|So, the Cubs failed to fulfill the prophecy of Back to the Future Part II and did not, in fact, sweep the Miami Gators in 5 games to win the 2015 World Series. That's fine; they certainly exceeded my expectations:|
The Cubs closed the regular season by winning 8 straight. They went on the road to a hostile PNC Park in Pittsburgh and managed to shut out a very good Pirates team, who had the 2nd-best record in baseball. They went on to face the Cardinals in the NLDS and, although suffering from a litany of injuries, still possessed the best record in baseball and were, in fact, the only team to win more than 100 games. Somehow, the Cubs managed to take 3 straight after dropping the first game in that series, and completed just the fourth post-season series win in Cubs history. Perhaps more importantly, they clinched their first postseason series win at Wrigley Field ever.
Then there were the Mets. I NEVER expected the Cubs to get swept by the Mets.
The difference in this team in the NLCS vs. the entire rest of the season is baffling. The NLCS Cubs were unable to get timely hits, were unable to deliver any real shut-down pitching, and virtually no dazzling defensive plays. For the most part, all of those things were in place throughout the Cubs 97-win regular season campaign. I genuinely don't know if I should chalk that up to Mets pitching being dominate, tough calls from umpires, bad luck, inexperience, or what. The breaks just didn't go the Cubs' way.
Here's the thing... The Cubs had young, promising talent come up and get established this year. Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, and Jorge Soler all got A LOT of regular season playing time, and invaluable postseason experience. These guys will hit Spring Training ready to go. Anthony Rizzo has emerged as a bona fide team leader. Starlin Castro resurrected his career after accepting his shift to 2nd base after Russell took his job at short. Veterans like David Ross have really grounded and settled the kids. Jon Lester frankly underwhelmed this season, but I can imagine living up to a big new contract being a difficult thing to work through. Jake Arrieta had a historic 2nd half and was the Cubs' first 20-game winner in 14 years.
Then there's Joe Maddon... he has simply changed the tone within the Cubs organization. This year's team has been loose, they've had fun, and they've won a lot of games. I've been a Cubs fan my entire life and I've never had more fun watching a team.
"Wait 'Til Next Year" is an annual cliché for Cubs fans, but for the first time, I genuinely can't wait.