From the curse of the Billy Goat to Steve Bartman, the past 106 years of baseball on the north side of Chicago have been nothing, but disappointing. The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and their last World Series appearance was in 1945.
Despite these unfathomable truths the Cubs still have hope.
For one, Hollywood predicted a Cubs World Series win in the 1989 movie “Back to the Future II.” But more importantly, the Cubs are actually built to contend not only this year, but for many years to come.
Theo Epstein, President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs, has made all the right moves after leaving the Red Sox for Chicago in 2011. Despite finishing in last place in the N.L. Central the past three years under Epstein, the Cubs have the top-ranked farm system in baseball.
Led by Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler, the Cubs have at least one hitting prospect at every position on the diamond. If things go the way Epstein has planned, the Cubs farm system won’t be as highly glorified as they are now because Soler will be in the majors and Bryant should be up shortly after. Russell is close behind as well. And while second basemen Javier Baez and outfielder Arismendy Alcantara are no longer considered prospects, they are young guys in the Cubs’ system.
Before the offseason, the Cubs had 40-1 odds to win the World Series but after signing left handed ace Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million deal and adding Joe Maddon as the new manager, their odds increased to 12-1.
The pitching staff beyond Lester is also impressive. Kyle Hendricks led the team with a 2.46 ERA posting a 7-2 record over 13 starts. Jake Arrieta struck out 167 in only 156.2 innings last season. Newly acquired Jason Hammel posted a 2.98 ERA and despite struggling last season, Travis Wood is still a former all-star. The five starters look nothing but strong on paper.
The two cornerstones of the franchise, shortstop Starlin Castro and first basemen Anthony Rizzo, were the Cubs only All-star selections last season. Castro led the team with a .292 batting average and Rizzo was second in the National League with 32 homeruns.
"It's going to happen this year," Rizzo said. "It's what we're going to do. We're going to play and we're going to win the NL Central, you can quote me on that. We should be the team, with all due respect to every other team; we're going to do some things this year. That's what we're going to put our sights on and we're not going to accept anything else.”
A World Series win might not happen this year, but the Cubs fans have to be satisfied in the direction this team is going. In the end, all that matters is who makes the postseason. The Kansas City Royals were able to win the pennant last year in the wild card spot. If the Cubs can clinch a wild card spot, anything can happen.
The lineup is stacked from top to bottom and the starting rotation is solid. Epstein has made all of the right moves to this point and now it’s time to see if they can produce.