It is time to celebrate the 2015 Chicago Cubs.
As of this writing, the Cubs are 73-53, and solidly positioned to play in the National League wild card one-game playoff. They are within striking distance of passing the Pittsburgh Pirates to host that one-game playoff, and they actually can see the St. Louis Cardinals, the perennial best team in the N.L. Central Division, and those two teams have six games remaining against each other this season.
Now that the Boston Red Sox have eclipsed their status as lovable losers, what with their three World Championships in the last 11 years, the Cubs are alone as baseball’s misbegotten franchise. The idea that they can succeed at all is suspect (they last made the playoffs eight seasons ago). The idea that they might someday win the World Series is fantasy.
So why celebrate this team at all? And why celebrate this team in late August?
The reason to celebrate the 2015 Cubs is the way they have been built. Team President Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer joined the Cubs following the 2011 season and since have built the team the way baseball teams should be built, by acquiring very young talent and bringing them along together.
Epstein and Hoyer need to be celebrated as well for identifying the young talent they pursued. From shortstop Starlin Castro and outfielder Jorge Soler to infielders Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo, the front office duo have a very high batting average. And that does not even consider the case of catcher Kyle Schwarber, who may eclipse all the other talent mentioned.
And Epstein and Hoyer are not done. There is so much talent in the Cubs’ pipeline these days that the players on the current major league roster are under pressure to perform daily if they want to keep their jobs.
While the pitching staff is led by a youngish veteran in Jake Arrieta, youngsters Kyle Hendricks and Hector Rondon look like keepers as well.
Building a team through draft picks, creating a farm system that brings players from one level to the next as they mature, allowing fans to get to know the players they have and to build a client loyalty through player identification is the way baseball teams were built back in the day. While the free agent market appeal was strong once baseball got around to allowing it, that method no longer appeals. Renting players may lead to wins, but they don’t lead to stable organizations.
So that’s why we should celebrate the 2015 Chicago Cubs.
But why celebrate them now?
Some Cubs fans are certainly asking that question. After decades and generations of losing and failing to win the big one, Cubs fans have a built-in protection against overconfidence. The Cubs are most famous for the Billy Goat jinx dating back more than 70 years, and the horrible story of Steve Bartman likely will never be forgotten.
Cubs fans don’t know from winning. They don’t know how to handle it. They will always fear the worst. Certainly, any premature celebration (such as this article) can be seen as a deal-breaker, a play of overconfidence that will break the magic spell the Cubs are currently under.
But that’s why we should celebrate the Cubs now. They are on a ridiculous high that can end in one of four ways: they flame out in the final 40 games of the season and miss the playoffs (which would of course be the fault of this blog), they make the playoffs but lose early, they advance to the World Series for the first time since 1945 and lose it, or they win it all.
What’s important to understand is no matter which of those courses is followed this season, the Cubs are built to succeed for years to come. With out-of-the-box manager Joe Madden in charge, the Cubs can make this kind of push on a summer-to-summer basis. This is the beginning of something grand in Chicago, no matter how it ends this season.
Although Cubs fans are not likely to take this advice, they should fully enjoy what is happening at the corner of Clark and Addison right now. Not because it may end badly, or may end soon, but because there is something to enjoy, and that something appears to have staying power.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.