Well, we’re here.
Next year is officially here, and, unlike recent years, there’s a different feeling around this year. It’s a rare feeling, but it is currently swarming around 1060 W. Addison Street in Chicago, Illinois. That feeling is optimism.
Sure, Cubs fans are always optimistic and have hope. “Wait till next year” has been a life motto for Cubs fans for the past 107 years, signaling that maybe, just maybe, next year will be the year that the vaunted curse is broken.
But this year is different. The same optimism is there, but it’s amplified because of last year’s results. The Cubs, coming off a fifth straight losing season, won 97 games and finished with the third best record in the MLB. They beat their division rival Pittsburgh in the one-game NL Wild Card game, then took down their hated rival St. Louis in the Divisional Round before being swept in the NLCS by the New York Mets. Despite the sour ending, the Cubs had shown everyone around the country that they have a bright future ahead of them.
That amplified optimism also came from the offseason that the Cubs put together. Chicago went out and solidified their starting rotation by bringing in veteran John Lackey. They then added all-around utility man Ben Zobrist, who just won the World Series with the Royals. And, last but not least, they signed outfielder Jason Heyward, a powerful left-handed bat who also has been a Golden Glove-winning defenseman in the outfield.
On top of signing three former All-Stars, the Cubs bring back the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner in Jake Arrieta, the NL Rookie of the Year in Kris Bryant, and the NL Manager of the Year in Joe Maddon. Other rookies, such as Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell, emerged as breakout stars. Anthony Rizzo stepped up into a leadership role, ultimately finishing third in the MVP voting. While Jon Lester didn’t have a superb season, he brings back a lot of playoff experience. And the bullpen, led by Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon, showed that they could be one of the best closing duos in the MLB.
Yes, this all sounds great. And everything seems to be falling in to place for the Cubs to take the final step and end all the curses, whether they be a goat, black cat, or a man named Steve.
BUT… it’s the Cubs.
It’s funny that “it’s the Cubs” is a reason, but it really is. It’s a reason because of all of the things I listed above. Generations of Cubs fans have been trying to get past 1969, and 1984, and 2003, and 2008. Four great teams that had all the elements in place, but just fell flat on their face come the postseason.
I’m only 21 years old, so I haven’t had to suffer as much as older Cubs fans have. I was only eight years old when 2003 happened, so it doesn’t hurt me as much as 2008 did. Being the best team in the NL, only to get swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS was a terrible feeling. I’ll never get the image of Jonathan Broxton striking out the side in the ninth in game three of that series out of my head.
So that’s why there’s reason to be cautious with the Cubs. When you’ve had your heart broken more times than you’d like to mention, it’ll definitely make you cautious. Cubs fans have gone all in with this team, only to be devastated time and time again. So even with how great this roster is, fans will be hesitant to fully commit to this team.
Personally, I don’t know what to think of this Cubs team for 2016. All of the talent is there. The front office seems to know what they’re doing. There’s a manager in Maddon who seems to “get it” and knows how to manage not just the whole team, but every individual on the team. This, unlike other years, “feels” different.
As a lifelong Cubs fan, I want them to win the World Series this year. But I don’t want it for me as much as I want it for my dad, who’s been a Cubs fan for 40 years. I want it for my grandma, who’s been on this planet 76 years and hasn’t seen the Cubs in the World Series since she was 5 years old. And I want it for all the older people who I don’t know but have shared the same anguish watching the Cubs come so close their entire lives. That’s why I want the Cubs to win the World Series this year.
Will they win this year? I don’t know. I’m not going to make any predictions because every time I do that, it usually goes horribly wrong. I just know that all the pieces are in place for something very special to happen this season, and that should at least give us one thing: optimism.
Thanks for reading. Make sure to check out the other blogs I’ve posted, and stay tuned as I go more in-depth on all the things going on in the sports world. This is Game of Sports.