The Cubs Enter Spring Training As Defending World Series Champs … And It Still Seems Weird

The Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016.

After a lifetime of being reminded about 1908, that lead sentence is worth repeating again. Yet, it still seems surreal – three months later – that the World Series champion Cubs is still a thing.

My mother recently asked me if at any point I thought the Cubs would never win the World Series in my lifetime. And my answer surprised her.

“Yep.”

Allow me to explain.

In 2008, I had a come to Jesus meeting with baseball as I watched a Cubs team that ran through the rest of the National League get swept in convincing fashion by the Los Angeles Dodgers, while surrounded by Cardinals fans. It was only then – between swigs (chugs?) from the Jack Daniels bottle purchased earlier that evening – when I realized how difficult it was to actually win the World Series … especially when compared to other sports.

For example, FiveThirtyEight gave the Cubs a 77% chance of making the playoffs before the 2016 season started, but only an 11% chance of winning the World Series. That’s quite a disparity. Compare that to the NBA, where the Warriors currently have a 99% chance of making the playoffs, but a 54% chance to win the NBA title. Minimal disparity, comparatively speaking.

Maybe you’re a Yankees or Cardinals fan reading this and laughing with your 38 combined World Series titles. But if you’re laughing, it probably means you haven’t had that moment. And when you do, it’s not going to be pretty.

Because here’s the thing about winning a World Series, as I explained to my mother. From 1909-1968, winning the World Series was relatively easy. It involved the simplest of plans: Win the most games in your league (thus, capturing the pennant) and win a best-of-seven series and take home the World Series title.

Simple enough. Be the best team in your league, beat the best team in the other league. The Yankees won 20 of their 27 World Series titles under that format, the Cardinals won eight. Be the best. Beat the best. It’s a formula as old as sport itself.

What made the Cubs drought so frustrating was that in those simplest of times, they only made seven World Series appearances in those 59 years, with the last being in 1945.

Things became a little more difficult in 1969 with the addition of divisions and the League Championship Series. Even still, we’re talking about a relatively simple formula. Be the best team in your division, win the pennant by beating the other division winner in a series, and win the World Series.

This was your format from 1969 until 1993 – a 24-year stretch in which the Cubs made the playoffs just twice.

The Cubs wasted 84 years of the the most straight forward path to a World Series, while their longest-standing rival thrived.

Can you see how a long championship drought manifested itself?

The Wild Card era added a new wrinkle and another team to the mix and the Cubs found their way into the playoffs four times from 1994 to 2011, but managed one playoff series win.

So there I am on a couch in Carbondale in 2008, drinking and thinking about how the best teams don’t always win the World Series.

The 1984 Cubs had the best shot of them all, but had to play three road games in San Diego despite having the NL’s best record. Nice league set up, gents.

The 90s had the dynasty Yankees, but also the Braves who won a bajillion division titles with three Hall of Fame pitchers in their prime – but only one World Series win and an Indians team that probably should have won a title or two, as well.

So, leave it to the Cubs to figure it all out when the odds are the longest. Check out this road map to a World Series:

  • Win your division with the best record in the league as to avoid playing in a one-game playoff and start your postseason on the road against the best team in baseball in a short series.
  • Win your LDS series, which is a tough enough challenge on the surface, made more difficult in that if you’re a Wild Card team, your best pitcher throws only once in a five-game set, twice if you’re lucky. But if you’re truly lucky, you win in four to leave your best starter to start LCS Game 1.
  • Win the LCS. Simple enough. But if you’re a Wild Card winner that happens to have more wins than a division winner, you get to start on the road again. Fun times.
  • Win the World Series, where prior to 2017, home-field advantage was decided by whichever team won the All-Star exhibition game.

I don’t have to squint to see a Cubs dynasty in the making. Two MVP candidates at the corner infield spots, a steady defensive shortstop with 20-homer pop, an All-Star caliber utility player, and a World Series/postseason legend with fewer than 300 plate appearances at the big league level — all under team control for at least the next five years.  Defenders who can back-up hurlers who pitch to contact and a catcher who can shut down the running game. And a front office with money to spend and intelligence to find and exploit the next trend and/or loophole before anyone else.

The Cubs should be among favorites to win the World Series for the next few years, but it’ll never be easy — statistically speaking.

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The Best Thing I Did In 2016 I Didn’t Even Write About (Until Now)

I probably should have known 2016 was going to be The Year for the Cubs when Kanye West announced his tour dates. His two-day Chicago stop was scheduled for what was expected to be (and what turned out to be) Games 1 & 2 of the NLDS. Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to take a weekend night off from work for both NLDS Game 1 and a Kanye show the next night, I did the next best thing. I saw Kanye at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, which was the show closest to me that didn’t interfere with meaningful baseball games. It also happened to be the tour opener. The following is a re-telling of the events of that evening.

We didn’t know it then, but Kanye West’s Aug. 25 show at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis turned out to be a microcosm of 2016 for Mr. West.

At its worst, the set was disjointed, unhinged and unsettling. But at its best, it was the kind of performance you could easily justify driving 193 miles to see.

While the obvious focus of the Saint Pablo Tour was on tracks from his 2016 release The Life Of Pablo, West sprayed to all fields when performing that Thursday evening. And that’s fitting because I’m certain I haven’t been to an event with as much crowd diversity as that show. Standing in line only for the doors to open late wasn’t ideal, but it allowed me to scan the crowd in an attempt to capture the vibe of what might be on the horizon. West’s crowds are represented by teenagers, fans in their 60s and everyone in between. Men and women of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and ethnicity were well represented in the crowd that gathered to see West that night.

Among the many things that makes Kanye West great to me is his ability to create music that attracts many different kinds of people. For whatever reason, West’s music cuts across myriad demographics. The fact that West’s music can touch a city boy from Chicago and the guy next to him, the son of a farmer in rural Pennsylvania bows my mind.

I wish the same could be said about the entirety of the show. The late entrance led to a late start, which ultimately probably led to songs like Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2, Ultralight Beam, Real Friends and Waves — popular joints from The Life Of Pablo — being left unperformed. Also, the inclusion of a track like “Only One” made the absence of those songs more evident to me.

The fragmented performance of Blood on the Leaves and the ramblings during Runaway songs such as Black Skinhead are to be expected from a West show, but they serve to unfortunately break the rhythm of the show itself.

And despite that, West put on an amazing show that was highlighted by the fact that he was performing on a moving stage that hovered above the adoring crowd below him.

The floating stage was the epitome of what Kanye West represents. It was equal parts creativity that goes largely unmatched by his peers and the narcissism that demands he is the center of attention — literally and figuratively in this particular case.

As is typical for a West show, the crowd was entranced from the first notes of the sample West used for Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1, proving it was ready to go as it bellowed out “If Young Metro don’t trust you, I’m gon’ shoot” to usher in the start of the show as West opened with Pablo’s lead track.

Crowd participation has become a highlight of West’s shows as his popularity has grown and he has evolved as an artist. Fans chiming in at the perfect time at a West show will give you goosebumps. The infamous “I made that bitch famous” line that caught the ire of Taylor Swift, the Pusha T ad-lib that starts the West-aided Chief Keef hit “I Don’t like” and the first words of “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” were all belted from the crowd in sync to the point where you might have believed it was choreographed if you didn’t know any better.

No choreography needed when your audience is that in tune with your music.

No matter which Kanye is your favorite, you were represented in song at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on that August evening as songs from College Dropout, Graduation, 808s and Heartbreak, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus were weaved seamlessly throughout the night.

Unfortunately, I was left with the impression that the show ended with a whimper. Closing out with 30 Hours, Highlights, All Falls Down, Only One and Fade represented a decrescendo in a night that seemed building up to a bigger finish. The awkward ending left more to be desired, especially as West’s stage dangled with him on it as the lights came on. The show was over, but it was fair if you left unfulfilled because of the ending.

Hence, it was the show that summed up West’s 2016 in that you were happy for the experience despite being disappointed along the way.

A look at the best things I wrote in 2016

We’re on the cusp of stepping into 2017, where I will start writing a new chapter in my life.

Working at the Tribune was a dream come true. And yet, the opportunities at BleacherNation.com and BaseballIsFun.com have me pumped up about the future.

But before we get there, allow me to share my favorite pieces of 2016:

I wrote some pretty neat stuff on this blog, too:

I’m looking forward to doing this again in 2017.

So, your favorite team is going through a rebuild…

I recently promised to put together thoughts on my personal blog on embracing a rebuild. It was timely because of what the White Sox did with their trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton.

So, here I am ready to share the secrets of living through a rebuild.

It won’t be easy. But you already knew that because trading established players for minor league talent with potential isn’t easy to accept. On the other hand, trading a five-time All-Star pitcher and a Gold Glove finalist right fielder netted your team the kind of organizational depth it had been lacking for years.

#NotAllProspects

The rumors are true, not all prospects pan out. And since the White Sox share a city with the Cubs, there will often be references to the Cubs’ success rate with call-ups. You might even hear something like: “Well, the Cubs hit on all their prospects.”

Factually speaking, that isn’t true.

It’s easy to look at the successes of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell and Javier Baez and think that, but you really shouldn’t. In fact, the 2016 Cubs were more than that. They needed to get lucky along the way with a post-hype sleeper like Jake Arrieta (rated #52 by Baseball Prospectus pre-2009) and a pitcher who performs better than his stuff would indicate (Kyle Hendricks).

Since it’s easy to forget the misses after the team (led by the guys who panned out, mind you) won the World Series, here is a list of those can’t-miss prospects who missed.

  • Mike Olt (MLB.com, Baseball America.com #22 pre-2013)
  • Arismendy Alcantara (Baseball Prospectus #83 pre-2014)
  • Neil Ramirez (Baseball Prospectus #77 pre-2012)
  • Ryan Sweeney (Baseball Prospectus #42 pre-2005)
  • Ryan Kalish (Baseball Prospectus #60 pre-2008)
  • Edwin Jackson (Baseball America #4 pre-2004)
  • Ian Stewart (Baseball America #4 pre-2005)
  • Chris Volstad (Baseball America #40 pre-2007)
  • Josh Vitters (Baseball Prospectus #31 pre-2010)
  • Brett Jackson (Baseball America #32 pre-2012)

That’s 10 (count ’em, TEN!) former top-100 prospects who were either acquired (or in the case of Alcantara, Vitters and Jackson inherited) by Theo Epstein’s regime who didn’t live up to that top-100 billing for one reason or another.

There are no guarantees about who becomes a star from this group that features six of MLB.com’s top 100 prospects, but the competition that will go on under the radar for these players to make a name for themselves and get to The Show will (A) be fun to watch and (B) serve as a reminder that the cream always rises to the top. Players who deserve to make it to The Show will do so on their own merits.

Game Watching

Wins and losses are meaningless and there is no reason for a loss to ruin your mood while your team rebuilds. This will be easier than you think. I found it better for my everyday fandom to divorce myself from being results-driven and become process-oriented when watching baseball. It might take a minute to re-wire your brain to think this way, but it’s worth it to take in baseball with a different perspective.

Besides, wins are empty if a player whose development your team is counting on in the future stalls because he isn’t learning from his mistakes or making natural adjustments that lead toward progress.

Pressure is good because it means expectations are high. Only good things can come from high expectations. But no pressure can also be good. The lack of results-based stress should open your mind and your eyes to a different world. Follow me for a minute.

Guy gets down in a count early, works it back even by laying off some pitches in the dirt, but lines out. The outcome sucks for the player (and as a fan). But if you know he would have previously waved and missed, ending that at bat three pitches earlier a month ago but he’s not doing it now — that’s process.

Miscellaneous

The following are bullets that probably could have had their own section, but for time and space purposes, this will have to do:

  • Playoff baseball is easier because you can watch without a mind clouded by emotion. With that out of the way, you can note what’s working and not working for teams with regards to organization building. You know you want your team to be a postseason contender, note how other teams do it and see how anything can be applied to your team.
  • Media coverage will be weird. Maybe the Cubs’ success will change things? But teams have been doing what the Cubs did since the 1920s when Branch Rickey was doing it with the Cardinals. The dynasty Yankees were build on the foundation of young, homegrown talent. So were those Dodgers teams that reeled off one Rookie of the Year after another. Look at the core of the #EvenYearMagic Giants teams. I’ll never understand why professional journalists were willingly ignorant about a process every good team goes through at one point or another. Hopefully, history doesn’t repeat itself.
  • It’s a good time to buy into a ticket plan. It’s simple economics, but worth repeating. There might not be a better time than now to buy a season-ticket plan for the White Sox. It’ll pay for itself when the team gets good again. Trust me. And if you don’t want to pay for that, now would be a good time to be active on the secondary ticket market. StubHub had Cubs tickets during the rebuild as low as $5.
  • Another investment worth making is MLB-TV. I bought my package when the Cubs started their rebuild so I could balance my baseball viewing with good teams. Of course, I gravitated to Vin Scully and the Dodgers. If I had to suggest a team to follow fot White Sox fans looking for a taste of something different: Red Sox (Chris Sale factor), Orioles (good offense, popular manager), Astros (young core of players), Dodgers/Giants (pick one of these to get a feel for what a real rivalry is like), Mets (Thor! Cespedes! Asdrubal Cabrera! OK, not so much the third….) and Nationals (Bryce Harper is a perennial MVP candidate and soon-to-be free agent).
  • Perhaps buying MiLB-TV would be a wiser and less costly package to keep an eye on the prospects bubbling below in the White Sox organization. I never went this route, but Cubs fans I know seemed to like it and some have even kept it.

Here’s hoping this was helpful. Good luck with all that.

Random lunch-time baseball thoughts

IMG_1272I had a weird Wednesday night in which I helped my dad do some Christmas shopping, but I got home later than expected, thus, leading me to start dinner later than I should have.

Which led to me eating later than I should have.

Which led to me going to sleep and waking up later than I should have.

While eating, I watched the MLB Network 2016 World Series special that was saved on my DVR. It was worth the wait, but it made me want to write some stuff down. This is the result of writing after watching baseball and eating dinner at an hour too late to be eating dinner.


Moments that are difficult to grasp during the baseball calendar year aren’t limited to days and nights in which the games are played. The 2016 edition of the annual Winter Meetings provided Chicago baseball fans with that reminder this week.

The White Sox traded ace left-hander Chris Sale to the Red Sox in a move that fans might have trouble stomaching, even if it comes with the potential of better days ahead.

Not only was Sale the face of the franchise, he was a beacon of light during some dark years (the Sox averaged 75 wins in Sale’s five All-Star seasons) and also represented one thing the organization has done exceptionally well.

The White Sox’s ability to find, scout, draft, sign and develop pitchers is remarkable in an era where pitching is hard to find, scout, draft, sign and develop is extremely difficult. On the other hand, we would be talking about a dynasty if they developed hitting the same way they did pitching. Instead, the White Sox have made only four postseason appearances since I was born in 1986.

But I digress.

Sale (along with now-former teammates Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon) joined Jack McDowell, Wilson Alvarez, Alex Fernandez, Mark Buehrle and others among the most productive starting pitchers developed by the White Sox organization over the last 25 years. It’s a pretty solid group if you know your White Sox history — or have access to Baseball-Reference.com.

Unfortunately, Sale never received the praise or accolades he should have because he played on one winning team since becoming a full-time starter in 2011. He leaves Chicago with the 18th highest bWAR number (31.1) in franchise history, which ranks him as the ninth best pitcher in franchise history.

Sale joins a Red Sox team primed to win another American League East title and could find himself reaping the benefits of playing with a different batterymate. No pitcher was hurt by a lack of pitch framing behind the plate than Sale, who missed a significant amount of calls in the wake of Tyler Flowers being sent packing by White Sox brass after the 2015 season. Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro both ranked in the bottom 10 in calls added and runs above average, according to StatCorner’s pitch framing metrics.

As if a guy armed with a 98-mph fastball and two swing-and-miss secondary offerings (a filthy slider and a nasty changeup) needed any more help.


Cubs fans found themselves in a similar situation Wednesday when the Cubs traded outfielder Jorge Soler to the Kansas City Royals for right-handed closer Wade Davis.

While Soler was never the main attraction of the Cubs’ rebuild, he was the first meaningful prospect developed during #ThePlan’s development years.

It’s easy to forget now, but the Cubs outbid the Yankees, Braves and Dodgers (among others) to sign Soler in June 2012. He was a hot commodity who became a star prospect during his meteoric rise through the Cubs’ minor league system. He played at three different levels before making his major league debut on Aug. 27, 2014, slashing .340/.432/.700/1.132 while showing a keen eye at the plate (13.98 BB%) in 236 plate appearances.

The successes of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras and other rookies who came up and had immediate sustained stretches of success made it easy to forget Soler played like rookies usually play. He was streaky and raw with flashes of potential at the plate and in the field to go along with the extreme highs and lows that make fans and prospect hipsters alike squirm.

Soler will likely always be remembered for three things:

  • He was the Cubs’ best hitter in the 2015 postseason despite not starting in the NL Wild Card Game or NLDS Game 1. He slashed .474/.583/1.105/1.689 in seven starts, mashing three homers and three doubles to go along with five walks in 24 plate appearances.
  • Being a Cardinal killer, slashing .287/.364/.552/.915 in 99 regular season plate appearances.
  • He was on the team that ended the Cubs’ 108-year title drought.

I’m not sure if it will go down in history this way, but let the record show this was the moment the young Cubs were put on the map:

The Cubs were bad in 2014, but things were changing as they started to call up minor-league talent that was bubbling at the minor league level. Soler was the headliner, seeing that he was the first impact signing of the Theo Epstein regime.

On this night, Jorge Soler mashed two homers against Shelby Miller, who was pretty good at the time, and Pat Neshek, who was in the midst of his best year as a reliever.

Both were tape-measure shots. Both were followed by audible cheers by Cubs fans and a noticeable murmuring among Cardinals fans that gave off a “who the heck are these guys and what happened to Darwin Barney, Donnie Murphy and Cody Ransom?” vibe.

I wouldn’t go as far to write Soler had nowhere to play because there are ABs to go around as the right-handed counterpart to Kyle Schwarber in left and/or Jason Heyward in right in 2017. And we can’t forget about DH usage in the 10 interleague games in American League parks. But Soler’s pitch recognition skills and raw power aren’t best suited for part-time play — at least, not at this point in his career.

Soler needs consistent reps moving forward and will get them in Kansas City, a team in search of young, cost-controlled right-handed power with upside. And because of that, he is closer to being the player he projected to be as a prospect than he was prior to the trade.

As for Davis, he looks to use the 2017 season as a springboard for a significant free agent payday. During the Royals’ back-to-back pennant runs (culminating in the 2015 World Series title), Davis was the third most valuable reliever (5.0 fWAR) with the second best Win Probability Added (8.10) number.

Perhaps the new market inequity is acquiring high-leverage relief aces in the final year of their deal and running them into the ground. The three biggest arms in the Cubs pen are either coming off a triceps injury (Hector Rondon), a knee injury (Pedro Strop) or an forearm injury (Davis), so nothing is truly safe and the Cubs shouldn’t be done adding arms.

Making Sense of Nonsense: White Sox trade Chris Sale to Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and 3 other prospects

The White Sox’s rebuild officially began at 2:47 p.m. on Dec. 6, 2016 when they dealt ace Chris Sale to the Red Sox for a premium prospect package.

Dealing Sale was a difficult pill to swallow for the White Sox and their fans. He was one of baseball’s best pitchers, making five straight All-Star Games from 2012-16 and posting MLB’s fourth highest fWAR (26.2), 10th best starter’s ERA (3.04) and seventh highest strikeout rate (27.8 K%) to go along with the 23rd lowest walk rate (5.4 BB%) among 179 qualified starters. No matter which way you cut it, Sale has been one of baseball’s elite pitchers of this half decade.

But with the White Sox mired in mediocrity (the words of GM Rick Hahn, not mine) something had to give as the White Sox tried to position themselves to win in the future as the present didn’t offer much of an opportunity.

The return for Sale projects to be a strong one as the White Sox acquired baseball’s best prospect in 2B/3B Yoan Moncada along with RHP Michael Kopech, OF Luis Alexander Basabe and RHP Victor Diaz. That’s a good return that features three of the top eight (including two of the top five) prospects from what is widely regarded as one of — if not, the — best farm systems in baseball.

Moncada ranks first and Kopech checks in at 67, according to MLB Pipeline. Meanwhile, Basabe and Diaz project to be listed in among the more highly regarded prospects in the coming years.

Any time you can swipe four of an organization’s top-30 prospects, you’ve done well in a trade. Even if it means sending off one of baseball’s best pitchers in the process.

Moncada is a dynamo, a future everyday player at either second base or third base who Jim Callis described as “Robinson Cano with more speed.” Kopech is a right-handed flame-thrower who reportedly hit 105 mph with a fastball this summer, though, that may have been debunked as a myth. Still, reports have him topping out at 103, which is mighty fine. Though, if you’re expecting that out of him as a starter, I would suggest re-adjusting your expectations until further notice.

Still, a hard-throwing righty whose floor is a high-leverage relief ace who also has potential to be a top-of-the-rotation arm if he can get a grip on some offspeed offerings is a quality get for Kenny Williams/Rick Hahn/Jerry Reinsdorf. And the fact that they did it by playing the Washington Nationals (and their rumored package of prospect RHP Lucas Giolito and OF Victor Robles) makes it very deserving of a tip of the cap to the White Sox front office.

The hardest part (again) is losing Sale, who has been the face of the franchise since Paul Konerko retired. Sale never pitched the White Sox to the playoffs, but it’s not like it was his fault the team around did not perform to its potential like he did. And even when they did, it simply wasn’t enough as the White Sox around him (specifically, the everyday players) lacked depth and high-end talent throughout his tenure in Chicago.

With Sale off to Boston, I’m also reminded that Chicago baseball fans really missed out on a chance to see one of baseball’s premier talents, especially when he was at the peak of his powers over the last three years.

If you have FOMO, the rest of this post isn’t for you, especially if you’re one who will find regret in not buying something of value at a discount. Because if you browsed and shopped on the secondary ticket market, seats for Chris Sale starts were plenty — and plenty affordable.

Using Fangraphs’ WAR number as our guide, Sale was MLB’s fifth best pitcher from 2014-16. Only Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, Max Scherzer and David Price posted a higher WAR number than Sale’s 16.6 fWAR.

The White Sox’s average home attendance in Sale’s starts in those years:

  • 20,997 (2014)
  • 22,545 (2015)
  • 21,539 (2016)

On average, we’re talking about 53.4 percent capacity. Yikes.

In a sense, it’s disappointing to see the city not back a great player in his prime. I feel like some fans might regret this in when we’re a few years removed from this deal. I went to a bunch of Sale starts and even I wonder if I should have gone to more when given the opportunity. Further, I wonder if more support during Sale starts could have helped the White Sox financially during their free agent hunts in recent years.

I simply can’t help but wonder if packed houses for Sale starts could have been the difference between settling for an aging DH bat like Adam LaRoche and reeling in an impact outfielder such as Yoenis Cespedes.

For the sake of my friends who are White Sox fans, hopefully Moncada, Kopech and prospects to be acquired in deals that could send Todd Frazier, Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera, Jose Abreu, David Robertson and Jose Quintana packing can provide a glimpse of a bright future.

If it does, we’ll look back at Dec. 6, 2016 as the beginning of something special.

 

A better late than never ‘Cubs won the World Series’ blog post

img_6980It probably shouldn’t have taken this long to write, but here goes nothing…

Remember when the Cubs won the World Series? I do. It was just a week ago and I feel like I could use a reminder of happier times.

I received hundreds of messages when the Cubs won the World Series, which is crazy to think that hundreds of people had me on their mind during or after a baseball game. That’s crazy and humbling at the same time. 

Watching Game 7 at Metro was everything I’d want a public viewing experience to be. Big screen, quality sound, passionate fans and delicious beer. The most important aspect might have been the company I kept. Whether it has been in the bleachers or at a bar, taking in baseball with Brett, Tim, Jim, Adam, Tommy, Myles and others has been a real treat. For me, it’s the ideal combination of wit, snark, baseball knowledge, passion and other intangibles that makes watching the game better with them. I couldn’t ask for a better group to share that experience.


If I had a dollar for every time someone messaged me asking how I felt or what my reaction was after the win, I’d have enough to buy a few of those World Series champion hats that were retailing for $50 on the streets of Wrigleyville. Alas, that was the hardest question to answer because — honestly — I didn’t have any feelings.

These tweets were not hyperbole. At this point I was mentally, emotionally and even physically drained. So much so, I texted a friend I wasn’t sure how I was messaging him because I felt so numb. I really could have used a nap. My friend Ryan warned me about the emotional toll the World Series would take on me. As a Cardinals fan, he had been through that ringer before and even messaged me with wellness checks. Who does that? Yet, no one warned me about the increase in gray hairs in my beard. Not cool.


Remember when Ben Zobrist bailed out his manager in Game 7 of the World Series?

It was most fitting because Joe Maddon helped mold Zobrist into the player who won World Series MVP back when they were with the Tampa Bay Rays. Zobrist wasn’t blessed with ridiculous athleticism or off-the-charts raw skills, but instead possesses a variety of abilities (contact and on-base skills, defensive versatility, plate discipline, etc.) that help make him a winning player. Go figure he’s the 17th most valuable player based on Fangraphs’ WAR calculations since 2006, which was his first in The Show.

In a year where Cubs players picked up their teammates time and again, it was good to see them do it for their manager at the most crucial time.


The concept of a “Team Win” is cliche, but sometimes there is truth in cliche. Just ask the 2016 Cubs who participated in Game 7.

  • All 9 starters collected hits
  • 8 players drove in at least one RBI
  • 7 players scored runs
  • 5 pitchers pitched

The breakdown of these players is unique, too.

  • 5 players drafted or signed as international free agents
  • 9 players acquired via trade
  • 4 players signed via free agency

All things considered, the Cubs to be everything people told us they could never be.

Couldn’t build through the farm? The Cubs’ 25-man World Series roster featured 9 players (Rizzo, Russell, Bryant, Baez, Schwarber, Soler, Almora Jr., Contreras, Edwards Jr.) who were top-100 prospects between 2011-2016 while in the Cubs’ organization. 

Couldn’t use free agency as a tool? One NLCS co-MVP was a $155 million dollar investment while the World Series MVP will be paid $56 million through 2019.

Scout others as well as you do yourself, right? Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, Kyle Hendricks and Mike Montgomery are examples of just that. Further, Arrieta and Montgomery were also top-100 prospects when they were in the Orioles and Royals organizations, respectively.

This team had a staff that handcuffed enough good hitting, a group of hitters that pushed across enough runs against good pitching in the biggest games and did enough defensively to be crowned World Series champions. 


But seriously, did it have to be Cleveland?

I spent most of October pulling for the Cleveland Indians to win the American League pennant. Not because I thought they were a better matchup for the Cubs, but because they were the AL team that intrigued me the most.

Francisco Lindor is a hell of a player and someone I am proud to follow as a Puerto Rican. Baseball writer Jonah Keri compared to Ozzie Smith, but with better offense. That’s high praise. Corey Kluber is an ace more people should know about. But if not, that’s cool. I’ll continue to have him as my fantasy team’s workhorse. Terry Francona is one of baseball’s three best managers and very likely a Hall of Famer.

As a team, Cleveland scored the second most runs and allowed the second fewest in the AL. Add all that to a 68-year title drought and that makes them worth hitching your bandwagon to if you’re a neutral fan. Hopefully, more people do that in the coming years.

Maybe next year, that group can pull together and win it all. It would be nice to see for my friend/co-worker Jeff Bowen, who like me, seemed worn out after that seven-game roller coaster ride.


My grandmother isn’t all that well at this stage of her life. Her body aches. Her appetite comes and goes. And her memory isn’t as sharp as I wish it was. But when I told her the Cubs won the World Series, she lit up.

“Ohhhh boy!”

Grandma parked me in front of the TV to watch afternoon baseball as a kid. She was the one who used to walk with me from Byron & Clark over to Wrigley Field to score some cheap seats on the day of the game. She was the one with whom I had a long-standing tradition of attending the last home game of the year with. To say my grandmother loves baseball would be an understatement. But I’m glad she passed that love on to my mother and eventually me.

It pained me a bit knowing she wasn’t going to stay up and watch Game 7 — 88-year-old women simply don’t stay up until midnight to watch baseball. Even if that’s what her heart wanted.

Seeing the look on her face when I handed her a World Series Champions shirt was a priceless moment. It’s as if seeing “Cubs” and “World Series” triggered a re-boot of something in her head because it’s been a week and she keeps asking me “what’s next for the Cubs?”


Even though my grandmother hasn’t been to a baseball game at Wrigley Field since 2012, my mother was able to experience history during the Cubs World Series run. An anonymous helper ponied up the money to send her to Game 5 of the World Series at Wrigley Field. It was the perfect storm for her and I know she loved every minute of it, though, she would later tell me about how cold she was that night.

Much like yours truly in Los Angeles (albeit in warmer temperatures) my mother witnessed the “turnaround game” that was the start of the Cubs’ comeback from a 3-1 deficit. I’m so happy for her.


Shout out to the Tribune’s team of reporters, photographers and editors who worked late into the night Wednesday and early Thursday to put together a product that had people lined up outside Tribune Tower waiting to purchase.

But let the record show that this marks the second time the Cubs have injected life into this newspaper. Let’s go back to September 2015.

“Agate in general feels a bit like an anachronism in the newspaper and we have been scaling it back gradually for a while now. Right now, with the Cubs being relevant again, I don’t think we’d pull the plug on baseball agate for 2016, but conditions – foreseen and unforeseen — may dictate that we consider it.”

If you’re reading this, you probably know I’m one of the Tribune’s sports agate guys. And if you didn’t know, now you do. This piece in Poynter was a bit of an eye-opener for me. It’s not as if I haven’t seen it coming. I’ve lived it. But seeing it explicitly in print made it that much more real.

In 2016, people are still enamored with tangible things for milestone events. Hence, newspapers were doing good numbers. It’s a keepsake for every “I know where I was when…” moment. It’s a shame there aren’t more of those because we’d be a lot healthier as an industry if there were. But all we can do is continue to plug away and hope our hard work gets noticed and rewarded.


Steve Bartman’s name came up often during the playoffs and in the days after the World Series. With a title in tow, what (if anything) the team can/will/should/could do to make amends for a man who has asked for nothing but privacy since 2003. The popular sentiment is to allow him to throw a first pitch in and give him some sort of positive welcome. Not only do I think that’s not enough, I’m not sure a guy who has lived privately for the better part of 13 years wants anything to do with a public showing.

My alternate proposal?

Give him whatever he wants in World Series apparel and memorabilia. Hats. Shirts. Sweaters. Socks. Balls. Bats. Helmets. Stuff for him. Stuff for his friends. Stuff for his family. Stuff for his pet. Anything and everything. Get him a ring, too. Then, on Opening Night, give him a king’s welcome — but without alerting the press. Give him a meet-and-greet with his favorite players. Past and present. Let him and his friends and family have a Wrigley suite for the night with all the food, drinks and desserts he and his chums could ever dream of … and don’t tell anyone.

Let the man live like a king for a day on the Cubs’ dime as he watches the World Series banner get raised.

And if he wants to be left alone for the rest of time, so be it. He should have never been dragged into that fire in the first place.