Ranking the Chicago Cubs teams from 2010-2019 Part 2
|Saturday, November 30, 2019 7:11 PM- -|
With 2020 set to begin next season, that means it will be the start of a new decade in Cubs baseball history. As we sit and reflect on the past decade itself, although some good and some bad, we can safely say that Chicago had the most sustained success over a decade than they have had in quite some time.
Here is how I would rank the past decade's teams from No. 5 to No. 1.
No. 5 2014 team (73-89 record): Record aside, this was the pivotal year for the Cubs rebuild. With a new manager in Rick Renteria who lasted just one season, no one knew quite what to expect from the team. Yes, the Cubs may have finished in last place once again, and yes, Renteria may have lost his job to Maddon following the season, but that isn’t why this season was so important.
It was in this year when we saw the first taste of Kyle Hendricks, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler in a Cubs uniform as they burst onto the scene after the all start break to provide the team with plenty of fireworks. We also drafted Kyle Schwarber that summer and sent both the Shark and Jason Hammel to Oakland for Addison Russell. Theo could see the direction his team was heading that season and clearly meant business in terms of how to build it for the future.
No. 4 2018 team (95-68 record): This was the beginning of the end for the Cubs in this decade as multiple seasons of offensive flaws came full circle down the stretch. Despite the team battling all season long and posting the best record in the NL for five months, an offensive power outage in September caused them to lose a seven-game division lead on September first to Milwaukee in which a game 163 was needed to determine the division champ.
The Brewers took that game in Chicago to not only claim the Central and best record in NL but sent the Cubs to a critical Wild card game against Colorado. It was in that game where the hitting failed to show up yet again as the Rockies ended the Cubs a heartbreaking end to their season despite another impressive campaign under Maddon.
What the Cubs have been able to cover up and take care of for three-plus seasons was no longer working. That would translate into 2019, in which we saw what happened in the end.
No. 3 2017 team (92-70 record): The year after winning the World Series saw the Cubs endure a world series hangover as they limped into the all-star break in second place with a 46-48 record. This was certainly a season of two halves as the Cubs turned it around after the all-star break to post one of the best post all-star break records in all of MLB for the third straight season under Maddon.
With the Brewers refusing to go away, Theo elected to part ways with Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease to bring Jose Quintana in from the White Sox. This appeared to be the move to send the Cubs over the top in terms of over taking Milwaukee as Quintana looked like a solid building block to put in their rotation for years to come.
Eventually, the Cubs would put away the Brewers by seven games in the division before matching up with Washington in the NLDS. After a grueling, yet exciting five-game series, the Cubs found themselves in their third straight NLCS and second one against the Dodgers. It was the Dodgers getting the upper hand this time disposing of the Cubs 4-1 in what was a great season.
No. 2 2015 team (97-65 record): The rebuild came full circle in 2015 and it all started in the off season. From bringing back Hammel, to signing Jon Lester in FA the Cubs made it a point that they were clearly ready to take that next step forward. Bring in long time Rays manager Maddon and it appeared to be a match made in heaven.
Coming off five consecutive last-place finishes, some fans thought it would take a little bit for Maddon to connect with his players, but after seeing the Cubs hang around in third place at eight games above .500 confidence slowly began to grow as the season went on. Once the second half got underway is when the Cubs took off posting an MLB best record of 24 games above .500 following the mid-summer classic.
With the Cubs surging, the NL Central quickly became not only the most exciting, but the best division in all of baseball as the Cardinals, Pirates, and Cubs all made the postseason. St. Louis finished with 100 wins to lead the NL while the Cubs checked in with 98 and 97 wins, respectively, both of which would have won the NL East and West.
Facing off against Gerritt Cole in the Wild Card game, 22 game-winner Jake Arrieta was led by rookie Schwarber on offense solidifying his Cy Young award with a dominating 5-0 complete-game effort. That put the Cubs in the NLDS for the first time since 2008 as the Cardinals were next on the list. Led by Rookies Schwarber and Bryant along with second-year man Baez and Soler, the Cubs displayed an ungodly effort of home run power that no team has seen before in Divisional series.
Add that to a solid starting staff and lockdown bullpen, and that alone is why the Cubs were off to their first NLCS since 2003 downing the Cards 3-1. Now playing with house money, the Cubs met up with the Mets with a spot in the world series on the line. This is where the road ended for the Cubs as the Flame throwing trio of Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, and Noah Syndergaard silenced Cubs hitters to earn the 4-0 sweep to head to the World Series.
No. 1 2016 team (103-58 record): Without question, we know what the best team in this decade was, and it comes without an argument when you win a world series. Not only did they win a World Series, but it was their first title in 108 years leading the NL Central start to finish and posting the best record in the league.
From their 27-8 start to the season, all the way to the end, you could tell the Cubs were on a mission and had world series or bust on their mind. If it wasn’t for their 15-20 slide-in June through mid-July, which saw the Cubs give the Giants the best record in the league, you could have said it was a flawless campaign for this team.
However, that slide proved to be the best thing that could have happened to Chicago as Dexter Fowler was a big reason for that slide going down with a leg injury. When he went down the offense went with him, but once he returned the offense took off as they have done all season. A Glayber Torres for Aroldis Chapman deal in late July solidified the story book ending as the Cubs were heading to the post season once again.
A hard-fought NLDS against the Giants, which saw a 13-inning marathon in Game 3 followed by the greatest comeback in NLDS history in game four, had the Cubs off to the NLCS with a 3-1 series win and the Dodgers awaiting. Facing adversity and down 2-1 with the offense sputtering, it was Addison Russell coming through in-game four as his home run proved to be the difference-maker in the series as the Cubs headed back home up 3-2.
There the Cubs turned to the Professor as he outdueled Dodgers Ace Clayton Kershaw through 7 2/3 brilliant innings as the Cubs advanced to their first World Series since 1945. In a matchup for the ages, it was the Cubs and Indians set to square off as one of the two longest titles droughts in baseball was going to end. Down 3-1, it looked as if the Cubs would be going 109 years without a title.
That was until Chapman slammed the door on game five with an eight out save ahead of the monster game six from the Cubs offense as Chicago rallied back to force game seven. With Hendricks dominating once again, this time against Korey Kluber, the Cubs had a 6-3 lead with the Indians down to their final six outs. Enter Rajai Davis as his two-run shot in the eighth off Chapman was devastating as the Indians rallied back to force extra innings.
That is when the greatest 17 minutes of rain has ever occurred in a baseball game. Whether mother nature just needed to give the Cubs a break or the millions upon millions of Cubs tears began raining down from the heavens, this rain delay was everything the Cubs needed as they came out to score a pair in the 10th to take the 8-6 lead. Down to their final out after cutting the lead to 8-7, Michael Martinez hit a slow dribbler to Bryant at third as he slipped making the play, and the rest was history. The Cubs did it! 108 years of pain and suffering was over in year five of a rebuild project that Theo promised this organization.