The Cubs season ended late Tuesday night and for the second straight year, we will have to wait until next year, as we failed to win the World Series. Despite finishing tied for the best record in the National League, our post-season run ended before I even had the chance to consume my first pumpkin flavored food item. Losing back to back games at the friendly confines to end this season is a tough pill to swallow, but as a lifelong Cubs fan, I have experienced far worse than this early post-season exit and by the time I woke up Wednesday morning after what felt like 10 minutes of sleep, I was at peace with the season. It was just not our turn this year; too many things just didn’t go are way. Still, we have a young and controllable roster for the foreseeable future. We have a solid rotation and despite our slumping bats, a number of big hitters on our roster. Our championship window is far from closed.
I soon learned my outlook on this season and our future was not shared by all. Reports of firing manager Joe Maddon quickly followed the loss and I have to say I am surprised. Fire him for what? For getting us to the playoffs four year in a row? For leading the Cubs to the best record in the National League despite not having Kris Bryant for the majority of the year and replacing ace and postseason god Jake Arietta with Yu Darvish (1 win) and Tyler Chatwood (5 million walks)? For abnormally cold weather in Chicago this spring, which led to an unreasonably busy schedule down the stretch? For not winning two World Series in three years? I don’t agree with many of Maddon’s managerial decisions, but suggesting he should be fired is malpractice. Who would we hire instead? David Ross? Get out of here.
Four years ago we finished dead last in our division with 73 wins. Our last World Series appearance was before the Korean War started. We had last won a championship before construction on the Titanic even began. Anyone that thinks four straight playoff appearances, including one World Series Championship, is not good enough for a Chicago Cubs manager to keep his job clearly was not a fan before 2015. These fair-weather fans, who are the reason ticket prices have soared, never sat in the bleachers for $15 (sat there multiple times for that much just 5 years ago) and watched Junior Lake strike out every time he stepped to the plate. These fair-weather fans couldn’t tell you who the starting second baseman was on the 2012 team (Darwin Barney). Or that Salt and Pepper diner (RIP) was one of the best places to grab a meal before or after a game. Fans that think Maddon should be fired are the same “fans” who think Old Crow is a classic Wrigleyville bar (nothing against Old Crow, but give me Sluggers or Rockwood (RIP) any day). These “fans” that are complaining about this season never suffered and because of that, are spoiled. Only one team wins every year and more than in any other sport, championship dynasties are hard to come by.
The Cubs season was disappointing due to our recent success, but historically, you cannot be upset. We played into October yet again. We have the most wins in the major leagues over the last four seasons and a young core that still has plenty of time to develop. Besides Anthony Rizzo, none of our young core is even close to passing their prime baseball years yet. Javy Baez, most likely this year’s MVP runner-up, is only 25 years old. Kris Bryant, already with MVP hardware, is only 26. The future is still bright.
As much as I believe Theo Epstein should already have a statue outside of Wrigley Field, even the most advid Theo loyalists would admit that he essentially struck out on all of his off-season acquisitions. However, this should motivate him to do even better this winter. We will make the necessary changes to make sure we are ready come next spring. This early exit from the playoffs, if anything, should be enough motivation that Maddon doesn’t need any catchy slogans next year to rile up the troops. The hunger should be back, the players will want to redeem themselves, and our injured players will have fully recovered. I can’t wait for next year.