Tag Archives: Chicago Cubs

Will the Cubs Capture the Central, Once More?

In 2016, the Chicago Cubs ran away with the division, beating out the St. Louis Cardinals by 17.5 games. The Cubs rode that momentum all the way into October, as they won their first World Series title in 108 years. Are the Cubbies destined to repeat as National League Central champs, or is there another team waiting in the weeds to take down the defending World Series winners?

  1. Chicago Cubs 100-62
  2. St. Louis Cardinals 86-76
  3. Pittsburg Pirates 85-77
  4. Milwaukee Brewers 80-82
  5. Cincinnati Reds 70-92
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There’s no question that the North siders are the best team in the National league, let alone the entire MLB. Yes, they may have lost some key pieces this offseason. Dexter Fowler is on his way out of town and landed with the Cub’s rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, while their stud closer Aroldis Chapman was picked up by the New York Yankees. With that being said, the Cubs did a great job replacing these guys. Baseball’s best General Manager, Theo Epstein went out and landed Wade Davis, who tallied 27 saves last season with the Kansas City Royals. To replace Fowler, the Cubbies have promoted Albert Almora Jr, who is expected to be a stud once he gets a few games under his belt. This year is going to be no different. Expect the Cubbies to run away with this division once again.

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Coming in second place are the St. Louis Cardinals. The Red Birds are consistently good, year in and year out. The addition of Fowler to their lineup should bring some much needed speed and athleticism to their team. Unfortunately, the Cardinals haven’t done enough this offseason to even come close to the team the Cubs have built. Cardinal fans should be praying for a Wild Card spot.

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The Pittsburg Pirates are my choice for third place in the National League Central. The Buccos struggled last season, recording a losing record for the first time since 2013. This is due in large part to the lack of production from Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen had a quiet year in 2016, hitting just 24 home runs and recording a career low .256 batting average. If the Pirates want a chance to make the playoffs, they are going to need the Andrew McCutchen of old. Look for the Pirates to bounce back in 2017, but not nearly enough to put them over the top.

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Rounding out the bottom of the division are the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds. The Brewers stayed out of the limelight in 2016, having a better than usual season. The offseason was even quieter for the Brew Crew as they went out and signed Travis Shaw. The Brewers are just as boring as the city they play in. Don’t expect them to do anything special in 2017.

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The Reds are in the midst of a rebuilding stage. Brandon Phillips has headed out of town, being acquired by the Atlanta Braves this offseason. Don’t expect the Reds star, Joey Votto to last much longer in Cincinnati either. I expect the Reds to deal Votto by the trade deadline in 2017 to acquire some much needed farm system help. The Reds will be bad for a while, no ifs ands or buts about that.

The National League Central is not going to produce any close races down the stretch. The Cubbies should comfortably take home the title once more, on their quest to repeat as World Series champions.

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108 Years No Longer

The World Series of the century came to a close last Wednesday, as the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians, in what was maybe the craziest game that I have ever seen. As a fan of neither of these teams, I could still feel the intensity running through my veins. Game 7 was filled with lead changes, extra innings, and to top it all off, a rain delay? Baseball got exactly what it needed from this series and even more.

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After 108 long years, the World Series Trophy is back in the North side of Chicago. This city has seen years of heartbreak, but has continually stayed a baseball town. DAAA Bears and the Blackhawks had many years of success, winning multiple championships in their respective sports. But Cubs’ fans never strayed and continually sold out Wrigley Field each and every year. So let’s take a look back through history at what has transpired over the 108 year World Series drought.

First, in the light of the presidential election, there have been 17 new presidents elected. There have been multiple wars including, World War I, War World II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War. Prices have seen a drastic incline since the Cubs last World Series Championship as well. The average wage in 1908 was 22 cents per hour and a gallon of gas was just 20 cents. The MLB in 1908 only fielded 16 teams, nearly half of what the league is today. And lastly, the cumulative debt of the United States in 1908 was just $2 Billion compared to the present day, $19 Trillion. Presidents have been elected, wars have transpired, prices have escalated, teams have been added, and debt continues to rise, but one thing has always stayed consistent, the Cubs NEVER win.

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Rob Manfred and the rest of the MLB are jumping for joy over in the league office right about now. As time has transpired, baseball has fallen behind the times, becoming “too slow” and “boring.” Game 7 proved to be everything but that. Viewership of game 7 escalated to 40 million which is the highest since game 7 of the 1991 World Series. The MLB has been asking for a game like this for years. Fans have become more inclined to watch the NBA and the NFL because of the fast pace of play. Baseball will never be that and the league should not try to force it. What the league needs is more storylines like the Cubs and matchups like the one that pitted the two longest championship droughts against each other. Fans complain about the pace of the game as to the reason they don’t watch. But game 7 Wednesday night took forever. The pace was slow, there were constant pitching changes, and even a rain delay, but that didn’t stop people from tuning in. In fact, I think it helped create a better story, and drug out the drama to an even crazier extent.

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The Cubs have become America’s sweethearts. They are young, hungry, and talented beyond their years. Baseball fans across the United States are realizing the impact that this club has on the league.  Don’t be surprised if you see the Cubs in the same position next year as well. This squad is primed to make multiple runs at a World Series, and who knows they could create a much different streak than the one that haunted them for over 108 years.

 

Champagne Showers

Alright folks…the moment we have all been waiting for starts Tuesday night, under the lights at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. The Chicago Cubs will be taking on the Cleveland Indians in a battle for the 112th World Series title. Both squads take in historic World Series droughts. The Indians last won the title in 1948 against the Boston Braves and the North side of Chicago hasn’t seen a World Series championship since 1908. These two title droughts are the longest in any professional sport. Unfortunately for one team that drought will continue, as for the other, they’ll be celebrating in champagne showers.

What else could you ask for? From top to bottom, the Indians and the Cubs are easily the most talented teams in the MLB. Both organizations are very similar. Let’s start from the top.

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At the helm for the Tribe we see Terry “Tito” Francona. Francona has been MLB’s most successful coach in the past decade. Tito won World Series titles in 2004 and 2007 as the Manager for the Boston Red Sox. Francona has won Manager of the Year Awards in 2004 and 2013 and is poised to take home the title once again this year. Not only has Francona been recognized through his accolades, but he has also been renowned as one of baseball’s greatest minds. In 2004, Francona led one of sport’s greatest comebacks. Down 3-0 in the ALCS to the daunting New York Yankees, Francona rallied his troops to win four consecutive games on their way to their first World Series in 86 years. Can Francona reverse the curse for a second time or has his magic run out?

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Leading the way for the 103 win Cubbies is Manager, Joe Maddon. Maddon got his first head coaching gig in 2006 for the then, Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Maddon struggled his first two years as coach, winning just 61 games in 2006 and 66 in 2007. The struggles were short lived, because in 2008 Maddon headed the Rays to a 97-win season and a trip to the World Series. This was a remarkable accomplishment for Madden. He led an extremely young and inexperienced team to a World Series, after being complete laughing stocks the previous year. Maddon continued his success, racking up 90+-win seasons four more times. The rays were transformed by Maddon’s presence, becoming one of Baseball’s most successful teams from 2010-2013. Maddon was recognized for his success by winning the Manger of the Year Award in 2008, 2011, and most recently in 2015 for the Chicago Cubs. From 2010-2013 Maddon finished in the top 5 for Manger of the Year Award, something that is unheard of in a highly competitive division. Is Joe Maddon poised to lead the Cubs to their first World Series Title since 1908, or is the curse of the Billy Goat going to come and snatch it away once more?

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Not only are the coaches similar, but their rosters are constructed alike as well. The Cleveland Indians have young talent all over the field from stud short-stop, Francisco Lindor (age 22) to rising stars, Tyler Naquin (age 25) and Jose Ramirez (age 24). Around those up-and-coming youngsters, the Indians have many valuable veterans. Players like Mike Napoli, Jason Kipnis, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Santana help to show the young players the ropes and what to expect in pressured filled situations like the World Series. Napoli will now be playing in his 3rd World Series with just as many teams. His experience and knowledge will be crucial if the Indians want to capture the title.

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Similarly, the Cubs are constructed just like the Indians. Players like Kris Bryant, Addison Russel, and Javier Baez, don’t exceed the age of 24 but are critical for the Cubs to win. Around them, players like Jon Lester, David Ross, John Lackey, and Jake Arrieta bring the veteran presence to the locker-room. The front offices of both organizations should be proud of the teams that they have constructed. Both the Indians and the Cubs are equipped to be good for years to come, in fact, we may see them in the same situation next year.

For now, we need to look at 2016. Picking a team to win the World Series is a tough task, but I believe I am prepared to take the risk. I have the Cubs winning in six games. Throughout the year, they have been the most consistent of all 30 teams and have shown no weaknesses. Their rotation is stacked, headed by Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and last year’s Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta. The Cubs have one of the deepest lineups as well. From 1-9 they have talent to put runs up on any pitcher, just ask Clayton Kershaw. This is not a dig on the Indians either. They have impressed me since day one. I believe that the Cubs roster is deeper and more equipped to take home the title to the North side of Chicago. If this is the case, the MLB will be lucky. Finally, one of the most storied franchises in baseball will have captured their first World Series title since 1908 and break the curse that has been haunting them for over a century.

 

Burning Curses

The 2016 playoffs are underway and it looks like we have two standout teams that are poised to make a push for a World Series title. The Cleveland Indians (5-0 in the playoffs) and the Chicago Cubs (4-2 in the playoffs) have bullied their way to many hard fought victories against some ferocious competition. The idea of a Cubs and Indians World Series gives me a little shiver down my spine. There are endless amounts of connections between these two clubs and the storylines are infinite.

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The first of which is the connection between Terry Francona and Theo Epstein. Francona managed the Boston Red Sox from 2004-2011 where he won two World Series titles and ended an 86 year curse. At General Manager for those years was a young guy named Theo Epstein. For many years the Red Sox were extremely successful. In 8 seasons, Francona led the Red Sox to the playoffs 5 times and ultimately won 2 titles. Epstein was the youngest General Manager to be hired in professional baseball, but he did not let that hinder him in making any controversial deals. Epstein left the Red Sox and signed with the Cubs in 2011 and has built a team that many people believe will be great for years to come. Francona was fired by the Red Sox in 2011 after their historic collapse in September and remained out of baseball until 2012, when he was hired by the Cleveland Indians. Now these two may meet up again, which will certainly be one for the record books.

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Another connection between these two franchises is their years of heartbreak. As I mentioned before, the Cubbies have not won a World Series in 108 years. Yes people, over a century has passed since the North side of Chicago has seen a title. The curse has been hindering the Cubs for decades. From the Curse of the Billy Goat, to the black cat running across the outfield, and Steve Bartman interfering with Moses Alou, the Cubs have been said to be cursed to never win another World Series. I’m not one to believe in curses or any of that witch craft, but I do believe something fishy has been going on in Chicago for the past century. With Epstein at the helm, anything is possible. In 2004 the Red Sox reversed their curse under whom else, but Theo Epstein.

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On the other side of the field we have the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland is a dead zone for sports franchises. The Cleveland Cavaliers finally took home an NBA title in 2016, the first championship Cleveland has seen since 1948, when the Indians won the World Series. The Indians have been in a 58 year championship drought and are looking to reverse that this year.

If things continue to playout in this fashion, we will be able to witness a very historic World Series. Old friends would meet again and curses would be broken. The MLB would be lucky to have a series like this one. Keep an eye out for this matchup and make sure to tune in and watch history unfold.

The WIN-dy City

Chicago prides themselves on their successful sports teams. From Jordan’s Bulls, to the ’85 Bears, and to the recent success of the Blackhawks, Chicago has always been a hub for sports excellence. Recently, baseball has gone under the radar and has become a second thought to many of the people from Chi-Town. But something special is brewing in the windy city. Both the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs stand alone at the top of their respective divisions.

Before the start of the 2016 season, everybody predicted the Cubs to continue their dominate ways. After racking up 97 wins just a year ago, the Cubbies are back on track to go far into the playoffs once more. Through the first month of the season, the Cubs own the best record in baseball at 17-6, putting them three games up in a highly competitive, NL Central. The hot start hasn’t been so easy; in fact, the Cubs have faced some adversity in the beginning stages of the season. Led by Joe Maddon, the Cubs continue to produce, even without their lefty power-hitter Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber went down with a devastating knee injury early in April. Last season, Schwarber made a splash in his rookie year, blasting 16 home runs in just 69 starts. Losing Schwarber’s bat in the middle of the lineup looked like it was the start to another disappointing season. But the Cubs haven’t skipped a beat. The depth of this squad is remarkable and the pitching rotation is one of the best in the league. This team is well equipped to go far into the playoffs and the people of Chicago should be excited for what’s to come.

Moving to Chicago’s South side, we have the leaders of the AL Central, the Chicago White Sox. An offseason full of drama led fans to believe that this was going to be just another lost season. It seemed there was a rift between upper management and the players, which we all know is a recipe for disaster. Today, the White Sox have the second best record in the MLB at 18-8, right behind the Cubs. Many people didn’t expect the hot start from the White Sox, especially after the mediocre 2015 campaign they had. But if you look deeper, the White Sox hot start shouldn’t be a surprise at all.

The rebuild of the White Sox started early last offseason when they made an abundance of acquisitions. White Sox Executive Vice President, Kenny Williams, made moves early and often. Players such as Alexei Ramirez, Gordan Beckham, Geovany Soto, and Jeff Samardzija were all signed by other teams, leaving huge voids in the field and pitching staff to be filled. Well, Christmas came early for White Sox fans, when they acquired Brett Lawrie from the Oakland Athletics and Todd Frazier from the Cincinnati Reds in mid-December. Both of these bats in the middle of the White Sox lineup have been a main reason for the success of this ball club. The moves didn’t stop there though. The White Sox picked up veterans Jimmy Rollins and Austin Jackson to round out the lineup. With the loss of Samardzija, the White Sox needed to find another starting pitcher. Their answer to this problem was acquiring Mat Latos from free agency. Latos has been lights out this season, toting a 4-0 record and an ERA of just 1.84. And although the White Sox made some great moves in the offseason, a lot of the help has been coming from the players they have had for years. All-Star pitcher, Chris Sale, is showing everybody what he’s worth by compiling a 6-0 record, an ERA of 1.66, and a 0.88 WHIP, making him everybody’s favorite for Cy Young so far. Keeping this pace up for the whole season is going to be tough, but the White Sox are equipped to make that happen.

The city of Chicago should be excited for what’s to come. Both teams have an average age of 28 and seem poised to be successful for many years to come. Who knows? We may be seeing both these teams face off against each other come October.

 

Nostradamus at it Again

The first week of the 2016 season has come to a close and boy, has it created some buzz. Some teams are off to a hot start, while others have been surprisingly slow out of the gates. Fortunately for those teams struggling, there is plenty of time to catch up in the standings. Last week, I promised my National League predictions, so let’s get started.

National League East

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After the top two teams in the NL East, there is a huge void in talent. The Washington Nationals and the New York Mets are the clear favorites to compete for the N.L. East title. The Mets were the kings of the National League last year after defeating the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS, ultimately losing to the Kansas City Royals in the World Series. Last year, the Nationals traded in their bats for golf clubs much earlier than they had hoped. The Nats have an array of talented players, led by the 2015 Most Valuable Player, Bryce Harper, and former Cy Young Award winner, Max Scherzer. Are the Nationals poised to take down the Mets? Time will soon tell.

My prediction:

New York Mets 95-67

Washington Nationals 93-69

Miami Marlins 70-92

Philadelphia Phillies 66-96

Atlanta Braves 62-100

After the Mets and Nationals, the rest of the NL East is an absolute joke. I have the Mets barely taking home the title for a second consecutive year. I believe the Nationals will improve from last year and make the playoffs, playing in a Wild Card game. The Mets have a deep pitching rotation, led by Matt Harvey, Jake deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. The rotation gives the Mets a leg up on the rest of their competition, leading to their 7th N.L. East title.

National League Central

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The N.L. Central is going to be one of the most interesting divisions to watch in 2016. The Cubbies, Pirates, and Cardinals all made the playoffs last year and could be equipped to have even better seasons this year. This division is up for grabs and will be fun to see who ranks superior.

My prediction:

Chicago Cubs 94-68

Pittsburg Pirates 92-70

St. Louis Cardinals 90-72

Cincinnati Reds 82-80

Milwaukee Brewers 74-88

The Cubs suffered a huge setback this week with the loss of their slugger, Kyle Schwarber. The big lefty tore his ACL and LCL in his left knee after a horrific collision with Center Fielder, Dexter Fowler.  This is a huge loss for the defending N.L. Central Champions. Even with the loss of Schwarber, the Cubbies have an extremely deep roster as well as a fantastic pitching staff that can take them well into the playoffs. Following the Cubs, I have the Pirates beating out the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot in the National League. I love this team’s athleticism and will-to-win. The Pirates seem to always be in contention late into September and this year will be no different.

National League West

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The National League West was shaken up this offseason with many free agent signings. The Arizona Diamondbacks made the biggest splash, picking up the 2015 Cy Young Award winner, Zack Greinke. The San Francisco Giants made their push for another arm in their rotation, when they picked up Johnny Cueto from free agency. Adding a second ace to that rotation may be what the Giants need to get back on top of the National League West.

My prediction:

San Francisco Giants 95-67

Las Angeles Dodgers 90-72

Arizona Diamondbacks 83-79

San Diego Padres 79-83

Colorado Rockies 78-84

Lately, this division has been run by the Dodgers, winning the past three years in a row. This year is going to be different. Like I stated before, the Giants picked up Johnny Cueto and already have an ace in Maddison Bumgarner, who will be toeing the rubber every fifth day. The addition of Cueto, gives the Giants one of the best one-two combinations in the league. They also acquired Jeff Samardjiza as their number three in the rotation. I LOVE this pitching staff and I think it’s going to take them far into the playoffs. I have the Dodgers placing second in the highly competitive N.L. West. The Dodgers still have a great team, but did nothing to improve during the offseason. In fact, they lost their stud pitcher, Zack Greinke to their divisional foes. After the Giants and Dodgers, I don’t see any other teams putting up a fight to contend. The Diamondbacks did get much better with the acquisitions of Greinke and RHP Shelby Miller, but I don’t believe those moves can propel them past mediocrity.

The race to be National League Champions is going to be one to keep an eye on. Looking at this year’s rosters, I would not be surprised to see the Chicago Cubs beating the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS. The road to the World Series is a long one, but the Cubs have the tools necessary to finally reverse their 106 year curse.

Party like it’s 1985!…or ’86.

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Here we go again. The World Series is set up with the Kansas City Royals playing the New York Mets and it just seems like it’s going to be a good one. For some good predictions on not just the World Series, but all the awards being given out at the end of the season as well, you should check out this blog. 

So I predicted the Chicago Cubs playing the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series. I was obviously wrong. I didn’t think the Mets inexperienced rotation could take their team this far into the postseason and I thought the Jays line up was going to be too much for the Royals ball club to handle.

So here we are. You have two teams hungry for a championship. Neither team has hoisted the World Series trophy in over 20 years. (The Royals winning in 1985 and the Mets winning in 1986.) What do you think? The Mets have 4 young guns with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steve Matz facing an experienced Royals line up including Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, and Ben Zobrist.

As you read in my last article, the Royals lost in an unforgettable World Series last year in 7 games to the San Francisco Giants. They were the Cinderella story last year, but the clock struck midnight just too soon on them, and they don’t want that to happen again this time around.

Now you have the Mets being the underdog because let’s face it folks…no one really thought they were going to even make the playoffs this year. Me, along with many other baseball fans, thought the Washington Nationals were going to take that division. But the Mets pitching and timely hitting is what brought them here and they will ride the momentum from here on out, or will they?

Making a prediction for this World Series match up is definitely a tough one. But I’m going to go with my gut and say that pitching wins championships, and the Mets rotation  definitely has the upper hand in that category. If, however, the Royals can get to the starting pitcher early and it becomes the bullpen’s game, you never know.

I will sign off by saying that the New York Mets will be winning the 2015 World Series in 7 games. It’s going to be a great 7 games, but the Big Apple will be partying like it’s 1986.