The setting was perfect. The Cubby Bear Lounge on a Monday afternoon, packed with the press and Chicago Cubs personnel. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer chatting with new skipper Joe Maddon off to the side of the stage. The Cubs got their man, even if it did get a bit messy.
The once barren farm system gave plentifully this season, with names like Kyle Hendricks, Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez. Past big money contracts are off the books. One of the best managers in the game became available, and they landed him. And while it was a hard decision to release Rick Renteria from his duties, things don’t always fall so perfectly in line for the Cubs. I have 106 years of proof to that.
There are more naysayers out there about the Cubs than any other team in Major League baseball. The team has failed to win a World Series since 1908, and they are still dogged by the media and fans alike. “Will they ever win? Are they really cursed? The Cubs are terrible.” I hear them on a regular basis, especially as we enter a new season and I have the same optimistic view that I have had my entire life. Maybe this year. Maybe this is the year.
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs could again look to Japan to address a major offseason need
- Cubs need to walk the walk this winter after talking the talk
- Cubs, 2 superstar free agents-to-be have ‘mutual interest’
- Where’s the love for Cubs prospect Matt Mervis?
- Alec Mills shocked Cubs fans, baseball world with 2020 no-hitter
Suddenly, I might not be alone.
Scoop Jackson over at ESPN believes. One online sportsbook, Bovada.lv, had the opening line for the Cubs winning a World Series at 50-1. After the hiring of Maddon? 20-1. same as the Orioles, Athletics, and Pirates. Three years of last place finishes made it hard to see, but Epstein and Hoyer have had a plan from the beginning. Maddon turned out to be a bonus, but gave an even more promising outlook for the Cubs in 2015.
And now to that pesky “Catch-22”.
Epstein said at the conclusion of the regular season, with Renteria still at the helm and believing that would be the case entering 2015, he believed the Cubs could win the division. Many in the press jumped all over the statement. How could a team president believe such a thing after another last place finish? Suddenly with the hire of Maddon, many of those same pundits jumped on the bandwagon, believing in the plan.
I’d like to think I’ll be writing about the World Champion Cubs next season, but I think that may be a bit too much. No matter what Maddon says, I’m not quite there, not yet. Check back after free agency ends. But what if the Cubs do make the playoffs? Let’s even go another step, and say they do make the World Series. And then they get swept, sent back to Chicago for a 107 straight year with no title. Can you hear it?
“Cubs are cursed! Even Maddon can’t save them! All that money they spent in the 2014 off-season and they still lose!” I think you get the point.
The Cubs weren’t realistically expected to do any of these things before Maddon was hired. Now the expectations, they’ve gone to the next level. While in-house Theo and Hoyer know exactly what the plan is, no matter how much, or how little the Cubs spend this year, it’ll be bad money if they don’t win it all. Maddon will be another in the line of managers to let the Cubs down.
Those within the organization, and most Cubs fans know none of this will be true. But this was to be expected. It happened in 2008. The Cubs were the trendy pick to win the World Series. Lou Piniella was thought to be the savior. They would win 97 games. And then, in a blink, were out in the NLDS. The steady decline started there.
The culture in Chicago is changing. It’s no longer about being a “historical landmark”, about simply having one of the best places to see a game. By ripping out the bleachers, the Cubs may have released some of those long-standing demons, or curses, that were held within the walls of Wrigley. Yes, it was great to go to a stadium that stayed true to what baseball once was, but those times for Chicago weren’t all that enjoyable.
It’s still Wrigley Field. But only in name. Its appearance, the front-office personnel that are in it, and the team that will play upon it are something entirely new in what the Cubs have had in the past. Owner Tom Ricketts, Epstein and Hoyer, Maddon and on down to the players believe in what’s happening.
“Catch-22” is what it used to be. Sabermetrics rule now.