2015, up to this point, has been quite a trip. At times literally and at other times figuratively for both myself and the Cubs.
Nobody saw a trip to the NLCS coming in 2015. We all hoped we’d see it as we do year in and year out however it felt a year ahead of schedule. Arrieta had the kind of year that absolutely should be rewarded with a Cy Young Award. Joe Maddon pulled the ship together with strong boasts of playoffs in Spring Training and strong leadership throughout the season. Kris Bryant came a couple weeks later than everyone would have liked and while it may have effected the Cubs final win total finishing 3 GB of the Cardinals, no one would have guessed that his presence in the lineup and on the field would help lead this young club to 97 wins. The leading jersey seller in MLB came on the season and made a huge impact, helping fellow young stars in Rizzo, Castro, Soler and Schwarber propel this team to nearly the grandest of stages.
A trip to Pittsburgh, getting by the Pirates in the Wild Card game was a huge accomplishment for this young club showing that they have the capability to step up when it matters – even after their rather impressive hot run down the stretch of the regular season. Meeting up with the Cardinals in the NLDS and in the post-season for the first time ever turned out to be a moment Cubs fans had been relishing – closing out a playoff round victory on our home field at Wrigley Field.
Rizzo put up arguably MVP numbers and continues to thrive along the first base side whether at the bag or in the batter’s box. Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Starlin Castro came through with highlighted seasons in very different ways leading to another off-season great debate of which one should be traded – if one is traded – and which one might bring back the biggest return in what would likely be starting pitching.
The starting rotation thrived behind Lester and Arrieta and even Hammel and Hendricks did their part ensuring this team of young bats went as far as possible even though the list of starting names didn’t exactly scream ’97 wins’. Then again, nothing about this team screamed 97 wins which made it all the more exciting and in a way, somewhat scary to both Cubs fans and fans of other clubs alike. If this is what this team is capable of without a strong #3-#5 in the rotation and relying on a bunch of youngsters leading the way – what might they do with another potential ace in the rotation and another year of experience under the everyday player’s belts? Scary to those who root against the Cubs. And what are the odds that this group proves to be special enough to come close to the 97 win total they put up when it was totally unexpected – I mean, special seasons don’t come along all that often.
Then again, we’ve been buying into the Cubs Way and the plan for nearly a half dozen years now. We bought in. We bought in that the kids would buy in and then they went out and got a guy who can get them to buy in and created financial flexibility to literally buy/bring talent in. No reason to not continue to or think that this was a one year fluke. Could Bryant trip up like Soto did? Sure, but I doubt it. Could they deal the wrong middle infielder between Baez, Castro and Russell regretting such a decision in the long run? Sure, but I doubt it. Will David Price decide to sign elsewhere instead of coming to Wrigley to work with Maddon again, play for an organization that was this close to making it to the World Series in a town full of fans hungrier for one than any other city in the league and in a ballpark like no other? Possibly, but I doubt it.
2016 could end up with our Cubs positioned to run out Lester, Price, Arrieta, Hammel and Hendricks and if they get real creative, we may even have an even stronger presence in the starting rotation right through the four spot. That kind of confidence going into a Cubs season is like none I’ve experienced and on a personal note it is so exciting to have the team be in this position as my kids are growing up and getting more and more excited about the Cubs and about baseball. Great timing indeed.
My family and I took a trip to Wrigley in September and we were there the weekend they clinched a playoff spot. It was our first time at Wrigley all together as my wife and I had been there before but our kids, Rhys and Isla had not. The kids loved it. You can’t take a trip to Chicago and to Wrigley without coming across about 30 different souvenir shops and I had a hard time saying no while in any of them. We took in 2 fun baseball games at Wrigley the weekend when the Cubs clinched and home field advantage for the Wild Card game was still an option. We took home those memories along with new t-shirts, jerseys, baseballs, Clark bears, bobbleheads, player 8x10s, Harry Caray glasses and more. It was a trip to celebrate my 40th birthday and it was perfect. Great people sitting around us, great seats, beautiful weather, the new video boards fitting in much better than I thought they might, beautiful memories, pictures and videos of my kids practicing their Go Cubs Go in one of the ballpark restaurants and more. It was so much fun that we may try to do it every single year now.
The Cubs Convention is still on my radar of trips I’d like to make as well and that day may be coming soon. The convention sells out so quickly, imagine how quickly its going to sell out the year the Cubs win it all.
This off-season is fun. There is an anticipation for the 2016 season, for next year, that I haven’t felt before. I’ve already looked at the Spring Training schedule and looked up prices of flights to see how much it would cost if I were to go, even though I’m probably not going to – its just fun to look. I’ve already looked at the 2016 regular season and planned out places we might be able to catch the team on the East coast, when/where – Philly, NY, DC and if we’re really feeling crazy a road to Pittsburgh.
A strong foundation, an unexpected 97 win total, money to spend and the creative executive team to make effective trades happen along the way – all of it could add up to an even more successful season next year. We’ve said that for years and yet this feels different. This feels good.
Forget ‘wait ’til next year’. This winter, it feels more like ‘I can’t wait until next year’.
Chicago Cubs baseball 2015 – what a trip man, what a trip.