Stay patient, ever hoping Cub fan that’s longing for a commodity competitive enough to warrant your approval. The current product at the major league level — minus a couple of key pieces — is definitely hard to be proud of.
It’s not particularly fun, either, to have limited to no success against division rivals. The recent example of Cubs debauchery came at the hands of their most hated rival, St. Louis Cardinals.
During a weekend in which the Cubs were celebrating the 1970’s, Wrigley Field was draped with fans for their three game tilt with the Cardinals. For the first time in what feels like forever, crowds of over 41,000 gathered to experience the classic Cubs-Cardinals rivalry first hand — and I was one of them on Saturday.
All weekend Cardinals fans approximately made up half of Wrigley’s fan base, as the sea of red somewhat outweighed the friendly blue. The Redbirds ended up taking two of three from the North siders in that series, but the fan experience was unlike other Wrigley Field matinees this season. The atmosphere was more electric than ever.
Roars accompanied each out recorded and chants of “Let’s go Cubbies!” rivaled those of the “Let’s go Cardinals!” variety. As I sat in the Wrigley crowd, team records were thrown out the window for this one game, as it felt like the Cubs had a certain spring in their step. It was exciting, I felt like I was back in time to 2008.
That intensity, where fans are engaged and involved in every pitch, makes Cubs game so much more enjoyable; and I know the players love it, too. Unfortunately, the poor major league product results in Wrigley Field acting as a large social gathering site to get drunk. The Cubs are looking to make ballgames meaningful again for the first time since 2009.
At the start of Epstoyer’s (Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer) reign, it was apparent that growing pains would accompany anyone invested in the Cubs’ major league team before any type of consistent success had been established.
And boy, have there been a lot of growing pains.
After accumulating over 200 losses and counting in what is going on three seasons, its sometimes hard to acknowledge the good in what is so much bad. But, through all the growing pains suffered throughout these long three years, the good is beginning to take shape and the wheels are starting to get in motion.
All the rage within Cubs fandom nowadays is the nonstop discussion of their top prospects that litter their number one overall farm system. The main question: “When will we see them up at Wrigley?”
Soon, my optimistic friend! Remember when I said the wheels are starting to get in motion? Well it’s happening now.
Jake Arrieta, who was acquired for Scott Feldman, was always considered a top talent that had the “stuff” to headline a pitching rotation. Well, after missing all of Spring training and the first month of 2014 due to injury, Arrieta is proving why scouts talked so highly of him. He’s nearly thrown a perfect game twice and boasts an ERA of 2.18 in 91 innings this season.
Sticking with pitchers, Kyle Hendricks is doing his best Greg Maddox impersonation in his first few starts as a Cub by mixing speeds and dancing around corners while pitching to contact. Hendricks has one of the more devastating change ups in the league and likes to pick his spots with a good cutter that tails away from right-handed hitters.
Expect to see more of the 25-year-old as he’s had success in the Cubs’ rotation to this point. His most recent outing was a tough luck loss to the aforementioned Cardinals on Sunday, going 6.1 innings and giving up one run on a solo homer by Matt Holliday in the first inning. Hendricks has a 2.33 ERA in 19.1 innings.
Arismendy Alcantara was called up on July 9th and created some early fireworks. The super utility man was red-hot, hitting .391 with three doubles and a home run in his first five games as a pro. Since then, Alcantara has cooled off a bit as he’s not hitting .254.
Thus far, the 22-year-old is doing well in his major league roll. He’s playing everyday, whether it’s at second base or center field. It was said that Alcantara could be moved back down after former Cub Darwin Barney arrived back from his paternity leave, but that didn’t happen and Barney was eventually designated for assignment. Alcantara is here to stay!
Wait, there’s more?
Just one level below the big league Cubs, the Iowa Cubs hold three pretty decent prospects. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them, but Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, and Javier Baez all have the potential to be the face of Cubs baseball for years.
If Bryant, Soler, and Baez continue on their torrid second half stretch, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them at Wrigley in September. They each have a chance to win a spot on the big league roster out of Spring training in 2015, and from then on, there will be no looking back.
It takes time for a master plan to come together. Sacrificing seasons in an attempt to build consistent success is extremely painful at first, but once their loaded farm system explodes at the big league level, nobody will remember 2012, 2013 or 2014.
For now, just be patient ever hoping Cubs fan. You will be rewarded with meaningful games very soon.