There is life on the North side. Something special is brewing at Wrigley right now. And no, it isn’ t the ridiculous amount of beer Cubs fans are throwing down in celebration of their beloved team’s recent success.
Of the last 107 years without a World Series Championship, you could argue the last six seasons were among the most agonizing. The changing of ownership, the new Wrigley renovations, the roof-top drama, the aging roster turned into a complete over-haul in which the team lost 542 games since 2009 and finished last in the division four straight years.
But Holy S$%#…
Or as the late-great Harry Caray is proclaiming in his grave right now:
It’s the middle of August and Cubs fans are looking at the standings, and pinching each other over a few Old-Style’s right now.
Great Scott! Is Back To Future actually a legit prediction?
Surely, we knew the Cubs were going to be better this season. Adding one of the best managers in the game in Joe Maddon, ace Jon Lester and the infusion of top-prospects, .500 or a few games give or take would have been a HUGE step in the right direction for this organization.
Toss it out the window.
It has been 107 *bleeping* years, the 2015 “Cardiac Cubs” are asking Major League Baseball and the sports world in general,
Why Not This Year?
Before any karma-maniac Cubs fan starts throwing beers at me for tempting fate, let’s make it clear that there are more World Series contenders within
the NL their division, with the Pirates and Cardinals arguably the two best teams in baseball.
Yet coming off of a weekend where the Cubs showed their promise and lively bats, sweeping up the reigning World Champion San Francisco Giants, the lovable losers are currently sitting 3.5 games in front of the Giants for the 2nd Wild Card spot.
Even more mind-blowing? The Cubs are 16-freaking-games over .500 and hold the 4th best record in baseball (as mentioned above) with a month and a half left in the season. And all Cubs fans know how quickly the good can evaporate into horrendous, but I have to admit, even as a kid who didn’t grow up as a die-hard Cubs fan in the Chicago-land area, watching this team compete and win is one of the most refreshing things this fan base could ask for, the consistent winning, is a cherry on top. Here is a look at how the Cubs revved up the rebuilding process to the possibility of making the playoffs a legitimate reality in 2015.
Think of the best dynamic pitching duos in baseball and the likes of Kershaw-Grienke, Volquez-Cueto, Harvey-deGrom (or any of the Mets pitchers) Strasburg-Scherzer, or Wainwright-Wacha (before Wainwright was lost for season).
What about Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester? Everyone knows Lester, already a 2x-World Series champ with the Red Sox and inked a 6-year $155 million deal with the Cubs, the Friendly Confines faithful had out of this world expectations for Lester. And while Lester had a stuttering start to the 2015 campaign, (has recently turned it around, posting a 1.57 ERA in July and 2.57 in August thus far) folks weren’t realizing that Jake Arrieta had quietly become the ace of their staff.
After posting a 10-5 record with a 2.53 ERA in 2014, Cubs fans and the front office (specifically Epstein, who practically robbed the O’s) found a pleasant surprise out of Arrieta, and would be pretty excited to see similar results in 2015.
13-6 (tied for 3rd in NL) 155.1 innings pitched (4th in NL) 2.38 ERA (3rd in NL).
Stud. Ace. Becoming one of the best pitchers in the game? Quietly. Whatever you want to call Jake Arrieta, he has become the type of pitcher the Cubs can rely on every five days to either keep a winning streak going, or stop a losing one. And he is doing it against playoff (or potentially playoff) teams, with his last two starts (and wins) against the Pirates and Giants.
Even better? There’s a decent chance (although, if the Cubs keep winning, the Wild Card could be played at Wrigley) that the Cubs will be playing on the road if they do in fact lock-up a Wild Card spot, Arrieta is a stunning 8-1 with a 2.01 ERA. He’s devastating against any left-handed hitter, and he has one of the best strikeout-to-walk-ratio’s in the MLB.
Pair the right-hander up with Lester, who happens to be one of the best big-game, must win pitchers of the last decade, the friendly confines have quickly become one of the least-friendly places for opposing batters in a matter of a season.
The Kids Are Alright
The biggest storyline out of the North side this summer. Everyone is flocking to Wrigley to see this abundant amount of youth and talent that has finally reached the big leagues. Remember those “Minor League Watch” articles the past 2-4 years in every Chicago-land newspaper about these guys? They’re here. Manager Joe Maddon currently has four rookies in his everyday starting lineup. It’s truly remarkable how well the Cubs have scouted and drafted these past couple of seasons.
This kid has lived up to the near insurmountable amount of hype. He already has more home runs than any other Cubs rookie ever. He’s an All-Star, a potential Rookie Of The Year winner in the year of the rookie, and he has simply done everything the Cubs have asked of him and more.
That walk-off home run above might the turning point we all look back on if/when the Cubs make the playoffs. Hitting .249/.360/.448 with 16 HR and 66 RBI on 93 hits thus far, he will be a staple in the middle of the lineup for the next decade.
The other three young-guns aren’t so bad, either. 2014 1st-rounder out of Indiana, Kyle Schwarber might look like your catcher/left-fielder for your beer-league softball squad, but he also happens to be playing for your Chicago Cubs too, and he is absolutely ripping the cover off the ball.
In 30 games, he has hit .313/.404/.556 with 6 HR and 21 RBI and as mentioned before, there might not be a set position for the guy. Surely this sustained tear of hitting was completely unexpected, but so was all this success for the Cubs, it goes hand-in-hand.
Don’t forget about blue chip prospect Addison Russell, who just a few days ago moved permanently to SS. Having appeared in 95 games and providing a decent year at the plate, as well as a few clutch at-bats, Russell has .977 Fielding-Percentage with 9 errors, not bad for the rookie middle-infielder.
And it’s not like Anthony Rizzo is old, he is all of 26 and also happens to be having one helluva year at first base, and at the plate, where he leads the Cubs in average, home runs, OBP and hits.
Just for good measure, here is Rizzo with the potential catch of the year last night in another 10-inning win vs. Milwaukee.
If you combine the young talents of rookies Bryant, Schwarber, Russell and Soler, all of which have had pretty solid seasons thus far, and masterfully pieced them together with productive veterans, (Like Dexter Fowler, who is hitting .302/.461/.458 since the All-Star Break) as manager Joe Maddon and the front office has, you get one of the hottest teams in baseball.
Speaking of Maddon…
The Perfect Cup of Joe
We all knew Maddon was a great manager. We knew back when he took the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to the 2008 World Series, one the most impressive feats (especially the AL East) that baseball has seen. He took a completely broken and dead franchise to a near improbable championship.
Sounds pretty similar, doesn’t it?
The recent sweep against the Giants last weekend was an impressive display of managing, best highlighted by Cubs writer Jesse Rogers of ESPN:
He has diligently handled every situation with precision that is unmatched around the MLB. His recent move to sit a struggling Castro has allowed the Cubs to continue their winning ways, while Castro (who is now being used in a versatile utility role for now) continues to tell the media, “It’s not about me, it’s about the team.”
Maddon has is fingerprints all over this young team. A team which is 26-17 in one run games, and 11-5 in extra inning games (2nd in MLB) this young team should not be doing this right now. Much credit should be awarded to Maddon, a man that isn’t afraid of constant change in a day-to-day game. He is unconventional at times with his style, yes he does look like Harry Caray, but the man is pretty damn good at his job.
He is the perfect man for this task, and the Cubs are proving it.
Baseball might be a difficult game to watch, considering it is on every day. But to turn away from these Cubs right now would be foolish, if anything.
Winners of 11 out of 12, with exciting young players and a pitching duo that should be consider as one of the top one’s in baseball.
The Twitter hashtag best associated with the Cubs this season, is a rather comical one. #WeAreGood is the rally cry for Cubs fans, starving for success at this point. Think about EVERYTHING that has happened in the past 107 years, it’s a lot. It is fun to see Cubs fans rejoice on twitter and in general. Very few fan bases get excited over the day-to-day wins, Cubs fans know all to well the opposite of the thrill they are feeling right now with how hot their Cubbies currently are.
Few, if any fan bases have suffered so many heart-wrenching losses, they have exiled their own for tampering with a potential World Series bid, as you know. And after the past 6 years of complete disaster on the diamond, the North-siders once again have a team the city and people of Chicago can get excited about, it’s been awhile.
Now only 1.5 games back of the Pirates for that 1st Wild Card spot. Could you imagine that Wild Card game at Wrigley? Crazy to think the Cubs are in this situation, this far into the season.
Why not this year.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com, Baseball-reference and FindTheBest.com
Stats are up to date as of 8/13.