s time with the Red Sox, he helped them win a pair of World Series Titles; including the team’s first championship since 1918 which was 86 years in the making. Epstein brought Jed Hoyer to Chicago with him to be the Cubs general manager after Hoyer’s stint with the Red Sox as the team’s assistant general manager. And as Epstein and Hoyer have rebuilt the Cubs minor league system, they have turned over the reigns to Maddon to get this team to the promised land.
When the Rays began their turnaround in 2008, it was Maddon that was at the helm of that young team which is once again the case for a young Cubs squad in 2015.
The Cubs currently have seven players on their roster as everyday players that are 26-years old or younger and they aren’t just on the roster to get coffee for the veterans. First baseman Anthony Rizzo is in his fourth season with the Cubs and he has the makings of a player that could someday become the National League MVP. This season Rizzo is batting .291 with 25 home runs and 76 runs batted in as he has become the epitome of what a cleanup hitter should do. Rookie third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant began the year in the minors as the Cubs were looking to milk all of the service time possible before calling him up. But since Bryant joined the Cubs on April 17, he has been a regular in the starting lineup as he has 20 home runs and 75 runs batted in. And aside from Rizzo and Bryant being named to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game last month, the Cubs now have two anchors in their lineup for the coming years.
But the arrival of Maddon to Chicago brought with it huge expectations although some people didn’t think that the young Cubs were ready to achieve in 2015. After several years of rebuilding, the Cubs were expected to need another year to develop, but under Maddon there time appears to be now. Although the Cubs currently own the second wild card spot in the National League, they have a strangle hold over that position as they possess a 6.5-game lead over the San Francisco Giants. The folks in Chicago are so confident in the Cubs postseason chances this year that the Cubs front office has already given season-ticket holders the opportunity to purchase playoff tickets for October.
During his time as an MLB manager, Maddon has left no stone unturned to lighten the mood in the clubhouse. During Maddon’s time with the Rays, he was infamous for having his club dress up in costumes on road trips just to lighten the team’s mood. And upon Maddon’s arrival in Chicago, he had the press there eating out of his hand as he heldd his introductory press conference at a watering hole where he promised to buy a round of drinks for everyone in attendance.
There are long suffering sports fans and then there are the folks that follow the Cubs. It’s been 106 years since the Cubs won the World Series and the next closest current title drought in Major League Baseball belongs to the Cleveland Indians who have not won the Fall Classic themselves since 1948. And aside from the drought of the Cubs, it is the bad luck that has been in place to befell them over the years which ranges from “the curse of the billy goat” to the infamous black cat incident in 1969 just to name a few. Maddon doesn’t believe in curses or jinxes, but even if he had to bring a witch doctor to change the fortunes of the Cubs, he would pony up the bread for it.
With the young bats of Rizzo and Bryant leading the Cubs lineup and a pitching staff that has the fourth lowest team earned run average in the NL as they are led by starting pitcher Jake Arrieta and his 15 wins, Chicago has what it takes to makes the playoffs. And everyone that is currently on the Cubs roster is too young and thus too immune to remember the team’s long history of futility which could be good for the North Siders come October.