Chicago Cubs: Don’t be sad, this is just the beginning


2015 Cubs exceeded expectations, even with the heartbreaking finish

Almost a year to the day, Joe Maddon took over as manager of the Chicago Cubs. He talked playoffs, even World Series right away. This kind of talk isn’t the same as when Lou Pinella took over and said “We’re going to win here.”

As much optimism as there might have been around those Cubs, this Maddon hiring felt different. We saw what he did with the Tampa Bay Rays, transforming the team from a laughingstock to World Series almost overnight in 2008.

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The 2015 Cubs defied odds from the start and never ceased to amaze. The rookie prowess of likely Rookie of the Year winner Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell performed so well, and Jake Arrieta‘s historical season helped this team win 97 games.

Win. 97. Games.

Think about that. This team finished 73-89 in 2014, 66-96 in 2013 and 61-101 in 2012. Sure, there was slight improvement every season, but who knew what to expect going into the 2015 season?

There was lots of optimism, and some experts did peg this team with about 80 wins while possibly sneaking into a playoff spot.

Chicago ended up storming their way into the playoffs with eight-straight victories, finishing with 97 wins and a wild card berth. With those 97 wins, they win any other division. Maddon instills confidence in his players and can tap into the likes of an athlete, whether it be a rookie or a veteran.

It’s disappointing to see this 2015 Cubs team get swept right out of the National League Championship Series, but I take solace in the fact that the future outlook of this team is incredibly bright.

Russell’s injury was unfortunate, and especially unfortunate when realizing just how great he really is defensively. He seemingly makes every defensive play look routine, even making a play deep in the hole look routine. Javier Baez is a top talent, but is no Russell at shortstop and his problems at the position were evident during the NLCS.

Arrieta established himself as an ace, and should win the 2015 National League Cy Young award with a 22-6 record, and Major League record-setting second half 0.75 ERA. You know he was good when people talk about him pitching bad in the playoffs, yet won two games and has a 3.66 ERA.

He is human after all.

The offseason will be especially exciting as the Cubs look to build off this impressive roster. Outfielder and leadoff-man Dexter Fowler will be a free agent — he scored 102 runs during the regular season — and was very valuable the second half where he hit .272, after just .232 in the first half.

Zack Greinke opted out of his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and David Price will be a free agent. Imagine one or both as a member of the Cubs’ rotation. I, personally, salivated at the thought of one David Price in Chicago. He raves about Joe Maddon from their Tampa Bay Rays days, however another troubling postseason performance makes me wonder whether it would ultimately be worth his new hefty price tag.

Greinke is 32-years-old while Price is 30. The large, expensive contracts they’ll receive are aways a gamble, especially for pitchers in their 30s. However it’s going to be a worthy gamble.

It’s almost amazing just how well the Cubs did considering their rotation. Jon Lester was much better than the 11-12 record suggests. Jason Hammel, as evidence of his Game 4 performance, was never the same ole Jason Hammel as he was in the first-half of the season, struggling to put together solid starts the last few months. Dan Haren will likely retire and Kyle Hendricks was very good as a backend starter. The need for another frontline starter is there.

Ultimately, 2015 will go down as a fantastic season by the Cubs. Though the sting of losing is never fun, the organization, all the way on down to the players and its fan base can be extremely excited for what the Cubs accomplished on the field in 2015, as well as what they still have left to do.

Knocking out the St. Louis Cardinals was huge for the franchise and it’s part of that cultural shift Joe brought with him to Chicago. In May, the team wasn’t in the same zip code as the Cards. To watch the transformation unfold, and as quickly as it did, shows the determination that is there among these Cubs.

Here’s to a great 2015 and even better 2016.