Category: Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs Make Their Pitch for Greatness…

During this 2017-2018 MLB offseason wherein “nobody did anything”, the Chicago Cubs only did the following:

Inconsistency in the starting rotation was a problem for the 2017 Chicago Cubs.  They did what they could in season when they dealt their star prospect to the South Side of Chicago in return for hard-luck LHP Jose Quintana.  Once joining the North Siders, Quintana saw all his numbers improve.  By now acquiring Chatwood and Darvish to replace Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and the parade of guys who filled the 5th slot, the Cubs rotation (Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Quintana, Chatwood, Darvish) went from decent to one of the best in all MLB.  I would assume Lester, Quintana, and Darvish will slot in some order 1,2,3.  Maddon most likely will go with the matchups to make this decision.  That will leave Hendricks at 4 and Chatwood at 5.  Ponder that for a moment.  The guy with a career postseason 1.160 WHIP. The guy who has already compiled an 11.8 WAR in only 3 1/2 MLB seasons.  The guy with ice in his veins…will be taking the mound against other teams’ fourth best guy.  This rotation simply will NOT allow losing streaks to happen in 2018.  Not to mention a guy (Chatwood) who has career numbers tainted by Coors Field. Scouts rave about his spin rate, as he has one of the nastiest curveballs out there.  Breaking balls just never did well for Rockies pitchers.  Released from the high altitude, look for Chatwood  to be a plus (WAR 1.5+) pitcher for the 2018 Cubs.  All this adds up to a high energy starting rotation.

And what of the bullpen?

In 2017, the bullpen suffered from a lot of the same inconsistencies as the rotation.  While Cubs relievers had a very respectable K/9 innings rate (9.98), they also had a tied for last BB/9 innings rate (4.25).  Young fireballer Carl Edwards, Jr struck out almost 1.5 men per inning, but also walked more than five per nine innings.  Mid-season acquisition Justin Wilson just couldn’t find the strike zone in his 3 months in Chicago, walking 19 men in less than 18 innings. Even All-Star closer Wade Davis (who signed with Colorado in the offseason) had an alarming 4.30 BB/9 rate.  Enter Cishek and Morrow.  Cishek has pitched 8 quality seasons, and has always been stingy with regards to base runners (0.90 WHIP for 2017) while Morrow seems to have found command after the Padres moved him to the bullpen after being almost exclusively a starter in Toronto after an inconsistent rookie bullpen year in Seattle (2007).  Since transitioning to a National League reliever, Morrow’s walk rate is less than 2/9 innings.  With Cishek and Morrow anchoring the 8th and 9th innings, Edwards, Wilson, Duensing, Pedro Strop, and the enigmatic Mike Montgomery will do their part to shorten games to 5 or 6 innings.

The Cubs seriously needed to fix their pitching staff if they were serious in contending for another World Series title in 2018, and they did so in impressive style. With any amount of hitting, this team could once again be very special.

Cubs back at Wrigley after 5-4 Roadtrip

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The Chicago Cubs are home vs. The Philadelphia Phillies tonight after a 5-4 road trip.  Last night the Cubs lost a tough one in the rubber match of a three-game set against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, a gem of a ball park.

The crowd was kind of anxious the whole night, either that or they were cold, dealing with temperatures in the high 40’s.  It was a tight game, until the dramatic 8th inning. In the top half, the Cubs tied it up on a close play at the plate, which was ruled in the Cubs’ favor upon video review. John Jay scored from second base on a dash to the plate and barely made it home. The review concurred that he was safe and the Cubs had tied up the game on two walks and a passed ball. Sometimes, you don’t need a base-hit. Baseball can be funny that way.

The Red Sox scored four runs in the last of the 8th inning off the bullpen. Pedro Strop uncorked a wild pitch to score a run.  Later, Addison Russell fielded a ground ball which would have a routine out but he threw to first in the dirt and the ball hopped away from first-baseman Anthony Rizzo, plating another two runs.  The BoSox didn’t pop the ball, but the Cubs helped them in the 8th inning and head back to Wrigley, 13-11 for the season. It’s not a great start. The Cubs have a slim one game lead in the Division.

Nothing is going to come easy for this team, it appears. This is the Cubs. One hopes that the team finds its identity and character. You can’t expect to take the field and win every game. That attitude may help, but you have to play your way to the W. Last season, the Cubs did that 103 times.

If the baseball race is a marathon, then this may be about the 3 mile mark. Many more miles to go before the end.

The Yankees come to town soon, and that will be an event at Wrigley for sure.

Cubs’ Bats go Boom! In a 14-3 Beatdown of Pirates

By Richard Kagan

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The Chicago Cubs have been putting up big numbers on the scoreboard on the road. They come back to Chicago in a week or so.  Can they continue their current torrid streak at the plate?

Lately, the team has been averaging 8.8 runs per game and hitters are spraying the ball all over the field. Jason Heyward has found his swing and has hit three home runs in the last four days. He belted a three-run homer against the Pirates in a 14-3 romp. Heyward is now batting .294 for the young season with 3 home runs and 16 RBI’s. Last season he hit .230 with seven home runs and 49 RBI’s.

Heyward has said he’s been working on his swing and he hopes his production continues. So do Cubs fans.

Addison Russell had four singles and Ben Zobrist hit a bases-loaded clearing double.  Kris Bryant is finding his stroke and had a three hit night. So did Miguel Montero.  Listen, these guys can hit. They hit in the dreary-like conditions in Pittsburgh, where it was a good idea to dress with the winter coat.

Imagine what may happen on a sunny day at Wrigley Field with the wind blowing out?  The way the pitching has been going, the Cubs may win 15-7.  Last night Brett Anderson looked like a starting pitcher in his outing. The starting pitching looks a bit vulnerable now. Kyle Hendricks has yet to find his groove.  Jon Lester has yielded more runs than usual. Jake Arrieta looks starter-ready.  But the Cubs offense might off-set the shaky starters — for a while.

It is a long season, and the Cubs have played less than 20 games, but signs are looking positive, just as the Ivy begins to bloom again on the walls in the outfield. The Ivy will come up.

Hopefully the bats continue to come alive as we head deeper into Spring.

 

Walk-off HR by Russell Beats Brewers, 7-4

By Richard Kagan

addy russellOn a cold, cloudy day in Chicago, Addison Russell brightened for the Cubs fans at Wrigley Field by hitting a three run homer to cap a four run 9th inning rally.  The Cubs won 7-4 and finished its first homestand of the season, 4-5.

Chicago is (8-7) and is not exactly setting the League on fire. But it is cold and the bats are just waking up. The Cubs pitching has been less than impressive but there is talent and one has to hope the pitching staff will come around.  Today Addison Russell came around on a pitch thrown by Naftali Perez that landed in the bleachers in left.  A lot of Cubs greeting Russell as he touched home plate. It was an exciting win that heralds more in this unique season: The first that the Cubs play as defending World Series Champs.

Kris Bryant got the RBI that tied the game at 4.  He has yet to find a groove to his swing. But it is coming.

One thing for sure, this team knows drama. They’ve won a couple of exciting games in the past few days.  Baseball is a game of ebb and flow, of quietness and then sudden fierce action. Baseball features the circus catch in deep center-field ala Wille Mays, the deep blast to rightfield, and the outfielder throwing home to the plate in hopes of catching the runner as he slides in.

There are the endless foul balls hit by a batter trying to solve a pitcher. Then the pitcher throwing over to first to keep a runner close to the base.  It all happens in this game, and it could happen soon.

The season is underway, the Cubs are 8-7 and heading to play the Reds for the Division lead.  This isn’t the hot start that the Cubs had in 2016.  This is a club that is revving up the engine for the long haul of summer.

Richard Kagan is a featured writer on “A View From The Bench”, which has been recognized by Major League baseball as one of the top 100 blog sites.

Tonight, the Banner Flies at Wrigley

By Richard Kagan

Tonight, the Cubs will hoist the World Series Banner atop of the Center Field Scoreboard.  It was along time coming.

In fact, 1wrigley field08 years. President Teddy Roosevelt was President when the Cubs last won the Series.  He supposedly “walked softy and carried a big stick.” I don’t think these Cubs walk softly. When the Cubs bats come alive, it is hit after hit after hit, a walk, and another hit. The Cubs can score runs in bunches. In  their last game, vs. the Brewers, they scored 11, and won. Jason Heyward is swinging the bat. He drove in three runs last night. Kris Bryant came out of his slump and punched the ball around. Kyle Schwarber hit another home run. So did Zobrist. And Jake Arrieta won his second game of the year.

Jon Lester takes the mound against the LA Dodgers in this new-found rivalry. Before the Cubs started winning, Chicago looked to the Dodgers as that elusive, hard-to-beat club that seemingly throw out a great pitcher every time the Cubs landed in LA.  The Jake Arrieta no-hit the Dodgers in 2015 and it seemed that game served notice to LA, The Cubs are here and you can’t take us lightly anymore.  Or course, the Cubs beat LA in last season’s NLCS.  The Dodgers have the kind of uniform that speaks volumes. You wear the history when you put on the colors of LA.  All those World Series appearances, the great catch of Al Gionfriddo that robbed Joe DiMaggio in the 1947 Series.  Jackie Robinson stealing home against the Yankees, and Sandy Koufax who was virtually un-hittable for a while. Those players wore Dodger Blue.

The Cubs are building their own legacy. And it starts with the banner ceremony at Wrigley. It should be something else.

 

Success Breeds Contempt

By Omar Gobby:

The Duke Blue Devils.  The New England Patriots.  The Green Bay Packers.  The St. Louis Cardinals.  The Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  The New York Yankees.  All winners.  All very much hated outside their own fan bases.

But why the hatred?  They are all programs with long-standing traditions of success.  Duke has been to 11 NCAA finals (won 5 of them).  The Packers have more titles (13) than anyone else in NFL history.  The Cardinals have been to 19 World Series (winning 11 of them).  The Irish have laid claim to at least 13 NCAA championships and 7 Heisman Trophy winners.  The Patriots have become a January fixture, making the playoffs in 14 of the last 16 seasons.  To add insult to injury, they have won 5 Super Bowl titles in that span.  And then there are the New York Yankees.  Is there a more hated team in American professional sports?  And why not hate a team that boasts more Hall of Famers  (62, if one includes broadcasters), retired numbers (19), pennants (40), and World Series titles (27!) than anyone else in MLB history?  Why all this vitriol directed at these teams? I will tell you why:  they win.  Period.

Which brings us to the Chicago Cubs.

I am a lifelong Cubs fan.  I went to my first game in 1975, watching the Cubs and Manny Trillo go down to the Atlanta Braves on a gloomy Tuesday afternoon. I ran home from school to watch the greatest regular season game from my youth.  I got excited when Bump Wills (Maury’s kid) was acquired. I got pissed when they traded Ivan DeJesus for Larry Bowa and some kid shortstop named Sandberg. I got excited every March and disappointed every August.  Same old Cubs.

And the Cubs were everyone’s lovable losers.  They had not tasted October since 1945, nor had they actually won the whole thing since 1908.  So when 1984 rolled around, I sat on the edge of my seat along with baseball fans everywhere.  It was hip to be a Cubs fan.  It was cool to pull for the underdogs.  Alas, it was not to be.

“Same Old Cubs!” was the cry going up all over.  Same old losers.  1908….1945….1969.  Those numbers haunted Cubs fans and energized people nationally.  THIS year just HAS to be the one, people muttered.  Poor Cubs cannot catch a break.

And they couldn’t.  The 1985 season opened with such promise, and then it seemed that each and every pitcher on the staff went down, in succession, with injuries.  Oh well.  “Wait’ll Next Year!” yet again.

1989. 1998.  More of the national support for Cubs teams which seemed to come from nowhere.  “Everyone” was pulling for them to win!  And that magical 1998 Home Run Race…”it brought back baseball”, as this video says.  Say what you will about the ethical issues surrounding that race, it surely did re-energize a game which was declining in popularity.  And it sure did not hurt that the Cubs were smack dab in the middle of it.  People everywhere wanted on to the Cubs bandwagon.  It was great.

2003…we all know what happened.  Next.

2007, another Cubs team “out of nowhere”.  2008, led the NL in wins (97).  And people everywhere wanted to be there for “it”…it was still cool to be a Cubs fan.  To support this sad sack cursed Cubs team.

2015.  An improved team, built from the ground up by architects Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and, to a lesser extent, Jim Hendry.  A team meant to contend a few years down the line.  But they didn’t want to wait.  That hungry and young team went out and won 97 games and made it to the NLCS, bowing out against the New York Mets.  This seemed to be just the Same Old Cubs, yet again.

We all know what happened in 2016.  And something changed.  All those people who wanted to see the end of the longest drought in American Professional Sports stopped for a moment.  This was not an out of nowhere team.  This was not a fluke win.  This is a young team, with all its top stars under control for a few years. The tables have turned.  The Cubs are universally recognized as the top team in the game, and there are already rumblings and grumblings about that.  Cardinals and White Sox fans have their ire directed at all things Cub these days, and that trend will only grow.

I have told anyone who will listen that my biggest goal, as a Cubs fan, is to have my team be hated the way the Yankees are hated.  Because people are disgusted by a winner.  They want the underdog.  After 108 years of being everyone’s underdog, I am ecstatic that the Cubs are the favorites, and look to remain there for the foreseeable future.

 

Cardinals Pass The Audition – Time For The Real Games To Begin

The St. Louis Cardinals finished the 2017 Spring Season, 20-8-4, the best record in the National League this spring.  This is the first time the Redbirds have won 20 games in the spring since 1997.  Sophisticated fans know all too well, the games of spring have no real impact upon the games of summer.

Spring Training is a time for auditioning, planning, developing, and assessing.  The Cards’ spring appears to have been a successful one; as their record indicates.  The 2017 Season begins with one of the hottest, if not the hottest rivalry in baseball, as the 2016 World Champions Chicago Cubs travel to Busch Stadium to take on the St. Louis Cardinals.

Coming out of Grapefruit League play, I believe the Cardinals need to focus on creating more offensive production in leftfield and 2nd base.  With the loss of Matt Holiday, via Free Agency to the New York Yankees, the leftfield position is Randall Grichuk’s to lose.  This spring Grichuk was 15 for 55, with a .236 batting average, and belted 1 home run.  Seeking to increase his value to the Cardinals, as he hopes to increase his MLB appearances, is one of the brighter stories coming out of spring, Jose Martinez.  Last season with the Birds on the Bat, J. Martinez had 7 hits in 16 plate appearances.  This spring, J. Martinez went 19/50, with a .380 batting average, and hit 4 home runs.  Also this season, primarily to his dramatic weight loss and outstanding physical conditioning, Matt Adams is also available for duty in leftfield.  This spring, Adams was 16/47, with a .340 average, hitting 5 home runs.

There is no need for this writer to re-hash the stories and drama surrounding Kolton Wong.  I personally believe Wong is capable of being an elite 2nd baseman.  I also believe, early on in the 2017 season, we may witness Manager Mike Matheny use a platoon combination at 2nd.  Matheny has the option of either starting Kolton Wong or Greg Garcia against right handed pitching, or starting Jedd Gyorko against southpaws.  Wong has a career .248 batting average.  This spring, Wong was 10/52, batting .192.  Garcia went 15/51, for a .294 average, and hit one home run.  Against left hand pitching, the right handed hitting Gyorko was 9/47, with a .191 batting average, and belted 2 home runs.  Last season Gyorko launched 30 of his MLB career 79 home runs.  Gyorko is a career .238 hitter.  Gyorko is a threat off the bench.

I have been often asked, “Do the Cardinals have enough starting pitching”?  My answer is yes.  This is no way to speculate on how significant the loss of Alex Reyes this season to Tommy John Surgery shall prove.  The starting rotation of Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, and Mike Leake, are all capable, if right, to provide success in 2017.  If the Cardinals make a move, I believe it will be for starting pitching.  If not, be prepared to see many hurlers make the trek from Memphis to St. Louis, this season.

I am convinced the NL Central is the Chicago Cubs to lose.  I believe the Cardinals can be competitive in the Central Division.  I also believe the Redbirds will be in the fight for a Wild Card berth, with Chicago, again, winning the Division.  However, to quote Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over, until it’s over”.  The fact of the matter is, the season has yet to begin.

As a fan I am excited to see the Cardinals 1st series of the 2017 Season is against the Chicago Cubs.  Play Ball!

Thanks for reading!

Jim Tsapelas is a featured author for A View from the Bench.

 

 

 

 

 

Bryant, Rizzo Cubs’ answer to Toews & Kane

By Richard Kagan

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are the emerging power duo on the Chicago Cubs.  What they’ve done in their short careers is pretty amazing.

Across town, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, two of hockey’s wunderkids are playing well and have the Chicago Blackhawks poised to make another run at the Stanley Cup.

Both Toews and Kane are only 28 and yet they’ve won three Stanley Cup championships and have carved their names in NHL history.  Can Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant be the “Toews and Kane” of the Cubbies?

Patrick Kane won his MVP for the Chicago Blackhawks last year as the leading scorer of the league. His stick possession of the puck and his shot-making skills  are legendary and he’s still under 30.

Bryant won the MVP award of the National League last season while hitting .292 BA, 39 HR’s, and  102 rbi’s in the regular season. That’s not to mention his key hits in the post-season, especially his home run against the Dodgers in game five of the NLCS.

Bryant, 25, had such a great year, it seemed like he was either on base or hitting a home run to put the Cubs ahead.  It’s hard to expect him to do better. Cubs fans would like to see him reprise the kind of year he had last year.

Jonathan Toews is one of the great captains of the NHL. Known as “Captain Serious”, Toews seems older than his years on the ice. He doesn’t get ruffled easily. He provides on-ice leadership in making the crucial play, digging the puck out of a scrum, centering it to an open man, or tying up the game in the final seconds with a wrist shot.  His name is on the Stanley Cup three times. The Hawks look like they could be playing later this coming spring.

Anthony Rizzo, 27, is the emotional leader of the Cubs. Last season he batted .292, hit 32 HR’s, and drove in 109 runs. One of the clutch hitters in the league, Rizzo got that key base hit when brows were furrowed on the bench.  He and Bryant are the “answer” men for the Cubs. In the post-season, Rizzo was in a slump but he came out of it in a big way, helping the Cubs get to and win the World Series.

I see some similar traits in both Rizzo and Toews. They both lead by example. They don’t talk a lot, but let their play do the talking. It certainly speaks loud.  Toews could be headed for hockey’s HOF.  It is early to say that for Rizzo. He is off to a great start in his career.

Bryant and Rizzo have become household names in and around Chicago. It could be that way for a long time.

 

All Eyes on Arrieta as Pre-season Begins

By Richard Kagan

mlb.com

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The Chicago Cubs had quite the off-season. There still is an after-glow in Chicago as the city basks in its first World Series Title for the Cubs in 108 years.

Management has been busy, making trades and filling holes. The starting lineup looks formidable with the return of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, and Javier Baez. Oh by the way, Willson Contreras will probably get the starting nod at catcher. Contreras can hit and has great defensive instincts. And, he grew to handle most of the pitching staff last season.

Jake Arrieta signed a one year deal worth $15.64 dollars to return to the Cubs. The question will be can Arrieta regain his form that he showed early last season. He did win two World Series games, in that epic series against Cleveland. Arrieta also won a Silver Slugger award as the best hitting pitcher in the National League with a .262 batting average, with 2 home runs and seven runs batted in. He was not an easy out at the plate. Pitchers had to work to get him out.

Now, if he can throw as well as he hit last year, then this will bode well for Cubs as they seek to repeat as World Series Champs.  Arrieta threw a no-hitter vs. Cincinatti last season and went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA.  In the second half of the season, he seemed to tire and gave up an inordinate number of walks. He also uncorked a few wild pitches.

He is a fiery competitor and I think this season he will pitch like he has something to prove. That he is still the same pitcher who won the Cy Young in 2015 as the Chicago Cubs became contenders. That his stuff is still elite among starters in the league.

If Arrieta has a good year, maybe flirt with a 20 game win season, this can only mean good things are store for the Cubbies. Maybe they can make history, again.

There is no more next year…

There looked to be maybe 10,000 fans there that day.  I remember the day as being gray and dreary.   The year was 1975.

I don’t know how many of them were there for their first time, but I know at least one of them was.  Some snot-nosed almost seven year old kid was at Wrigley Field for his first ever Chicago Cubs baseball game.  Mom packed me and my sister on to the Addison bus and we headed east.  It was a Ladies Day.  So Mom and my sister were free.  3 for 1.  Can’t beat that.  Mom had a book with her.  And she sat and read it from first pitch to last.  Not me and Theresa.  We were enthralled.  I only assume it was also my sister’s first game, but you’d have to ask her to know for sure.

I was hooked.  I was in awe at these larger than life men running around playing baseball.  I remember Manny Trillo, who was in his rookie season.  I remember Braves’ pitcher Buzz Capra.  I don’t think Capra pitched, but I remember seeing him.  That was the first game.

Oh yeah, I am about 90% the Braves won that day.  That was pretty much a given…

And that is how this sordid love affair began.  Everything was about the Chicago Cubs for me.  I could rattle off statistics.  I analyzed the acquisition of Bobby Murcer.  I lamented the departure of Bill Madlock.  I was in awe of the ivy on the outfield wall.

I would spend many a birthday at Wrigley.  It seemed the Cubs were almost always hosting the Padres on my birthday.  One of the quirks of the unbalanced schedule back in the day.  The West Coast teams always came to Chicago in August for a long time.  Mom would let me bring 3-4 friends and buy us tickets.

As I got older, I was able to just hop on that #152 Addison bus and go on my own.  And I did.  Often.

In 1982  (aged 13), I started a tradition.  On April 9, I saw Cubs legend Fergie Jenkins triumphantly return as he pitched the Cubs to 5-0 victory over the New York Mets.  For 32 of the next 34 Aprils, I did the same exact thing.  The only 2 home openers I missed were 2000 (a girl, of course) and 2015 (Easter Sunday night!).

Over the years I saw so much which made me fall deeper in love with the Chicago Cubs.

I saw Dave Kingman smash some really long home runs.  I saw Glenallen Hill be not so impressed with that.  And I saw Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes turn his nose up that…

I saw some good baseball, and whole lot of bad baseball.

I remember rushing home from school to catch as much of the game as I could on Channel 9.

I remember being pissed that Ivan DeJesus was traded for the all glove, no bat Larry Bowa and some kid named Sandberg.

While on a tour of Europe with my High School classmates, I routinely checked the “International Herald Tribune” for updates on how the Cubs were doing.  When I checked the June 14, 1984 Cubs news, I saw that they traded one of my favorite players (Mel Hall) and our top prospect to Cleveland, of all places, for former Rookie of the Year Rick Sutcliffe and two others.  And to think that I was more excited at the time about Ron Hassey…

My heart sank heavily that Sunday in October of that year when the San Diego Padres crushed our hopes.

I watched in horror as the promise of 1985 faded as one pitcher after another dropped to the sidelines.

I eagerly waited out the rebuild which led to another playoff appearance just 5 years later, only to have Will Clark pretty much single-handedly defeat us.

I was giddy when I was hired in 1991 to work Crowd Control at my Xanadu.  Employee #1131, thank you very much.  I was one of those blue shirted dudes who sat on the outfield wall in the bleachers.  The one and only job I ever had where I would have paid them for the privilege…

I agonized through pitching staffs headed by guys like Anthony Young, Jaime Navarro, Jose Guzman and the like constantly failed us.

I watched Chico Walker become a fan favorite.

I saw failed prospect after failed prospect.  Drew Hall.  Lance Dickson.  Earl Cunningham.  Felix Pié. *sigh* Gary Scott.

I’ve endured 42 years of going to Wrigley.

I’ve lived through Herman Franks, Jim Essian, Preston Gomez, et al

I’ve paid good money to watch Bob Scanlan, Chico Walker, Miguel Dilone, Tom Veryzer and the rest.

I have been to almost every home opener since 1982

My father had to pull me away kicking and screaming in the 4th inning on 8/8/88 because I was CERTAIN the light drizzle would soon end

I woke up in the middle of the night to watch them suck in Tokyo.

I giggled like a schoolgirl to be sitting 2 rows behind Governor Thompson at the one and only win in the 1989 playoffs.

I saw some bum rookie catcher named Biggio blast 2 HR in an empty stadium

I remember rushing home from school to watch games on channel 9

I proudly worked Crowd Control during the forgettable 1991 season. Employee#1131.

…and would have done it for free.

I endured the politicking of the Commissioner’s office which took our home field away in 1984.

I was glowingly optimistic when Danny Jackson, Candy Maldonado, and Dave Smith all came aboard and then loudly helped boo them out of town.

I saw much more heartache and failure than any type of success.  My favorite team was a laughingstock.  Ownership, first under the Wrigley family and later by the Tribune corporation, were interested more in milking the profits garnered from the mystique of Wrigley Field than in putting forth a successful product.

I saw, with the exception of the Dallas Green years, management which was no more than a pawn of the owners.  Only Green dared to actually try to compete.  The farm system began to bloom under him and the team actually had a bright future as guys named Dunston, Walton, and Maddux were groomed and developed.

As much as I always hoped my team would win, I never really felt that was a realistic expectation until that bittersweet 2003 season.  That team came out of nowhere to win the division and advance to the NLCS, where they famously blew a 3 games to 1 lead and bowed to the eventual World Series Champion Marlins.  The 2004 team actually won one more game than the ’03 edition, but the magic wore off.

The 2007 team, under the leadership of Lou Piniella, won the division and got swept by the Diamondbacks in the NLDS.  The 2008 team had the best record in the NL and got swept by the Dodgers.  But that was not a team built to last.  It was a team that averaged more than 20 years of age.  The club was soon broken up when the most significant move happened.

Shortly after the conclusion of the 2009 season, on October 27, MLB announced and approved the transfer of 95% ownership of the Chicago Cubs franchise to the Ricketts family, headed by Tom, former executive at TD Ameritrade.  No longer was the team in the hands of a faceless corporate conglomerate.  A real fan was at the controls.  And he soon put his stamp on this team.

On October 12, 2011, Ricketts pried Theo Epstein away from the Boston Red Sox to run the baseball operations.  Epstein quickly brought in his own people, including former Padres GM Jed Hoyer.  The results were dramatic and immediate.  Scouting was better than ever before and top draft choice after top draft choice was a hit.  Albert Almora, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, and some dude named Bryant.

Young player after young player was brought in, and they all grew together.  Two miserable seasons filled with growing pains (2012-13) were followed by the first glimmers of hope (2014).  Not only did this team seem finally on the brink of contention, it also showed signs of long-term health with a wealth of young talent.

This is a team unlike any previous “good” Cubs teams.

1984 and 1989  teams assembled on the fly to win now.

1998 was the product of some divine intervention and an absolute stud rookie pitcher.

2003 was, well, special.

2007-8 were also not built to last.

2016 is the first time in my lifetime of being a Cubs fan when the expectation was there to win from the get go.  They played all season with a huge target on their backs and responded to the “pressure” by storming out to a 25-6 start en route to a MLB best 103-58 mark.

Saturday night, some say that the Cubs will be playing in their biggest game since that ill-fated 2003 season.  I disagree.  This is their biggest game since Wednesday October 10, 1945.  I don’t think anyone needs me to tell them what happened THAT day…

When the dust settles, not even Clayton Kershaw will stand in the way of dispelling the goats of seasons past.  The Chicago National League ball club will once again stand atop the baseball world and advance to the World Series.