I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have sat down to try and write this piece. Chicago Cubs baseball has been a part of my life since birth. I was very nearly named after a certain Cubs legend. I grew up watching the stars of the 2015-2021 Cubs in the minors and interacted with a few of them at Spring Training. Jake Arrieta just won the NL Cy Young in 2015, and he came up to the fence gate of the practice field, opened it, and stood right next to me. I felt genuinely starstruck for the first time in my life.
The Beginning Of A New Cubs Era
In 2012, Theo Epstein made a trade. One that would set the course for the next decade of Cubs baseball. He acquired first baseman Anthony Rizzo from the Padres. Rizzo would be the team’s rock in an era of roster turnover on the North Side.
Two years later, a young shortstop by the name of Javier Baez made his MLB debut and quickly became a mainstay in the Cubs’ starting lineup. The Loveable Losers had the beginnings of a strong core. It just needed one more piece. That piece fell into place when the Cubs called up Kris Bryant from Triple-A Iowa. Bryant would go on the win NL Rookie of the Year.
The Cubs would finish the 2015 season 97-65, making it to the National League Championship Series (NLCS), but falling short after being eliminated by the New York Mets. However, the most important team in Chicago Cubs history was just getting started.
The 2016 Chicago Cubs
As all baseball fans know, the Cubs had a horrid title drought. 108 years to be specific. Many teams got close. Notably the 2003 team, but I don’t want to go into that.
That drought was to end this season. Theo Epstein made that clear when they traded Gleyber Torres to the Yankees for the flamethrowing Aroldis Chapman at the trade deadline. From that moment on, it was World Series or bust. The Cubs won 103 games, had almost the full infield at the All-Star Game, Kris Bryant was named MVP, and title hype was building on the North Side.
First came the Division Series. The top-seeded Cubs hosted the San Francisco Giants.
- Game One- Cubs win 1-0
- Two- Cubs win 5
- Three- Giants win 6-5
- Four- Cubs win 6-5
Final Series Score: Cubs win 3-1
The Championship Series came next. The Chicago Cubs hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers:
- Game One- Cubs win 8-4
- Two- Dodgers win 1-0
- Three- Dodgers win 6-0
- Four- Cubs win 10-2
- Five- Cubs win 8-4
- Six- Cubs win 5-0
And then came the World Series. Cleveland Indians hosting the Chicago Cubs. Kyle Schwarber, who tore his ACL three games into the season, came back and had the biggest impact on the team.
- Game One- Indians win 6-0
- Two- Cubs win 5-1
- Three- Indians win 1-0
- Four- Indians win 7-2
- Five- Cubs win 3-2
- Six- Cubs win 9-3
What If I Told You 17 Minutes Of Rain Could Wipe Out 108 Years Of Drought?
This is it. Do or die for both teams. Both suffering from championship droughts, who comes out on top?
- Dexter Fowler hits a lead off home run, Cubs lead 0-1
- Carlos Santana singles, Coco Crisp scores, Game is tied 1-1
- Addison Russell hits a sac fly to center, Kris Bryant scores, Cubs lead 2-1
- Willson Contreras doubles to center, Ben Zobrist scores, Cubs lead 3-1
- Javier Baez hits a solo home run to right center, Cubs lead 4-1
- Anthony Rizzo singles to right, Kris Bryant scores, Cubs lead 5-1
- Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis score on a wild pitch, Cubs lead 5-3
- David Ross hits a solo home run, Cubs lead 6-3
- Brandon Guyer doubles to center, Jose Ramirez scores, Cubs lead 6-4
- Rajai Davis hits a two run home run, Game is tied 6-6
After the ninth inning, the game was tied.
Suddenly, it happened.
A sudden burst of rain fell over Progressive Field in Cleveland, delaying the game for 17 minutes. At that moment, Jason Heyward called his teammates together in the clubhouse and gave a rousing speech. “We’re the best team in baseball … for a reason… Stick together and we’re going to win this game.”
- Kyle Schwarber singles, is then replaced by Albert Almora, who advances to second on a Bryant pop up to center
- Anthony Rizzo is intentionally walked
- Ben Zobrist doubles to left, Albert Almora scores, Cubs lead 7-6
- Miguel Montero singles to left, Rizzo scores, Cubs lead 8-6
- Rajai Davis singles to left, Brandon Guyer scores
- Michael Martinez grounds it to third….
In the immortal words of Joe Buck, the play goes:
“This is gonna be a tough play, Bryant….. The Cubs… WIN THE WORLD SERIES.”
“Cubs Win” flashes up on the Wrigley marquee. As it happened, Wrigleyville goes crazy, some fans listen to the final out next to their late family member’s grave, so they could experience it together. I…. am crying my eyes out in my dorm room. The era of the Loveable Losers is no more. The Commissioner’s Trophy is heading to the North Side.
The next five seasons included several trips to the NLCS, and featured still contending teams. Then came the 2021 trade deadline. The gut punches kept coming. First, it was Rizzo to the Yankees. Then Bryant to the Giants. Finally, it was Baez to the Mets.
Player by player, the front office decimated what was left of the most important team in Chicago Cubs history. For the second time in five years, I found myself crying over the Cubs, for two very different reasons. The players I had seen time and time again in developing in Iowa, the ones who defined my fandom, were gone. Just like that.
A flurry of roster moves left the Cubs nearly unrecognizable, as many of the new generations were making their debut or in the early phases of their major league careers.
A Hope-Filled Future For The Cubs
The new generation is here, and they’re bringing back that same energy the 2015-2021 Cubs exuded. This years’ team motto was Cub Together. While many laughed at the irony, especially after the deadline, eventually, I came to see that it was more fitting than we ever thought. A season filled with trials and tribulation, and these guys were still having fun. Although the Cubs were not making the playoffs, they somehow that energy high as if they were winning the World Series again.
Frank Schwindel, Patrick Wisdom, Rafael Ortega, Greg Deichmann, just to name a few, mark the future of the everyday lineup. In the minors, we have plenty to look forward to. Brennan Davis has rocketed his way up the system, with the power to back it up. Pitching prospects galore, plus the top prospects from the Bryant, Rizzo, and Javy trades.
Although the most important team in Chicago Cubs history is gone, in reality, the Cubs aren’t. Join me in looking to the future, while occasionally happily reminiscing on the past. My advice to all other fans struggling with the franchise’s decisions? Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.