Fall officially began on Wednesday but the baseball season still has excitement in store. The Blue Jays took two-out-of-three from the Yankees leaving New York three back in the AL East entering play on Thursday. The Royals have lost closer Greg Holland to an elbow injury but are otherwise setting their lineup for the playoffs. The Texas Rangers have taken over the AL West putting the Astros chances of reaching October in jeopardy:
a�� Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) September 24, 2015
The Washington Nationals are still looking up at the New York Mets who are preparing to celebrate in the traditional style:
While the Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t been able to topple the St. Louis Cardinals, they are going into the playoffs. They’ll be joined in the wild card game by the Chicago Cubs. In the NL West, the two Dodgers acesa��Kershaw and Greinkea��will be making their final starts and plays for the NL Cy Young award as they put their records against Cubs starter Jake Arrieta.
Cubs No Longer the Goat
It’s been a long time coming for the Chicago Cubs but things have hardly looked better in a century. Or at least since 2003 when the team had Kerry Wood and Mark Prior as their shining glimpses of the future.
This time around it’s another group of youngsters carrying the Cubs: Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Kyle Schwarber. At 25, Rizzo is the old man of the bunch. His .282/.392/.522 and 30 homers pace the team, as do his 155 hits. Russell, 21, acquired just last season from the Oakland A’s in the Jeff Samardzija deal, has already begun to contribute playing second base and shortstop. Third baseman Kris Bryant, in the NL Rookie of the Year running, has shown off his power: 26 home runs and 30 doubles build his .276/.369/.501 performance.
And then there’s Kyle Schwarber. The catcher and, thanks to a Miguel Montero resurgence, outfielder has hit 16 home runs in his first 61 games in the majors as part of a .243/.347/.510 season.
The work of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer has been impressive. What was a large rebuilding project has gone swimmingly. Prospects were drafted or traded for and reached the majors. Others, like Jake Arrieta, were acquired after their prospect status. Arrieta was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in a package largely consisting of Scott Feldman. Last year he finished ninth in Cy Young voting and this season, with a 1.88 ERA in 216 innings he’s right up there with Kershaw with a shot at taking home the prize himself.
Jon Lester, the Cubs big offseason acquisition, got off to a slow start but his season has been solid as wella��marked by a 3.46 ERA in 190 innings while striking out just over one batter per inning.
And of course, the Cubs have a mastermind running the team on the field: Joe Maddon. The former Tampa Bay Rays manager was brought to the Cubs exactly for this type of scenario. Just like in Tampa he’s bringing young players into the majors and helping them win. While contributions made by managers are more difficult to evaluate than player statistics, Maddon has shown his skill through the years in Tampa working with a shoestring budget and now in Chicago where he has more to work with but still needs to turn the parts given to him by the GM into a team.
Is this their year? Maybe. But if it’s not, it very well could be the first of many competitive years for the Cubs and their fans to relish.