By Dave Bruning
You’ll have to forgive the unabashed giddiness of Chicago Cubs’ fans. Christmas has come early for a beleaguered fan base famous for their “Wait til next year!” motto. #1 prospect Kris Bryant has been promoted to the major leagues. The Cubs are for real and baseball better get used to it.
The Cubs last won a World Series in 1908. They are haunted by the infamous Curse of the Billy Goat and the attack of the Bartman. Wrigley Field renovations are behind schedule, the bleachers are empty and Harry Caray is no longer with us. Being a Cubs fan is arduous, but fortunes are changing. That nasty Curse is ready to be reversed.
The rebuilding of the Cubs began with the hiring of general manager Theo Epstein. His savvy, bright baseball mind brought 2 World Series titles to Boston and ended decades of suffering in New England. It pains this Yankees fan to admit that, but the man is smart. Epstein purged the Cubs of overpaid veterans. In return he has built the deepest farm system in baseball, anchored by the aforementioned Bryant.
Several young players are already making their mark in Chicago. Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro have established themselves as quality ball players. Jorge Soler is a powerful young outfielder starting to find his way. Young middle infielders Javier Baez and Addison Russell are not far behind Bryant. The talent pipeline is flowing as steady as spring runoff in the Rocky Mountains.
Epstein is wisely adding some veterans to the Cubs roster. He signed pitcher Jon Lester to a lucrative free agent contract. He traded for speedy outfielder Dexter Fowler. Perhaps most importantly, he hired Joe Maddon to manage the Cubs. Maddon had a tremendous run of success with Tampa Bay. His level headed, patient approach to baseball is just the kind of leadership Chicago needs to win the World Series.
I also believe Epstein is not done tinkering with the Cubs roster. I believe he will acquire pitcher Jordan Zimmerman from the Nationals to bolster the pitching staff. I also think he will trade Starlin Castro. The Cubs have a surplus of quality shortstops. To acquire talent you must be willing to surrender talent. The deep farm system affords Epstein the opportunity to be very creative in further building the Cubs.
My final reason for the tremendous excitement surrounding Cubs baseball is Ernie Banks. Banks was a great player for the Cubs. He was an even greater ambassador for the city of Chicago. His unbridled enthusiasm for baseball and Chicago is legendary. The name of my fantasy baseball team this year is Ernie Banks. Mr. Cub passed away earlier this year. Sometimes you need an angel to guide you to your goal, or in this case, Mr. Cub.
The revitalization of the Chicago Cubs is well under way. They will be entertaining this year and downright dangerous in the years to come. The Curse of the Billy Goat will end. I sure as hell plan on being in Chicago when it does because that will be the party of the century, with Mr. Cub as the emcee.