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The Chicago Cubs are one of the oldest franchises in Major League Baseball. Just one of two remaining original members of the National League, the club can trace its history back over 140 years to 1870 when it debuted as the Chicago White Stockings. Their south-side rivals adopted that moniker 30 years later with the formation of the American League, though by that time, the now-named Chicago Cubs had already managed a league-best seven pennants. That’s why Chicago Cubs tickets can be a hot item. Despite their early winning ways, however, the new century would not often be kind to the Cubs. Dubbed the Loveable Losers, the team hasn't won a pennant since 1945 and claims the longest championship drought in North American sports – 105 years. More recently, the Cubs best finish since 2009 has been second to last in the National League Central. That year they just fell short of the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the division, however, and had won the NL title in 2007 and 2008.
Fans of the Chicago Cubs have contributed just as much to the history of the team as have the players and coaches. In 1882, as the White Stockings, the franchise became the first to record over 100,000 ticket sales in a single season. Over 100 years later, the Cubs popularity continues, pulling in over 2.5 million patrons every season. The Bleacher Bums are the team's most dedicated loyalists. Comprised mostly of local college students, the group began loudly heckling opposing teams at most home games in the late 1960s. The Bums are also famous for their soulful renditions of the multiple Chicago Cubs anthems, including “Hey! Hey! Holy Mackerel”, “Go, Cubs, Go!”, and Pearl Jam's 2007 single “All The Way.”
The 2015 season was the breakout year for these young Chicago Cubs. Emerging from a rebuild, the Cubs won 97 games and defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in the wild card game, advancing to the NLCS before getting swept in four games by the New York Mets. The Cubs followed this up with a monster off-season. The Cubs added outfielder Jason Heyward, second basemen Ben Zobrist, starting pitcher John Lackey, centerfielder Dexter Fowler, and relief pitcher Trevor Cahill to a strong team.
The Cubs entered 2016 with sky-high expectations, and so far, they have lived up to those expectations. The Cubs have won eight games in a row and currently sit at 70-41, good for the best record in baseball. The one hole for the Cubs entering the season was the closer role, and at times, that closer issue has plagued them this season. The Cubs responded by making a massive trade at the deadline, acquiring superstar closer Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees. The Cubs paid a steep price, but in return, got the best closer in the game.
Who would have ever thought we would all be sitting here using the expression “The defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs.” Well, that is exactly what we are doing, and they did it in style too. After “flat steamrolling” through the regular season with a record of 103-59, winning the National League Central by a whopping 17.5 games. Due to one Pirates vs Cubs game having been canceled, the team entered into the postseason as the overwhelming favorites. They beat the Giants in four games in the divisional series. In the National League Championship Series, they faced off against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
They struggled early in the series against the Dodgers, falling behind two games to one, but they won the next three. They moved onto the World Series, where they faced off against the Cleveland Indians in one of the most memorable World Series ever played. The Cubs entered, again, as overwhelming favorites, but the Indians raced out to a 3-1 series lead and found themselves, and in the fourth inning of game five, found themselves to be 18 outs from pulling off one of the biggest upsets in recent memory. That is why they play the game. The Cubs scored three in the fourth, won game five, won game six comfortably 9-3, and then won one of the greatest game seven performances in baseball history 8-7 in 10 innings. Other than settling arbitration with numerous players such as Kris Bryant, the Cubs did very little this offseason.
For a century, the Chicago Cubs were known as baseball’s “Loveable Losers.” Now they have a World Series victory to their credit and have become one of baseball’s heavyweights. This has been accomplished by the master team builder Theo Epstein. After graduating from Yale, Epstein received his law degree from the University of San Diego. He was hired as the Red Sox general manager in 2002 and was one of those “young analytics nerds” in the early 2000s. This group of “stats” guys helped shape baseball into what it is today. In 2011, he left the Red Sox to become the President of the Cubs, and five years later they won a World Series.
One of his first moves upon arriving in Chicago was to sign former Red Sox ace Jon Lester to a six-year, 155 million dollar contract in 2014. Besides that, he continued to watch these young talents grow. The centerpiece of his efforts is third basemen, Kris Bryant. In 2015, he won the Rooke of the Year award, batting .275 with 26 home runs and 99 RBIs. He followed that up by winning the MVP award in 2016, batting .292 with 39 home runs and 102 RBIs. Then Bryant went on to lead the led the Cubs to their first World Series victory in a century. His numbers fell off a little bit in 2017, but that is not expected to last into 2018. The rest of the Cubs prospects have reached their full potential alongside him as well. First basemen Anthony Rizzo may very well win an MVP award protecting Bryant in that lineup at some point. Addison Russell is another one of these young talented shortstops. Javier Baez has settled in at the second base.
Under the direction of Theo Epstein, the Chicago Cubs have elevated themselves into being one of baseball’s best teams. The team is loaded with talent all over the field. After their late-season meltdown which saw them lose the National League Central to the Milwaukee Brewers at the buzzer, they were forced to play a Wild Card game against the Rockies. The team ran out of gas, and Epstein knew what his biggest task was this offseason, fix the bullpen.
They got the ball rolling by adding left-handed pitcher Kyle Ryan. They also brought back right-handed pitchers Pedro Strop and Brandon Kintzler. Brandon Morrow returns from injury this season so that will help as well. In December they added right-handed pitcher Kendell Graveman to their bullpen mix. They also added left-handed pitcher Ian Clarkin off waivers from the White Sox. These will all help, but Epstein may not be done yet. In addition, they also added infielder Daniel Descalso in December, and in January, signed shortstop Addison Russell, third basemen Kris Bryant, second baseman Javier Baez, outfielder Kyle Schwarber, left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery, right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks, and right-handed pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. to one-year contracts. If the Cubs bullpen can hold up, they could very well compete for another World Series in 2019.