The Cubs have been eliminated from the National League Championship Series. If you stop to think about the reality of this situation, did you really think that 2015 would be the year? Looking at the way things have been since Tom Ricketts hired Theo Epstein in 2011, this was the year in which the Cubs should have started to contend in my opinion. Having the third best record in all of Major League Baseball is still mind boggling to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I wanted the Cubs to at least win one playoff game at the Friendly Confines in the NLCS. I just think that the New York Mets have gotten super hot right now and their pitching has been spectacular. The Mets have also gotten the breaks that they have needed in this series especially.
Looking back over the 2015 season since the end of the 2014 season. Would you have imagined that the season would have been this good? I personally always hope that the Cubs will be at least a .500 team and anything above that is just icing on the cake. Theo Epstein found out that Joe Maddon was all of sudden available as a manager and ran to Florida with Jed Hoyer to meet with Maddon as Maddon was driving across the Florida Pan-Handle westward. Free Agency started and the big prize that seemed to be the target was signed. Jon Lester signed a 6 year $155 million contract to pitch on the Northside. There were some additional moves that were not as splashy yet, were part of the new “Cubs Way” atmosphere that Epstein et al are instilling in the entire Chicago Cubs organization.
Spring Training finally arrived and everyone was a bit more excited this year than in the past years as it looked like some of the prospects may join the big team when it was time to head to Chicago. Of course everyone was mad (especially Scott Boras) that our number one prospect Kris Bryant was not going to head North initially. What everyone was forgetting that as great as that would have been, this is still a business. The decision was not popular with most yet, helps maintain the core that Epstein is building around in tact.
The season got started and it just seemed initially that the Cubs were not going to be any better than when Epstein took over the baseball operations. Lester seemed like a waste of money, there seemed to be some fundamental concerns that appeared to go unaddressed and I am sure that many (including myself) felt as always “Wait Until Next Year.” All of a sudden the kids started producing and the Cubs started to win some games. The big push came when both Addison Russell and especially Kyle Schwarber arrived in Chicago. All of a sudden the Cubs were doing things that just did not seem possible this year. The Cubs were being considered “Contenders” for the playoffs. Maddon kept things loose and free-spirited in the clubhouse and continues to show why many consider him the best manager in baseball today. For every little bump in the road with a losing streak, all of a sudden there were better winning streaks that were being completed. The Cubs became real to everyone and not just the “Lovable Losers” that has been the norm on the Northside.
A real defining ten days in September were two series against our National League most hated rival. The Cubs went into St Louis on Labor Day for a three game series. The Cubs took the opener 9-0 and the second game 8-5. Unfortunately in the series finale the Cubs fell 4-3. The Cubs then hosted the redbirds for a weekend series starting on September 18th and again took two out of three games against the runaway favorite to a lot of people, the best team in baseball. Between those two series the Cubs handled business and continued to push forward. Everything seemed to show that the Cubs would make the playoffs as a Wild Card Team, it was just figuring out if the Cubs would be Wild Card #1 or #2.
As everyone should remember, the top three teams in all of Major League Baseball were the St Louis Cardinals with a 100-62 record, the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 98-64 record and our beloved Cubs with a final regular season record of 97-65. That to me is still the biggest surprise as the Cubs in one year went from the bottom of the toughest division in baseball to being near the top. The rookies and young stars started believing even more in their abilities and walk around with a swagger that is needed.
The playoffs started in Pittsburgh with a win to continue or lose and go home. The Cubs went with their season number one pitcher Jake Arrieta, who once again pitched a masterful game and the Cubs beat the Pirates in Pittsburgh to continue on to the National League Division Series against the redbirds. It was the first time ever that these two teams ever played a playoff game or series against one another. The redbirds shut out the Cubs in Game 1 and then the Cubs won the next three games to win the series and eliminate our rivals. Next stop was the National League Championship Series against another thorn in our side from the past, the New York Mets.
The best of seven series did not go as well as Cubs Nation had anticipated. Everyone was believing in miracles again and with the hype that was being built up from the movie “Back To The Future II” claiming the Cubs won the World Series over the Miami Marlins, it seemed that the stars were aligning and the baseball gods were finally going to shine on the Cubs. If you really thought the Cubs were going to turn it around this fast this year, than you are just as tormented as I am being a fan of still arguably the best team in baseball. I know we have not won it all since 1908 yet, I have been a fan for over 40 years and even though there have been teams that have won championships not named the Chicago Cubs. My belief and resolve is that the Chicago Cubs are always the Greatest Team Hands Down No Matter What!
I chose to look at it this way, I told people when I was asked about things with the hiring on Theo Epstein that things were going to be better. I told everyone that the Cubs would be contenders by 2015 and will captured at least one World Series Title minimum by 2020. I think the Cubs were a piece or two short of the puzzle to win it all this year yet, I am very happy with seeing what this team accomplished. Yes we are saying once again that we have to wait until next year plus the next few seasons are looking incredible and hopefully many more will be just as exciting to see!!!