Time to party like it’s 2008.
The Chicago Cubs find themselves in the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons and Cubs fans everywhere, including myself, are rejoicing. Whether or not you believe the old Back to the Future prediction will come true, you have to admire the Cubs quick turnaround.
Although the Chicago Cubs haven’t quite lived up to the extraordinary expectations set for them by Anthony Rizzo prior to the season, they have played some exceptional baseball and clinched the coveted second wild card spot, despite being in the toughest division in the MLB.
The last time the Chicago Cubs made it to the playoffs, Barack Obama hadn’t taken office yet, Jason Bay had 100 RBIs, and Jay Cutler started 16 games for the Denver Broncos.
Clearly some things have changed since then. The Cubs lineup is completely revamped. Jake Arrieta will be taking the mound instead of Ryan Dempster and the infield trio of Derrek Lee, Mark DeRosa, and Ryan Theriot has been replaced by Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, and Starlin Castro.
Also, Aramis Ramirez has swapped Cubbie blue for Pirate gold (one last time) and will now play against the team he was a part of for nine seasons.
The stage is quite different this time around, too. It’s a one game playoff, “do or die” style scenario, much different from the best of five divisional series against the Dodgers in 2008 (don’t get me started on Manny Ramirez), which ended quickly for Chicago.
So will history repeat itself? Are the Cubs destined for more playoff failure?
I don’t think so.
This set of players is significantly better than the squad assembled in 2008. They have youthful talent all across the diamond. Every player can change the game in some way; Dexter Fowler has his speed, Kris Bryant has his power, and Kyle Schwarber has his clutch gene. Not to mention that Jake Arrieta has been on a ROLL as of late.
Of course matching up against Gerrit Cole is no easy task. Cole has had a great season and might be in Cy Young contention if it wasn’t for other impressive seasons from pitchers like Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and the aforementioned Jake Arrieta. Cole has eclipsed 200 strikeouts for the first time in his young career, but doesn’t exactly have the best record against Cubs batters. Six Cubs (with multiple plate appearances vs. Cole) have an average over .300 facing Cole.
With the type of momentum Arrieta has been carrying since early August, the unique set of talented rookies in the Cubs lineup, and the overall desire to snap a 107-year World Series drought, the Chicago Cubs have everything they need to topple the Pirates.