Rise of the Cubs

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Haley McCoy, Editorials Editor

      The year is 1908. Theodore Roosevelt ends his presidency, passing the baton to Republican William Howard Taft. Henry Ford sells the first Model T for a whopping 850 dollars. Psychologist Abraham Maslow and beauty icon Estee Lauder are born. Australasia competes in the fourth summer Olympics and the Montreal Wanderers win the Stanley Cup. But most notably, the Chicago Cubs are on top of the baseball world.

      The Cubs defeated the Detroit Tigers four games to one to win the World Series. The two teams battled it out, switching between West Side Park in Chicago and Bennett Park in Detroit. The Cubs roster was headlined by star pitcher Mordecai Brown, who had only three functioning fingers. 1908 was a baseball season for the ages. But no one assumed how long “the ages” would last.

      Fast forward 108 years. The Chicago Cubs are on top of Major League Baseball, running away with the National League Central Division. Historic Wrigley Field is celebrating one hundred years as the home of the Cubs. This Cubs roster has a litany of stars, from young stars Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo to Cy Young pitcher Jake Arrieta. These Cubs are all in. All in, not just because they’re “embracing the target’ atop league standings, but because “the ages” have spanned 108 long years of heartbreak for the suffering Northsiders.

      A lot has changed since the Cubs last won the World Series. Women won the right to vote. A black man broke into the major leagues, paving the way for so many to follow. There have been two world wars. People of color took a stand for civil rights. The United States put a man on the moon. Gay marriage was legalized in all fifty states. Cars are now a necessity and so is proper hygiene. What a time to be alive.

      The Chicago Cubs certainly agree. The loveable losers haven’t even reached the World Series in 71 years, the infamous “Bartman Game” the highlight of the Cubs curse. Whether caused by a billy goat, a black cat, or just rotten, unparalleled bad luck, the Chicago Cubs are no strangers to losing.

      When Theo Epstein was hired in 2011, the club was struggling. It was hardly newsworthy. Struggle was what the Cubs did best. But Epstein had ended an 89 year championship drought for the Boston Red Sox, and ending Chicago’s century long drought seemed like the next plausible option. It wouldn’t be easy, but Cubs fans were used to losing; they could wait another five years. It’s not like anything would change. Epstein built the team from almost nothing, drafting young stars such as Bryant and Javier Baez and acquiring Rizzo, Arrieta, and Russell through trades. Key free agents such as Jon Lester and Jason Heyward chose the Cubs over flashier options with higher payouts, which signaled a changing of the guard and shifting winds in the Windy City. For once Chicago was the destination for professional athletes to land, and it wasn’t just because Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were winning championships on the ice. The Cubs were ready to win again.

      2015 was quite the year for the Cubs. They won 97 games and beat their division rivals Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs, eventually falling to the New York Mets. But this did not despair Cubs fans, who did not expect to go far in the playoffs to start the season. Sure, Back to the Future might have predicted a Cubs victory, but no one else had. The roster was young, there was a new manager, and their division was loaded. The Cubs had the third best record in the MLB, but also finished third in their division. They boasted the league’s best pitcher, rookie, and manager and were poised to continue to improve.

      Improve is exactly what they did come the 2016 season. The Cubs have held the best record in the major leagues for almost the entire summer. Two MVP candidates on their roster and another two Cy Young award candidates, given to the best pitcher in the league, round out the roster. Critics have been hard pressed to find a weak point in the Cubs lineup, pitching rotation, or bullpen. They’ve been that good.

      The surprise success of the 2015 season got the North Side of Chicago excited again. They headed into the 2016 season with high hopes that, for maybe the first time since 1908, seemed achievable. For this batch of young stars, and the occasional grizzled veteran, the sky’s the limit. There is no more waiting for next year. To the Chicago Cubs, next year is now. They are the loveable losers no more, and when they do finally reach the pinnacle of the sport, you can bet the cheers from Wrigleyville will be deafening.