So far it has been a very entertaining 2015 baseball season for the Chicago Cubs. When Tom Ricketts was able to hire Theo Epstein, I told a lot of people that by 2015 the Cubs would be starting to contend and by 2020 the Cubs would win at least 1 World Series Championship. This season is proving to me time and time again that I know a little something about America’s past time and what it is like to have a real baseball person in charge of a team. The struggles since 2011 have been painful to say the least. Trading away what appeared to be key pieces to contending in exchange for unknown prospects meant that Cubs Nation would have to wait to see if they would develop into legitimate Major League Baseball players.
One of those players first acquired by Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod was none other than Anthony Rizzo. Hoyer especially has thought so much of Rizzo that when Hoyer went to San Diego, Rizzo soon followed. Hoyer rejoined Epstein on the North Side and Rizzo soon followed. Rizzo is most definitely proving his worth to this organization day in and day out each season since being permanently called up to play first base. Consecutive All-Star appearances and a second season of Most Valuable Player discussion it looks like Rizzo is becoming the player Epstein and company expected.
Everyone was so upset with Epstein when Kris Bryant did not start the regular season on the hot corner. Based on the current collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the Players Union, Epstein made a business decision to keep a strong part of the core of this team under team control a little bit longer. Bryant so far is living up to the expectations and then some. Have the Cubs finally found a home grown product that will finally put the memories of Bill Madlock to rest? Time will tell, however, at this point and time it actually seems that the Cubs may finally have their best overall 3rd baseman since the end of the 1973 season. For sure it is a little early to say that. I think about Gary Scott and Josh Vitters who were billed as the real deal, and how did they turn out? Vitters was released by the Colorado Rockies back in March this season and is considered a free agent at this time. Scott did not fare much better and retired from minor league baseball in 1996.
Everyone was so upset when the Cubs drafted Kyle Schwarber with the 4th Overall Pick in 2014. The Cubs got a huge spark when they brought up Schwarber shortly after the All-Star Break. Schwarber continues to perform especially with his bat that the Cubs had no choice except to keep Schwarber on the 25 man roster prior to September Call-Ups. There’s something special about Schwarber that proves that the new “Cubs Way” is going to find the right pieces to the puzzle to make the Cubs contenders and still not give away what is now considered the best farm system in all of baseball. Addison Russell is another player the Cubs obtained in the rebuilding process when Jeff “The Shark” Samardzija was traded to the Oakland A’s. Russell is definitely an upgrade at shortstop then Starlin Castro.
So what to do with Starlin Castro at this point? That is an unknown because so much was heavily invested in Castro that currently it is hard to move Castro. Castro has shown signs of brilliant performance; however, in my opinion, he has had too many mental breakdowns both on the field playing and at the plate batting. It is going to be interesting to see what the front office will be able to do as it clearly seems that Castro is not the future at shortstop for this team. Hopefully they will get something to help the ever improving Cubs for next season like maybe another starting pitcher or a position player that is still needed.
The best return on a recent trade most definitely is Jake Arrieta. I know that Jon Lester was given a huge contract to join the Cubs and is still a decent starter and will be all right. Arrieta on the other hand continues to perform and just pitched one of the best games as a true #1 pitcher in no-hitting the Dodgers in Los Angeles on August 30th. Arrieta continues to prove that he is one of the elite pitchers in MLB and this season is a serious contender for the Cy Young Award. Unfortunately for all of us the overly biased anti-Chicago media will not award this to an incredible Cubs find. I look forward to seeing what more Arrieta does for the North Side and I expect that he will be rewarded for his efforts at some point and time.
All I know for sure is that the last four years have been harder than I am able to remember since growing up in the Northwest Suburbs and listening to Jack Brickhouse on WGN-TV. Is this the year that the Cubs will be able to pull it all off and win it all? I do not think so, especially when still falling flat against the Cardinals. Until the Cubs get over that last little hump in performance, 2015 will fall a bit short. The good thing is that everything continues to be prepared to contend for the playoffs year in and year out. Once in the playoffs anything and everything is able to and does happen. It is just a matter of getting to the post-season and seeing what develops. From what I am seeing this season yes it is possible to make the playoffs and be successful in them. Reality tells me that we are one or two pieces short to do it this year and that the future is brighter than ever. We’re just getting to Labor Day and Cubs baseball in 2015 is pretty awesome so far!!!