It wasn’t a great year for the Cubs, but there are some things to be thankful for.
This year didn’t end with the Chicago Cubs hoisting another Commissioner’s Trophy. They won the National League Central, only to be promptly swept away in two games by the Miami Marlins in the postseason. Still, the team showed some fight in a shortened 60-game season. The team started 13-3 in its first 16 games, but went just 21-23 over its final 44 games. Still, it got the job done. Chicago finished three games ahead of the Cardinals and Reds in the division race.
So what is there to be thankful for? As people scour the Internet and their favorite stores for Black Friday deals in the aftermath of a decidedly different Thanksgiving experience this year, what exactly are Cubs fans thankful for in 2020?
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Take Jon Lester. The Cubs declined his $25 million option for next season, instead paying the three-time World Series champion a $10 million buyout. Even though he may be on his way out the door, what did Lester do with some of that money? He spent it on beer for fans.
Patrons at a handful of Wrigleyville watering holes consumers $31,082.63 worth of Miller Lite to bring Lester’s tab to a total of $47,094.90. The veteran left a 34 percent tip – a nod to the number he wore during his time in Chicago. What a move.
Lester was a great teammate and leader during his time in Chicago and has openly stated he’d like to end his career here. This week, we saw reports connecting the San Francisco Giants to the southpaw – but no matter where he ends up, he’s a Cub for life – plain and simple.
Former Cubs’ president of baseball operations Theo Epstein walked away a week ago. He just missed hitting 10 years with the franchise, but, as he said, it was time to go. And it saved $10 million, as well. But it was a historic run. From 2015 to 2017, Chicago won the NL Central two times and made several deep postseason runs – including winning it all in an unforgettable 2016 World Series.
In the end, it was hard to see the championship team’s architect go. But, again, this was an unforgettable stretch for fans. Tried as he did, Epstein could never get the club to recapture that magic from 2016. Although the dynasty we’d hoped for never materialized, we can all appreciate the impact Epstein had in his near-decade here.
One last thing to be thankful for this holiday weekend? Anthony Rizzo. Of course, he was drafted by the Red Sox before having a cup of coffee with the Padres en route to his current home in the Windy City. He broke out almost right away with the Cubs and has been as consistent as they come – both defensively and offensively – not to mention the intangibles he brings to the table.
Chicago picked up his $16.5 million option for 2021 – hopefully allowing them to work out an extension before he hits free agency next winer. I’ll be frank here. I’d like him to stay. He’s beaten cancer – and he’s donated to others fighting the same fight every chance he’s had. Do you know what I call him? A ‘Goodfella.’ Okay, not that kind. But there’s no questioning it: Rizzo is one of the good ones.
I could include guys like Ian Happ and Jason Heyward, both of whom stepped up for the Cubs this season. But with Epstein riding off into the sunset, Lester potentially having thrown his last pitch for the team and Rizzo entering the last year of team control? It felt right to step back and simply say, “thank you.”