As a life-long Cubs fan, 2015 proved that every year from this point forward could be the year. Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and the analytical wizards of the Cubs front office have established a blueprint for on and off the field success. The Cubs made the playoffs and won not one, but TWO playoff series! They may have crapped the bed verses the Mets, but they were never suppose to make it to the NLCS in the first place. The majority of their starters are under the age of 26, they had a replaced much of their coaching staff, and they played in arguably the toughest division in Major League Baseball. Yet, they still found a way to win 97 games.
Jake Arrieta had the best season for a pitcher since Bob Gibson. Or was it the best season since Sandy Koufax? Or maybe it was Orel Hershiser. Either way Arrieta dominanted down the stretch. And at age 29, he has at least two or three more seasons of dominion left in the tank. Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Nolan Ryan, and Warren Spahn have all had successful seasons well into their 30s. Arrieta’s arm is still fresh enough to deal with the rigors of a full season and a deep playoff run. The Cubs’ 2016 opponents better watch out, because every fifth day this guy is coming for blood.
Kyle Schwarber turned into Reggie Jackson. He hit 5 home runs (a club postseason record) and played terrible defense to boot. But, those things can be ironed out. If Manny Ramirez can play left field his whole career, then so can Schwarbs. And what if he has the ability to stick behind the plate? Schwarber has the ability to be the best hitting catcher in all of baseball if he can sharpen his skills at the backstop.
Anthony Rizzo could have been MVP this year had Bryce Harper not played like the second coming of Ted Williams. Rizzo finished top 10 in the NL in runs scored, doubles, home runs, runs batted in, walks, on base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and hit by pitch (30!). Not to mention Rizzo stole 17 bases, which is pretty good for 6’3”, 240 lbs first baseman. In a normal year, Rizzo would have been able to take home some serious hardware.
(Editor’s Note: Rizzo is secretly a warlock masquerading as a baseball player.)
Kris Bryant won rookie of the year while setting a Cubs’ record for home runs in a season by a rookie with 26. He finished in the top 10 in the national league in every category among third basemen. He’s also only 23 years old (same age as me; we’re practically twins) with his best seasons ahead of him. Plus he’s the dreamiest Cub on the roster, so that has to count for something right?
(Editor’s Note: My girlfriend made me include all of that. I promise you I’m not weird.)
Speaking of young-ins, Addison Russell, Jorge Solar, and Javier Baez are still on the roster and none of them are over the age of 23. And the organization has even younger talent on the way, with 5 minor league prospects listed in the top 100 (led by 19 year old shortstop Gleyber Torres), and 6 of the top 30 international prospects (lead by outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez). The future is bright with potential difference makers or trade fodder for a difference making player (Sonny Gray or Chris Sale anyone?). Either way the Cubs have plenty of youthful talent seeping out of the minors and 2015 was a preview for more to come.
In a lot of ways the 2015 Cubs remind me of my new favorite, actor Chris Pratt. Pratt is best known as the guy who went from the lovable slob Andy on Parks and Recreation to playing the millennial scoundrel, roguish space outlaw, and pseudo-Han Solo type Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy.
They surprised everyone with their leading man qualities, charm, and charisma. Hopefully the 2016 Cubs will be like the Pratt’s Owen Grady in Jurassic World, taking the world by storm with their heroic sex appeal and raptor training skills. Man, I really love Chris Pratt.
(Editor’s Note: I didn’t keep my promise. Things got a little weird. But sorry, I’m not sorry.)
The team has all of the ingredients needed to become a consistent force in the MLB: organizational stability, coaching genius, a surplus of talent, and a city fully behind them every step of the way. 2015 was just the appetizer for what this team can do. In 2016, the Cubbies are going to break out the eating bibs and gorge themselves on the scrumptious Nation League competition. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to get myself some reservations before I miss out on next year’s feast. I hope the rest of you have worked up a healthy appetite. Next year, dinner will be served.