It’s been 107 years since the Cubs won a World Series.
They are the World Champions of wackness when it comes to producing MLB playoff teams. Each pathetic year after pathetic year Cubs fans sit faithfully and attend baseball games for the pure love of the sport and what Cubs baseball means to the cultural, social and economic fabric of the Windy City. In most seasons the Cubs are out of the playoffs before the All-Star break.
Now, things are finally different.
It all goes back to October of 2011 when 37-year-old Theo Epstein -- who rose to mythical status by breaking the Boston Red Sox’s 86-year World Series drought and delivering two World Series titles in nine years as GM -- took over a struggling Cubs organization with minimal MLB talent.
Epstein agreed to a five-year contract as president for baseball operations and he immediately got to work, developing the farm system and preparing for future success.
Since winning back-to-back titles in 1907-08, the Cubs appeared in the World Series seven times over the next 37 years, losing all of them.
In 1910, the Cubs lost 4-1 to the then-Philadelphia Athletics. In 1918, the Cubs were squashed by the Red Sox. Philly did Chi-Town dirty again in 1929 and the Cubbies were swept by the mighty Yankees in 1932. In 1935, Detroit shut them down and a WS rematch with the Yankees in 1938 yielded the same losing results. And in 1945, the Cubs lost to the Tigers again in seven games.
Since those “glory” years (if you can call them that) the Cubs have become a team synonymous with the great Ernie Banks (RIP), the vines in the Wrigley Field outfield, losing and finding ways to lose more magnificently.
In 1984, NL Cy Young winner Rick Sutcliffe, NL MVP Ryne Sandberg and Co. fought a feisty Mets squad to win the division and then collapsed in the National League Championship Series against San Diego.
After taking a 2-0 lead the Cubs failed to win another game. Let’s not forget the most recent unfathomable Cubs occurrence. In the 2003 NLCS, as the Cubs stood just five outs way from going to the World Series, Steven Bartman’s glove dissed Moises Alou's glove and Bartman's eagerness to catch a foul ball resulted in disaster for Chicago.
Today the Cubs (67-49) are in third-place in the loaded NL Central, but after winning 16 of their last 19 games and holding the MLB’s best record at 12-2 this month, Vegas is giving them an 88 percent chance to make the postseason. Right now they hold a 3.5 game lead over the World Champion San Francisco Giants for the second Wild Card slot.
The carefully and masterfully selected and cultivated slew of young talent is finally panning out for Chicago, which refused to throw major coins at free agents, but instead relied on astute scouting, impactful draft picks, advanced sabermetrics and the pedigree of their legendary GM.
Rookie Kyle Schwarber has eight homers, some key hits and is batting .313 in 34 MLB games. Addison Russell’s bat hasn’t quite matched his sterling glove game, but he has played in nearly 100 games and finally put a choke hold on that shortstop spot. Now, he can focus on showing folks what he can do as he develops his robust skills as a hitter.
Jorge Soler is another steady player, and they all are turning it up collectively down the stretch.
Third baseman Kris Bryant is the gem of the bunch. Bryant, who was promoted from Triple-A Iowa in April and made the All-Star team in his first season, is already considered among the top defensive players at the hot corner. He’s displayed a veteran’s poise and approach since Day 1 and his lumber work is all that as he’s batting .254 with 16 homers and 66 RBI.
All-star Anthony Rizzo (.296m 23 HRs, 68 RBI) is the straw that stirs the drink, but he’s receiving a ton of help from the young gunners, who are eager to show they belong and determined to never step foot back in the minors again.
The Cubs minor league system has been impressive in churning out stud position players but if this band of boy wonders wants to make a true impact, the responsibility of a thin pitching staff falls on the backs of lethal lefty Jon Lester, who is really just cruising until postseason, and Jake Arrieta, who leads the team in wins (14) ERA (2.39) and K’s (163).
The Cubs hitting is on point, the team’s pitching depth, however, could pose a problem come playoffs. The Cubs are fourth in ERA in the NL, but after Arrieta and Lester, there isn’t much quality help available. This dilemma is something to keep an eye on as October rolls around.
What better coach than the eccentric, wacky and unique baseball genius Joe Maddon, to lead this charge and convince the young kids that a World Series is possible. When the Cubs booted manager Renteria and signed Maddon after he bounced from Tampa Bay in October of 2014, it was the second greatest management comeup since Epstein’s arrival.
Finally the Cubs were prolific in the front office, which usually leads to success on the field. It’s not a complicated formula. They just had to find the right concoction.
They will continue to build on the pitching staff in the years to come, but for now, in order for the Cubs to overcome potential pitching deficiencies, Maddon will attempt to erase a century of failure in one magical season by riding his baseball expertise and supreme motivating and communication skills as well as the enthusiasm and youthful exuberance of this new ray of hitting hopefuls with no attachment to the franchises miserable past.
“It’s exciting to me,” Russell told Comcast in Chicago when asked about being a part of the Cubs’ youth movement and shot at a postseason. “Whenever we’re in big positions like that it kind of hypes me up and I think that I get more into the game. I think, as competitors we all do that. It’s pretty cool being able to feel that atmosphere on the big-league level.”
They are already thinking big stage and this is just the opening act. Cub’s fans are looking at an upswing of prosperity and they might get to enjoy the early fruits this postseason.