Looking Ahead to the 2017 Cubs

tony angiuli cubs

With a softly hit ground ball to third base, an illuminating smile on the face of one of the best young players in the game and a perfect throw across the diamond, a 108 year old curse was broken.

And after a quick and tidy parade through the city that drew crowds of a fairly considerable size, the Windy City finally, at long last, had a championship baseball team.

For most people–really almost everyone–this was the first time that the Commissioner’s Trophy had made its way to Chicago (the good part of Chicago, at least). It was a historical moment that few will ever forget–it has been written about thousands of times on thousands of blogs (including my own), and will continue to be written about for quite some time. People are basking in the glow emanating from the reflection of the trophy, and for good reason. It had, after all, been 108 years–generations of Cubs fans have come and gone without seeing a team win a World Series, and few of us are interested in letting it get that far again.

Fortunately, looking at the team the Cubs are fielding, we won’t have to wait much longer to see another.

Few things can kill a team’s postseason hopes faster than the loss of star players–be it through free agency, trades or injury.

The man who threw the final pitch of the 2016 season, Aroldis Chapman, falls into the first of those three camps, having been signed to a five year deal by the Yankees.

The loss of a closer–particularly one as dominant as Chapman, can be debilitating. But the Cubs determined they’d quickly right that ship, trading Jorge Soler for incredibly underrated relief asset Wade Davis.

Though the Chapman–Davis swap likely won’t hurt the Cubs much (Davis is an All-Star and has two top 8 Cy Young finishes in the last 3 years), the loss of Soler and Dexter Fowler–who left via free agency–will affect the Cubs outfield and lineup.  

Fortunately, those losses won’t hurt the Cubs too badly, as the wealth of young farm talent on the team is more than enough to make up for any holes. Ben Zobrist could slide into an outfield role to replace Fowler, while Javier Baez–one of the numerous playoff heroes for the Cubbies–can take his spot at second. Albert Almora, another young talent can also provide outfield depth with a now-healthy Kyle Schwarber and Jayson Heyward playing the corner spots.

The overwhelmingly young Cubs roster isn’t just primed to play well next year, it’s in a great position to do so for years to come. Move over Yankees, there’s a new powerhouse team in Major League Baseball.

The 7 Best Things To Come From The Cubs’ World Series Win

Holy Cow!!! We did it! That is, after over 100 years of trying and failing, the Cubs managed to land the World Series title and we, they’re loyal fans, were able to witness it together. I tell you, never before had I wanted so badly to be in Wrigley Field for a game! Fortunately, I had my dad and the rest of our Chicago transplant family to keep me company all the way down in Florida.

The last time the Cubs won the World Series was in 1908. The last time the Cubs appeared in the World Series was 1945. It’s been over 108 years since we won and over 71 years since we’ve made an appearance. Not only did we take the Series, but we did so with the best regular-season record in the MLB. Wow.

But the magic of November 2, so greatly exceeds just that night. It spreads into a number of moments that have happened and will keep on happening until the Cubs get their next World Series title. Looking back on that fateful night, I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite moments.

 

Bill Murray

For whatever reason, there’s no other figure that looms quite as large in the Chicago spotlight as Bill Murray. He’s our funny guy, our comedian, but he’s also our guide, our mentor, our guru, our patron saint. Getting to watch Bill Murray’s reaction to the Cubs game was almost as good as getting to watch the Cubs win in and of itself.

Afterward when Ben Zobrist won MVP of the year, Bill started honking the horn of the MVP’s prize:

In what just might be my favorite interview ever, a drunk Bill Murray spoke with a drunk Theo Epstein in the Cubs locker room. And they sprayed each other with champagne.

I’m so glad I got to watch the Cubs win the World Series, and I’m so glad that Bill Murray was there to make it even more magical.

The Parade

The city threw a massive parade, which more than a million people attended. How cool is that? Check out the photos! It’s pretty crazy.

Chicago Cubs rally

Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune

The Cubs on SNL

The Saturday after the Cubs made history, Rizzo, Ross, Fowler, and honorary Cubbie Bill Murray made an appearance on SNL. Although these guys didn’t crack to many jokes themselves, they did do a funny rendition of  “Go Cubs Go.” If anything, their performances were a little awkward and they’re singing was a little strained, but the whole entire bit was made more endearing because of it. It was a ton of fun to see them on the SNL set. A truly surreal moment. Almost as surreal as the next one.

Hamilton and the Cubs

I’ll be honest. I don’t know too much about “Hamilton”, other than that it’s been a big success and very influential to a number of people. The play originated in New York, but recently started a run in Chicago. The day after we clinched the Series, the cast sang “Go Cubs Go”. Even with little knowledge of “Hamilton”, it’s just great to see such a big, internationally renown play celebrate the Cubs. The fact the actors are singing the song in 18th century garb is an added plus.

Apparently, the Chicago Cubs have their own musical in the works.

Awards Awards Awards

Jason Heyward won his fourth Golden Glove Award, Anthony Rizzo won his first Golden GloveAward, and Theo Epstein won The Sporting News MLB Executive of the Year. Boom!

This Song

Looking through Cubs highlights online, I randomly came across this video. I was totally blown away. The song, written and performed by Katie Day, is beautiful on its own. But what really carries the tune to a whole other level is the video, which combines footage from SnapChat, the news, and more of people reacting to the Cubs win all across the world (but mainly in Chicago).

The Community

All of the above is great, but what really makes the World Series such an unforgettable event is the people in our lives. I’ll never forget being able to watch Game 7 with my Dad and the rest of the family, and how after so many years we were able to witness the impossible together.

What was your World Series win like? Were you with friends or family? Did you watch the game solo from a bar in the middle of nowhere? Did you end up just streaming from your laptop while your living mates caught up on West World? Whatever your story is,  I’d love to know. Feel free to drop me a line in the comments below.

Journalists Believe in the Chicago Cubs and You Should Too

You know your team is doing pretty well when the press keeps talking about how they’re going to take the World Series. Such is the case with the Cubs. But these aren’t just empty sweet nothings. The club has had an awe-inspiring season, which is totally deserving of praise.

Below are some of the glowing headlines that I’ve encountered over the past season, all of which express a belief in something great ahead for the Cubs. (I won’t say what.)

Believe in the Chicago Cubs - Tony Angiuli Florida

Cubs’ incredible Game 4 comeback gets even better with age

“…the Cubs did something in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, in that moment, that it has taken us a while to process. But now we know exactly what we saw.”

10/13/16 | ESPN.com

These Cubs curl up in the warm embrace of World Series expectations

“It might be silly to declare “World Series or bust” for a team that hasn’t won the pennant since 1945 or the World Series since 1908, but that sentiment reverberates from every corner of the Cubs clubhouse.”

10/13/16 | USA Today

It’s World Series Or Bust For The Chicago Cubs

“The Chicago Cubs are looking to break a curse that is more than a century old.”

10/7/16 | Forbes

Young Cubs soar past all expectations, caution flags

“The one caution coming from the front office was that ‘all progress is not linear,’ especially with the Cubs’ young players. In other words, some of these kids might take a step backward this year before going forward again.

That didn’t happen.”

9/26/16 | Chicago Daily Herald

Curses Don’t Exist: The Chicago Cubs Are Winning the 2016 World Series

“I’ll tell you what’s happening: The Chicago Cubs are winning the 2016 World Series. It’s happening because, again, curses aren’t real. It’s happening because the Cubs have been on an absolute tear all season and only seem to be getting better. ”

9/6/16 | The Ringer

Larry Bowa: Cubs Should Win World Series This Season

“It was 32 years ago this month that the Chicago Cubs set the city a blaze with pennant fever for the first time since 1969.”

8/23/16 | CBS Chicago

5 Reasons Chicago Should Still Be World Series Favorites

“Chicago fans are used to the Cubs choking and struggling after promising starts. There is a reason that the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908. Even though their team is struggling now, there is no reason to expect the struggles to continue and end their World Series chances.”

7/20/16 | Inquisitr.com

An Irresistible Force Rises in Chicago

“The 2016 Cubs might actually be able to end the franchise’s immovable title drought — and emerge as the best team in baseball history”

6/7/16 | The Ringer

The Chicago Cubs and the New Baseball

“The longtime losers are now the preseason favorites—a sign of how the smartest teams have become the best ones.”

6/3/16 | The Atlantic

 

Journalists the world-over are feeling the Chicago enthusiasm. So, who’s to say they won’t be able to win it? Yes, I’m knocking on wood.

Let’s go get’em Cubbies!

 

Tony Angiuli

An Ode to Kerry Wood

If you were to catch a Cubs Game at Wrigley Field sometime in 1998 or sometime between 2000 and 2008 or sometime between 2010 and 2012, chances are that you had the opportunity to catch the amazing Kerry Wood doing what he does best: pitching. Nicknamed Kid K (a play on his first name and the letter used to statistically denote a strikeout), Kerry Wood was a force to be reckoned with. His renown as an adept pitcher would often cause crowds of fans to launch into boisterous chants of “Kerry, Kerry, Kerry”. In some games, you could even see fans expectantly counting Kerry’s strikeouts with big “K” cards.

Kerry Wood "K" signs - Daily Herald

Daily Herald

It all started when in a 1998 game against the Houston Astros. It was a rainy, drizzly day. For the Astros, it must have felt a heck of a lot rainier. Kerry pitched a 20-strikeout game, with no walks. The Astros only got one hit in the whole freaking game. And this was Wood’s fifth MLB start. To this day, Wood’s 20-strikeout performance is unprecedented (barring the Roger Clemens’ record). As the saying goes, the candle that burns twice as bright, burns out twice as quickly. In August of that same year, Wood was on the disabled list with elbow trouble.

Still, Kerry Wood’s performance against the Astros and other teams was more than enough to earn him the title of National League Rookie of the Year.

The Chicago Cubs' Kerry Wood leaves the field pumped up after getting out of a jam in the 12th inning against the Brewers.

Daily Herald

In 2000, Wood returned to active duty. In his first game back, fate put him once again against the Astros. Wood didn’t disappoint. He managed to hit a two-run homer and pitch 6 great innings. Unfortunately, the year-plus on the bench had taken a toll on his form. He did alright, but it definitely was not nearly as head-turning as his 1998 season.

2001 was a rough year for Kerry, but a good year for the Cubs. Then, 2002 was a good year for Kerry, but a rough year for the Cubs. In 2003, both entities seemed to be aligned. On top of having a great season, Kerry managed to get the Cubs to the National League Championship Series. But in Game Seven, Wood fell into a downward spiral. It seemed that everything he threw was getting hit to the outfield. The loss wasn’t entirely his fault, but he definitely took a lot of blame on his shoulders, something that has endeared him to a lot of Cubs fans to this day.

Kerry Wood - MyCubsToday.com

MyCubsToday.com

He stayed with the Cubs till 2008, after which point he moved onto the Cleveland Indians and eventually the Yankees. He then came back in 2011-2012 with the promise of being a Cubs for life. Although he never re-achieved his 1998 glory. Kerry Wood stands out as a great pitcher and a die-hard Cubbie, among the ranks of Ernie Banks, Aaron Aronson, and (despite his unpopularity after the doping scandal) Sammy Sosa.

Tony Angiuli

Two of the Greatest Chicago Cubs Players of All Time

The Chicago Cub have always been at team of both talented and likable players. That’s not to say that we haven’t had our fair-share of curmudgeons and flops, but by-in-large, each generation of players has yielded an impressive array of Cubbies. Amongst all of those golden players, a couple standout as going above in beyond both in performance and character.

Adrian Anson (1876-1897)

Adrian Anson is a Cubs legend. He played with the Cubs before they even became the Cubs. At the dawn of the National League, Anson stood out as a remarkable player on the Chicago Whitestockings. So much so that when the team wasn’t doing so well during the 1879 season, the president of the club (Al Spalding), named Anson Team Captain (hence “Cap” Anson) and Player Manager. During that time, the team was referred to as Anson’s Colts, before becoming the Colts, the Orphans, and then the Chicago Cubs in 1902. To this day, Anson is the Cubs’ all-time leader in hits, singles, doubles, RBI’s and runs. In fact, Anson had such good control of the bat that in the 1878 season he only struck out once and in the 1879 season he only struck out twice.

Adrian Anson in 1907

Anson was a natural leader who many of his fellow players looked up to. When the many of the backers of the Chicago cubs pulled out, Anson invested his own funds to keep the team going. Anson had his fair share of character flaws (he was an outspoken racist and was known to be particularly strong-headed) but his dedication to the sport are legendary.

Ernie Banks (1953-1971)

Ernie Banks just might be the most exemplary Cub in the history of the team. Unlike other players, he dedicated his whole entire Major League Baseball career to working with the Chicago Cubs. Before he was a Cubbie, Ernie Banks spent time playing for the Kansas City Monarch in the the Negro League and spent two years of military service. In a time where baseball was still segregated so that the likes of the Negro League still existed, Ernie Banks defied boundaries.

Baseball Cub of Ernie Banks

At the age of 22 he started playing for the Cubs. He managed to win two MVP Awards (1958 and 1959), pulled some amazing stats in the 1950s, and transitioned into a a player-coach role in the 1960s. In 1977, Banks was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame; in 1999, Banks was added to the roster of the MLB’s All-Century team; in 2008, a statue of Ernie Banks was unveiled in front of Wrigley Field; in 2009 the Library of Congress designated Banks as a Living Legend, and in 2013, Banks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to the sport.

Sculpture of Mr. Cub in front of Wrigley Field

“Mr. Cub”

But Banks made contributions to society that existed well beyond baseball as well. He founded the Ernie Banks Live Above and Beyond Foundation to help underprivileged seniors and children get access to palliative care programs that they wouldn’t otherwise have. Long after his career with the Cubs, Banks remained an active voice in the Chicago scene.

His dedication to baseball, to the Cubs, and to the city make Ernie Banks one of the greatest cubs of all time.

 

I plan on covering more great Chicago Cubs players in future posts. Any thoughts? Let me know on Twitter @AnthonyAngiuli.

Upset that Sammy Sosa isn’t on this list. Don’t worry, I wrote a whole other piece dedicated to him.

Thanks for reading!

Tony Angiuli

An Ode to Sammy Sosa

In 1998, Chicagoans from all walks of life had their eyes on one sports figure. “Slammin” Sammy Sosa was a baseball player of epic proportions. When Sammy Sosa first signed on with the Cubs through a trade with the Sox back in 1992, there wasn’t too much fanfare about him joining the roster. By the end of the 1993 season, people knew Sosa as a force to be reckoned with. By 1997 he had earned a reputation as a home run hitter. In 1998 he had a famous home run derby with St. Louis’ Mark McGwire and stoked the flames of one of Chicago’s greatest sports rivalries.

Sammy Sosa up to bat for Chicago Cubs - Tony Angiuli

Even, all the way down in Florida I felt the pull of his influence.

Although I was born in Chicago, I moved with my family down to Florida when I was four years old. I was 6 years old when Sosa started playing for the Cubs. Although I watched games with my family, I had more important things on my mind, like my studies at pre-school and playing with toys.

But it seemed that as I grew up, Sosa grew to be a larger and larger figure in my life. For starters, if I try really hard, I can recall a lot of fanfare about Sammy Sosa being a 30-30 player (30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a single season) in 1993. Something that’s a bit easier for me to recall is when Sosa again managed to be a 30-30 player in 1995.

Before long, I was glued to the TV whenever a Cubs game would come on. My favorite baseball player, and even sports player in general, was Sammy Sosa. He was hitting an average of 30-40 home runs a season and for anyone who watches baseball, home runs are the equivalent of advanced pyrotechnics. They’re feats of super human strength. Particularly if you’re a kid, home runs are soooooo cool.


Metropolis could keep their Super Man. Chicago had Sammy Sosa.

In 1998, a super villain emerged to counter Chicago’s super hero (maybe super rival is more accurate, but in the melodrama of a child’s perspective on sports, McGwire was a villain). The two competed to see who could get the most home runs. At first McGwire had the lead, but it eventually became a grueling back-and-forth. Although both ended up beating the previous home run record 0f 63, McGwire landed 70…while Sosa only scored 66. It was a tough blow, but we still had hope.

In 1999, Sosa and McGwire again went head to head. Again, McGwire took the lead with 65, while Sammy Sosa trailed behind by 2 with 63. But trailing behind by 2 was a lot better than trailing behind by 4. Things were getting better. It was only a matter of time before our hero Sosa would win!

In 2000, Sammy managed to net the highest amount of home runs in the league. His total of 50 was not nearly as head-turning as his previous score, but it was still impressive achievement, especially so, because it beat McGwire’s total of 32 HR.

In retrospect, I realize these home run match-ups were just as lucrative for the wallets of the baseball clubs as it was for the spirits of fans. But there’s no way that they can take away from the sense of investment that I, my family, and so many other baseball fans felt.

Although Sammy Sosa still performed well, his career slowly wound down in the next several years, with the coup de grace being the cork-bat scandal that he was found not guilty of. Then in 2005, he suffered a back injury that really took its toll on his play, and by that time it seemed that Sosa was ready to move on. When he was traded to the Orioles in 2005, it was a blow, but it was something that seemed at that point inevitable.

Sammy Sosa was more than an amazing player, he was a figure that united a team and a city around him.

The Three Biggest Cubs Rivalries

After years of living in Florida, my loyalty still lies withthe Chicago Cubs. And it looks like the Cubbies are having one heck of a 2016 season.

Chicago Cubs Logo - he 3 Biggest Chicago Cubs Rivalries by Tony Angiuli

As of last night, they’ve won 19 of their last 22 road games, recently scoring a 16-0 game against the Cincinnati Reds (for a 6-1 total against the reds this season). But the Reds have never been to big of a challenge for the Cubs. When it comes to rivalries there are a few teams that have consistently been tough opponents throughout the history of the Cubs. Here’s a look at the Big Three:

Milwaukee Brewers (The 1-95 Rivalry)

Milwaukee and Chicago are only 80ish miles apart form one another, which means that in tight games, fans from either city can flock to the respective stadium. The Brewers have kicked Chicago’s butts the past decade and managed to win a Division title (where the Cubs  have not), but the Cubs recently gave them a run for their money in the 2015 season. Although the two teams are rivals, the truth is that most Chicago fans save their animus for the Sox and the Cardinals. More than anything, the Cubs and the Brewers have a lot in common. Aside from them being midwest teams, the two have both gone a long while without a World Series Championship. Despite the opinions of some, I’d say the two still have a rivalry going.

Chicago White Sox (The Cross-town Rivalry)

Hailing from the same city means nothing to the Sox and Cubs rivalry. More than anything, it exacerbates it. The Cubs have their territory in the northern picturesque territory of Wrigleyville. The Sox are located in the South Chicago area of Bridgeport. We both have our unfair stereotypes for one another. Sox fans accuse Cubbies of being wealthy frat boys. Cubbies accuse the White Sox of being a mega-star team that doesn’t give a lick about tradition (think Yankees vs. Mets meets Yankees vs. Red Sox). The White Sox have more recently won a World Series and have consistently performed better than the cubs, but they recently change the name of their field from Comiskey Park to US Cellular One Field (yuck!). To make matters worse, when it comes to head-to-head games, the White Sox have a much larger advantage in terms of wins. Ultimately, it’s a friendly rivalry. We’re fortunate to have two great teams in our city that speak to so many people. Just don’t expect many people to say that out loud.

St. Louis Cardinals (The Route 66 Rivalry)

Separated by 297 miles, the Cubbies and the Cardinals are perhaps the hottest rivalry in Cubs History. There are a number of factors that contribute to this: both teams are fierce, the fact that both states share the same state bird, the fact that the Cardinals Sportscaster Harry Caray switched sides to become a Cubs icon, etc. But I personally will point my finger at the Sammy Sosa/Mark McGwire rivalry. The two squared off in a 1992 home run derby of sorts where Mark McGwire took the prize for single-season home run record. Although things cooled down in the years following the departure of those historical players, analyst predict that the rivalry will flare up this season.

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