For the past couple of years, saying you were a Cubs fan was sort of like saying you were a big Justin Bieber fan: People’s reactions when you said it were a mix between sympathy and confusion on how you could support something that constantly puts out a terrible product.
“The Cubs are never going to win anything, let alone a World Series” they’d say.
Well, never say never because it’s 2015 and being a Cubs fan is now the cool thing to be.
With the arrival of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer in 2011, the future looked bright–no matter how far away that future was.
With that being said, the past four years of Cubs baseball have been anything but bright. Having not won more than 75 games since 2009, there was very little reason for Cubs fans to follow their team religiously (whether that’s a knock on Cubs fans’ loyalty is not for me to say, it’s simply a truth that occurred). If they had, they would’ve witnessed the tail ends of Kosuke Fukudome’s, Alfonso Soriano’s, Aramis Ramirez’s, and Derrek Lee’s careers in Chicago, along with Lou Piniella’s, Mike Quade’s, Dale Sveum’s, and Rick Renteria’s managing careers at Wrigley Field as well.
That much change and overall poor baseball play was clearly not something fans were looking to invest their time or money in. In fact, I bet it’d be hard to find many casual Cubs fans who could name more than three players on the Cubs’ 2012 or 2013 roster. That’s how little the city paid attention to the team.
Cubs lineup, April 21, 2012: C: Clevenger 1B: LaHair 2B: Barney SS: Castro 3B: Stewart LF: DeWitt CF: Mather RF: DeJesus SP: Maholm
— Jeff Sullivan (@based_ball) April 21, 2015
You could say that all changed with the arrival of Kris Bryant this year. So I’ll say it. All of that changed with the arrival of Kris Bryant this year.
Before this season began, the hype surrounding this team was higher than it’s been in a while. Cubs fans were coming out of the woodwork, so to speak, as the news surrounding the team and its prospects made its rounds throughout the country.
It’d been known that Theo and Jed had been collecting top prospects via trades and the draft, but it was tough to speculate–at least in the early days–of when those prospects would be ready to compete at a major league level.
The first taste that Cubs fans got of the firepower that Cubs management was going to bring up was in 2011 with the arrival of Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo was a guy who was drafted by Epstein’s Boston Red Sox and then traded to Jed Hoyer’s San Diego Padres. So it was clear that when both men came to form their dynamic duo in Chicago, Rizzo would be their first piece in a long rebuilding puzzle.
But even the appearance of Rizzo wasn’t enough to grab the attention of many Cubs fans. The team was still dealing with Alfonso Soriano’s rising contract and declining play and other players left over from the teams of 2008 and 2009.
There was still a lot of work to be done by Cubs management and there was still a lot of waiting to be done by Cubs fans.
And while waiting a couple more years for a competitive team when you’ve been waiting for more than a 100 years to see a championship doesn’t seem like a lot, fans were getting restless, and it was showing in their attendance.
Now, we fast-forward to March of 2015. Spring Training was winding down and talk of all the Cubs’ prospects that might be called up during the season was intensifying. For the first time in a few years, season previews didn’t have the Cubs finishing dead last in the N.L. Central and some even had them making the playoffs as a Wild Card team.
The hype surrounding the team was certified when the news came out that the Cubs would be bringing their star prospect and messiah, Kris Bryant, up in the middle of April. Bryant’s success in the minors is well documented and people were even calling for him to be brought up at the end of last season.
Despite the delay, when he was brought up April 17th, it might as well have been Kris Bryant Day in Chicago. Tickets for the game tripled in value, and SportsCenter gave him the LeBron James/Tim Tebow treatment for a day.
Cubs baseball was in the forefront of the days’ sporting news.
People are invested.
And for the first time in a long time, people are optimistic.
C: Schwarber 1B: Rizzo 2B: Baez SS: Russell 3B: Castro LF: Bryant CF: Alcantara RF: Soler It’s coming. And it’s going to be awfully scary. — Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 17, 2015
Just look at that potential lineup. Unreal. Not only are the Cubs reeling their fans back in, but suddenly, they’re grabbing the attention of the whole country. This squad has suddenly become a must-watch team for any baseball fan.
If only to add the cherry on top of this Cubs-hype cake, management announced that they are calling up top prospect Addison Russell up to play his first game on the road in Pittsburgh tonight. Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant and now Addison Russell. The floodgates that were closed for so long are finally opening and gold is spilling out.
Of course, at the end of the day, the Cubs need to get wins to keep the excitement and optimism going. A new coach, new prospects and new Wrigley renovations by no means guarantee a World Series, let alone a playoff appearance.
It’s true, we can have conversations all day on how possible it is that that future lineup becomes a reality and what the Cubs are going to do to solidify a strong pitching rotation, but at this point none of that matters, and that’s the hidden beauty of it all.
Amid all the new prospects and new renovations, there’s a new air surrounding this Cubs organization. An air of hopefulness. Fans are on board with this team after having nothing to be excited about during the past five seasons.
Suddenly, watching Cubs games no longer feels like a chore, it’s now a window to watch–front-row–the development of a potentially historic team.
No longer will Cubs fans’ eyes immediately dart to the bottom of the N.L. Central standings when reading the paper.
No longer will Cubs fans be rooting for the Justin Bieber of the MLB.
2015 has an air of opportunity and the Cubs and, most importantly, their fans, are eager to breathe it all in.
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