Tha Sports Junkies 101

The Warning Track: 2016 Cubs, Fact or Fiction

Fans G.O.A.T.


Chicago Cubs

Are the 2016 Cubs a flash in the pan or a dominant dynasty?

As I write this, my phone buzzes and I receive the notification that the Chicago Cubs have just won their 70th game of the season and are now on an 8 game win streak. At this time in the season in 2011, many Cubs fans had given up on another year and resorted to the famous “wait till next year” line that many Cubs fans have used over the years.

When Theo Epstein joined the Cubs in 2012, many fans gained a bit of hope. Epstein was the mastermind behind breaking the 86-year-old curse behind the Boston Red Sox. The hope was that Theo could bring some of that magic to the north side of Chicago.

Along with Theo, the Cubs also brought in Jed Hoyer to be the teams new GM to begin the 2012 season. This powerhouse front office gave Cubs fans something to cheer for as opening day rolled around.

The 2012 season was the official start to the youth movement in Chicago. Hoyer brought a young and struggling first baseman named Anthony Rizzo with him from San Diego. Rizzo was drafted by the Red Sox and later sent to the Padres so he had history with both Theo and Jed.

Rizzo joined a young shortstop named Starlin Castro and the two quickly became the cornerstones for the Cubs. The 2012 season was not good as the Cubs went 61-101 and finished last in the NL Central. One positive was that a young outfielder named Albert Almora Jr. became the first draft pick under the new front office.

2013 did not prove to be a good season either as the Cubs again finished in last place going 66-96 under manager Dale Sveum. Three years later and many fans see the 2013 season as a success. Not because of play on the field but because of the player drafted number 2 overall in that years draft.

That player was third baseman Kris Bryant. Bryant is one of those players that teams can build a franchise around and that is exactly what the club is doing. 2013 was also the first season that Jake Arrieta played for the north side after the Orioles dealt him along with Pedro Strop.

Even though the Cubs parted ways with Dale Sveum entering the 2014 season, the team still faced problems. Under new manager Rick Renteria, Chicago finished the season 73-89 and in last place yet again. Once again, the draft overshadowed the play on the field. The Cubs drafted Kyle Schwarber number 4 overall in 2014. Along with the young catcher, the Cubs also drafted pitchers Carson Sands, Justin Steele, and Dylan Cease who are currently still in the minors.

By the 2014 season, Jed and Theo had earned the reputation of drafting great young players that would help the team in a couple of seasons.

The 2015 season was supposed to be a year when players like Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, and Kyle Hendricks were just meant to get experience for the next season. Kris Bryant did not even make the opening day roster after a great spring training but was optioned to AAA in order for the Cubs to gain another year of control on him. With a solid mix of veterans and rookies, the Cubs outperformed everyone’s expectations. They finished the season 97-65 but in third place in the NL Central. The Cubs did lock up a wild card spot and proceeded to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Wild Card game.

Eventually downing the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, the Cubs were finally put out by the New York Mets in the NLCS.

2015 marked the turning point for a Cubs team that had players like: Dexter Fowler, Jorge Soler, Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and eventually Kyle Schwarber.

Even though the Cubs fell short of the World Series, Jake Arrieta won Cy Young honors as Kris Bryant won NL rookie of the year after hitting 26 home runs.

Before opening day 2016, Theo and Jed made a move to shore up the outfielder by adding Gold Glover Jason Heyward on an 8-year, $184 million contract. With the return of Dexter Fowler and the addition of second baseman Ben Zobrist, the Cubs were the favorites to win the 2016 World Series.

Stacked at every position and with more bench depth than 2nd year manager Joe Maddon knew what to do with, the Cubs embarked on the 2016 season. It did not take long for the bench depth to come in handy. On April 7th, Kyle Schwarber tore his ACL going after a fly ball. Jorge Soler was inserted into the lineup and they never missed a beat.

So as the Cubs finish up their 111th game, many fans ask the question. Are the Cubs for real this season, or do we expect to watch them collapse in the playoffs?

Well there is no perfect or right answer to that question as the game of baseball is a weird and tricky sport but as a life long Cubs fan I can tell you this. The 2016 Cubs are the most talented and the most deep team in the major leagues. When I say that I don’t mean just for the 2016 season but for 5+ years down the road also. With players like Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Willson Contreras under team control for many years to come, this Cubs team is poised to win many World Series titles.

With a commanding lead in the NL Central, it’s not a question of if the Cubbies can make the playoffs, but of how far they can go. They have three top of the rotation starting pitchers that they can run out back-to-back-to-back. With the recent play of Kyle Hendricks, some would argue that the Cubs have the best rotation in all of baseball.

Of course the lineup is the strongest part about this years team. With “Bryzzo” making up the middle of the order, there is no place for opposing pitchers to hide when facing this powerhouse lineup.

The only issue with the 2016 Cubs has been the bullpen. The gap between the 6th and 9th inning has been shaky but the front office addressed that problem at the trade deadline. They went out and acquired closer Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees. In order to do that, the Cubs dipped into the deepest farm system in the majors to round up a prospect package to send to New York.

With the bullpen issues resolved, the Cubs certainly look like the best team moving into the playoffs. Of course there is always the question of experience when talking about the playoffs. Most players currently on the roster were the same ones that made the playoffs last season for Chicago. Older veterans who have seen playoff baseball include: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward. With a great mix of old playoff hardened veterans and young power hitting players, there is no reason not to root for the Cubs in October.

So the final answer to the question according to this Cubs fan. The north-siders are stacked with young talent that will carry them into the playoffs not only in 2016 but in years to follow.

I fully expect to see this team make the playoffs the next 5 seasons with the same core of players that they currently have on their roster.

Whether you are a fan or not, you have to respect the challenge that Theo and Jed took on in 2012. They came into a situation where the team was struggling with players that had huge, awful contracts that were not paying off. They turned that team into a club full of young, talented major league players that will be around for a long, long time.