Cubs, There’s Always Next Year…

Written by Bradley Zimmerman, Staff Writer

It was predicted by the 1989 movie Back to the Future Part II that the Cubs, on October 21, 2015, would win the World Series and end a 107-year championship drought. The Cubs, in a rare event in this day and age, had a World Series-worthy season and a trip to the playoffs via the NL Wild Card. This was the first time since back-to-back NL Central Division championships and back-to-back sweeps in the 2007 and 2008 NLDS to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers respectively that the Cubs made it to the playoffs..

The Cubs, for the first time in twelve years, made it to the NLCS against the New York Mets, but were swept in four games, ironically, on October 21. As such, Back to the Future’s prediction was proven wrong and the Cubs´ World Series dreams were crushed. The Mets will face the Kansas City Royals in the Fall Classic. As the Cubs nation continues to reel from the stunning loss to the Mets, it’s worth taking a look back at the memorable season.

Over the 2014-15 winter offseason, as Wrigley Field underwent a $574 million renovation project, the Cubs made several transactions and additions to their roster. Joe Maddon brought new leadership to the team as the new manager. Star pitcher Jon Lester, catcher Miguel Montero, and outfielder Dexter Fowler were added to the Cubs and proved to be extremely helpful with the team. Third basemen Kris Bryant, drafted by the Cubs in 2013, was called up from the minor league in April and proved himself to be a powerhouse slugger. He was named the NL Rookie of the Month for May and holds the record for the longest home run of the 2015 MLB season: 495 feet. Bryant became the second Cubs rookie since Billy Williams in 1961 to hit two grand slams in their rookie season, and, with 26 home runs this season, he broke the team record for the single-season record for most home runs by a rookie, which was set by Williams at twenty-five home runs. He also broke the team record for most RBI´s hit by a rookie at 99, also set by Williams in 1961 and Geovany Soto in 2008 at 86 RBI´s

Left fielder and catcher Kyle Schwarber was also called up this season and, like Bryant, contributed regularly to the Cubs, as did right fielder Jorge Soler and left fielder Chris Coghlan. First basemen Anthony Rizzo led the Cubs in hitting during the regular season with a .278 batting average, 31 home runs, 101 RBI´s, a .387 on-base average, and 163 hits. Pitcher Jake Arrieta also led the Cubs in pitching during the regular season with 22 wins, a 1.87 earned run average, and 236 strikeouts. Arrieta also pitched a no-hitter against the Dodgers on August 30, the first Cubs pitcher to throw one since Carlos Zambrano’s in 2008.

The Cubs started off as usual, losing their first few games. However, as the season continued, something was clearly different about the Cubs. Instead of settling into last place and staying there, they were always in the top three spots in the division behind the Pittsburg Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. They were also in the race for the two Wild Card spots, with the occupants of the spots changing regularly. Eventually, the Cubs and Pirates settled into the two spots and the Cubs gained a strong lead on the second spot with the San Francisco Giants falling behind in the Wild Card standings. The Cubs clinched a playoff berth in September when the Giants fell too many games behind. The Cubs and Pirates battled for months for the first Wild Card spot, but it became very tense in the last few weeks of the season, coming down to the teams’ final games of the regular season. In the end, the Cubs, one game behind the Pirates, finished their season with a 97-65 record and in third place in the Central Division. With 97 wins in his first season as Cubs manager, Joe Maddon broke the team record for most wins won by a Cubs manager in their first season as manager, which set by Jim Frey in 1984 at 96 wins. It’s also interesting to note that the Cubs had a better record than the leaders of every other division in the MLB; the Cubs would actually have actually lead and clinched the division championship of the other divisions. The reason why they didn’t is simply the alignment of the teams and divisions.

After the regular season ended, Junior Luke Nance said of the Cubs ¨I was not surprised when the Cubs started doing well, but I was surprised at how consistent their excellence was. The team was playing so well with such young talent that it almost reminded me of the Blackhawks dynasty we have lived through over the past few years.¨

East Campus math teacher Nick Mraz also weighed in on the Cubs success ¨The Cubs have pieced together one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory. This year has certainly been special and the fact that they were in the postseason made me thrilled. When the season began, I was expecting a .500 team with a potential for a playoff berth. I never would have expected these young players would play so well so quickly. ¨

Then came the playoffs. The Cubs and Pirates were set up to play a one-game playoff at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The Cubs, with Arrieta on the mound, beat the Pirates 4-0, snapping an eight-game playoff losing streak that started in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS and carried through 2007 and 2008´s sweeps.

Mraz also said ¨With their win in the Wild Card playoff, I was willing to take their chances against anyone, even Ms. Siemer [and Mrs. McLaughlin´s] Cardinals!¨

Advancing to the NLDS against the Cubs´ bitter division rivals the Cardinals, the best team in the MLB in the regular season, the Cubs lost 4-0 in Game 1, but won Game 2 with a score of 6-3, snapping a seven-game NLDS losing streak starting in 2007. The series shifted to Wrigley Field for Game 3, where the Cubs hit a postseason record six home runs in an 8-6 victory. The Cubs then won Game 4 with a score of 6-4, winning the first playoff series at Wrigley Field in the field’s history and advancing to the NLCS against the New York Mets. However, they did not had the same fortune in the NLCS as they were swept by the Mets, during which Mets infielder Daniel Murphy broke several Mets and MLB records with one home run in six consecutive postseason games.

With the season now over, Junior Michael Bodenhagen is giving his prediction: ¨The team was so talented that, if the Cubs are going to win the World Series, it will definitely be in the next five years.¨ Mraz also said ¨The Cubs made a lot of noise this postseason. They played great in the Wild Card and the NLDS, but ran into a Mets team that was clicking on all cylinders. I’m still very happy with how things ended. Next year, the entire lineup will pretty much return. Theo will make sure to get another starting pitcher or two and the Cubs will be looked at as one of the favorites to win the World Series for the next couple of years.¨