Chicago Cubs fans are long-suffering, and their team’s long plight is well-known.
- they have not won a World Series Championship since 1908, when Teddy Roosevelt was president;
- the Cubs have not been to a World Series since 1945, when Harry Truman was president and World War II had just ended;
- in 1984 and 2003, Chicago was less than nine outs from going to the World Series, but still managed to lose — the latter involving the notorious “Steve Bartman incident.”
Chicago Cubs fans are hoping this year will be different. But this time, the Chicago Tribune reports that the Cubs and their fans have solid reasons for optimism.
- a strong starting rotation that features defending Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, All-Star Jon Lester, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks got stronger with the off-season acquisition of veteran John Lackey;
- the Cub’s bullpen, anchored by closer Hector Rondon and setup man Pedro Strop, is solid;
- off-season acquisitions Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist, as well as the re-signed Dexter Fowler, gives the Chicago offense greater speed, veteran presence, and on-base potency to compliment their young power bats, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant;
- the defense is also improved via the signings of Heyward and Zobrist, and The Tribune described the infield defense as “air-tight,” though it expressed concern about the ages of the catchers, Miguel Montero, 32, and David Ross, 39.
The Cub’s Greatest Asset?
But for all of these assets, perhaps Chicago’s greatest is manager Joe Maddon.
The Tampa Bay Rays manager through 2014, Maddon shocked the baseball world when he abruptly opted out of his contract. The Cubs had finished 2014 with a 73-89 record under rookie manager Rick Renteria–a seven-game improvement from 2013.
Although Renteria had managed only one season, he was fired by Cubs management in favor of the highly touted Maddon. The move was highly controversial at the time, and it prompted Cubs president Theo Epstein to issue a statement, as reported by ESPN.
“Last Thursday, we learned that Joe Maddon — who may be as well suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us — had become a free agent. We saw it as a unique opportunity and faced a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization. In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe.”
Epstein added that Renteria “deserved to come back for another season as Cubs manager.” But in 2015, the Cubs under Maddon exceeded expectations, going 97-65 — their first winning season in six years and their first playoff appearance in seven, as chronicled by MLB.com.
Chicago Cubs: The Most Highly-Touted Team in 2016
Expert baseball watchers are expecting the Chicago Cubs to do very well this year. Yahoo Sports surveyed the pre-season picks of 64 experts, and found that 28, or 44 percent, are picking the Cubs to win it all.
Yes, I picked the Cubs to win the World Series. https://t.co/tdMJVCyw1z
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 4, 2016
The San Francisco Giants and New York Mets tied for second with six experts picking them to go all the way. Five experts picked the Toronto Blue Jays, while four each picked the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, and the Kansas City Royals, three picked the Washington Nationals, two selected the Pittsburgh Pirates, and one each picked the St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Indians.
The Chicago Cubs begin their quest for the World Series tonight at 10:05 p.m. EST as they face the Giants in San Francisco. The Giants won it all in 2010, 2012, and 2014 and also hope to again this year.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 4, 2016
What do you think? Will the Chicago Cubs break their 108-year drought, or will Cubs fans be disappointed again?
[Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images]