Cubs: Buster Olney talks Kris Bryant, trade rumors and contract extensions

(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
2 of 3
Chicago Cubs / Kris Bryant
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Cubs: Make baseball fun again – because it hasn’t been for a lot of guys

Five years ago, the Cubs looked like they were about to embark on a dynastic quest. They’d arrived on the scene earlier than most expected, making an improbable run to the NLCS under first-year manager Joe Maddon in 2015. Kris Bryant had won NL Rookie of the Year and in 2016, the stars seemed to align in Wrigleyville.

Of course, Chicago won it all that year – marking the team’s first World Series championship in 108 years – but since, have failed to deliver on the hype that once surrounded this group. The team made the NLCS again in 2017, but were running on fumes, got knocked out in the Wild Card Game the next year and missed the postseason altogether in 2019.

So what went wrong? According to Olney, it comes down to two things: the lack of homegrown pitching under Theo Epstein – and a lack of ‘fun’ in the game after the Cubs won it all in 2016.

"I do think that, having covered the Yankees teams from ’98 to 2001, one of my theories about this group of Cubs players is it became hard to be them. It became hard to be the team in Chicago that was expected to win and then ’17, ’18, ’19, the conversation becomes negative. I thought Kris Bryant’s comments during the window reflected that shift – I think baseball became less fun for this group of players."

The energy and swagger those Cubs teams of five and six years ago had hasn’t been seen at the Friendly Confines in some time. Now, it’s all about slow starts, underperforming stars and a constant stream of criticism from fans and the media  – and, at the end of the day, it exacts a high toll on these guys who, at the end of the day, are human beings.