It’s been nearly a week since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, but that week pales in comparison to the 108 year wait that fans have had to endure.
In one of the best Game 7’s in the history of sports, the Cubs were able to outlast the Cleveland Indians in 10 innings to hoist the Commissioners Trophy. The game was filled with Game 7 dramatics that had baseball fans around the globe on the edge of their seats.
Chicago quickly jumped ahead and was looking quite dominant as they had been all season. The Indians fought back. The Cubs, who were less than six outs remaining from being victorious, watched as Rajai Davis belted a game-tying, two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth off flame throwing closer Aroldis Chapman.
Cleveland wasn’t able to complete the comeback and the game went into a 10th and decisive inning, but there was a slight rain delay, in what turned out to be a prophetic message from the heavens above. During the rain delay, right fielder Jason Heyward, who struggled all season and into the postseason at the plate, gathered the Cubs together and rallied them to finish the job they started.
Whatever Heyward said, worked. The Cubs scored two runs in the top half of the 10th inning after the brief delay. They would need those two runs as the Indians scored a single run and threatened to tie the game yet again. However, Mike Montgomery was able to get Michael Martinez to ground out to a smiling Kris Bryant to end the drought.
It had been 108-years since Cubs fans could celebrate a world championship, but that didn’t matter once the final out was made. First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who caught the ball thrown from Bryant, quickly pocketed the ball before joining the celebration fray.
What a farewell season and Game 7 it was for 39-year old catcher David Ross. Grandpa Rossy as his Cubs teammates called him, came into the game in the 5th inning to catch for Jon Lester, who came on in relief. In the top of the 6th, Ross uncorked a solo home run, which essentially would be pivotal for the game going to extras. That would be the final official at-bat for Ross, who walked later in the game and was then lifted for a pinch runner. Ross announced earlier this year that 2016 would be his last MLB season. What a parting gift his teammates got for him.
Going forward, once the celebration finally ceases, which may not be for a while, the future of the Cubs is bright. Speaking of celebrations, over five million people crowded the Chicago streets for the victory parade last Friday.
Back to the future of this team. They are one of the youngest teams in terms of their core. They will bring back the bulk of that core, with one exception; center fielder Dexter Fowler. The speedy leadoff man will likely find a new home once free agency begins. However, Cubs fans should not worry too much about that.
Kyle Schwarber, who missed all of two regular season games due to a torn ACL, came back to play in the World Series, seven months after suffering the injury. He will be fully healthy come the start of the 2017 season, which is scary for the opposition due to how good he is at the plate. He will play left field, Heyward can move to center and World Series MVP Ben Zobrist will shift to right.
The infield will stay intact as Bryant and Rizzo will man the corners, while Addison Russell (shortstop) and Javier Baez (second base) will continue to make magic up the middle. Manager Joe Maddon will have plenty to work with in his lineup.
As for the starting pitching, Cy Young candidates Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks along with 2015 NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta will all return. The pitching issue the Cubs will have to deal with is the bullpen. Maddon showed in the World Series that he didn’t have much faith in the ‘pen as he went to Chapman with a five-run lead in the seventh after pitching 42 pitches the previous night. Speaking of Chapman, he will test the free agency waters and will see the big bucks.
The money the Cubs won’t spend on Fowler (being he doesn’t sign the $17.2 million qualifying offer) and Chapman can be used to bolster the bullpen. If anyone can get great value in a bullpen, its Theo Epstein.
Epstein was once again the maestro behind another curse being broken. He told Cubs fans that he had a plan and to be patient when he came to the club in 2011. Five years later and that plan paid off and looks like it will pay off for the foreseeable future.
Chicago was the overwhelming favorite to win the World Series before the season began, showed why they were the favorites by winning 103 games in the regular season and breaking the 108-year World Series drought. It’s no easy task to be the favorite heading into the season, let alone fulfilling the thoughts of why they were the favorites.
The Cubs future is bright and the start of a dynasty is a realistic possibility. A young core, who has a ton of talent already, will only continue to get better. For the sake of the Cubs fans, it likely won’t be another 108-years before another championship.