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Reflecting on the Players that Changed the Chicago Cubs Forever

Upon the exit of the Cubs’ big three, it’s time to reflect on what was, what happened, and where this team goes from here.

Chicago Cubs
Photo: Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The sun rose this morning. The worst weekend of most Chicago Cubs‘ fan’s lives finally came to an end. An era that will go down as the greatest era of Chicago Cubs baseball was dismantled right before our eyes. It was a weekend that most of us will remember forever. A weekend full of tears, anger, doubt, but most importantly recollection.

It was a weekend that most of us spent ingratiating ourselves with as much content as possible about the impact that Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant had on an organization that means so much to so many people. The future of the Cubs organization was Monday’s problem, the weekend was spent shedding tears about what once was and what could have been.

The Core

Words will never do justice explaining what Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant mean to Cubs fans. With that being said, it is our job to attempt to put such a profound impact into words. Anthony Rizzo meant the most, Kris Bryant was the most talented, and Javier Baez was the most exciting.

Simply put, these three human beings changed the way the entire world views the Chicago Cubs. Before they arrived, this franchise was synonymous with one thing: losing.

Anthony Rizzo was traded to the Cubs in 2012 and had to endure two 90+ loss seasons before his friend Javier Baez burst onto the scene in 2014. The knight in shining armor, Kris Bryant, then arrived in 2015 and the tide started to change. The energy around Wrigley Field was unlike any energy that had been seen on Clark and Addison before. These players were different and we knew it.

Cubs fans know what happened in 2015 and then the wondrous season that was 2016. These players were the reason there is a flag flying high above 1060 West Addison with 2016 World Series Champion on it. This is a moment in time that can never be taken from Cubs fans. It is a memory that led to expectations that ultimately could never fully be met.

The Blame

The biggest reason Cubs fans are frustrated with these moves is because they’re disappointed. Disappointment is the failure to meet expectations. Plain and simple.

Cubs fans set extremely high expectations once that 2015 season was over. It was World Series or bust from there on out. The goal was achieved in 2016. In 2017, the Cubs made the another NLCS and it looked as though this team was headed towards a potential dynasty while their star power continued to surge.

It was towards the end of 2018 that the dynasty thoughts started to fade, as the Cubs faltered down the stretch and ultimately lost to the Milwaukee Brewers in the 163rd game of the season. Following that, the Cubs then lost in the Wild Card game to the Colorado Rockies. Unfortunately, 2019 and 2020 were more of the same as the Chicago Cubs failed to live up to expectations year after year.

This bears the most important question, who is to blame for the downfall of the most successful era of Chicago Cubs baseball?

There is plenty of blame to go around but the majority of the blame belongs on the shoulders of the person who was instrumental in bringing this all together, Tom Ricketts.

Tom Ricketts came into Chicago in 2009 and slowly but surely transformed all of Wrigleyville. The stadium was renovated, the neighborhood had a makeover, the Cubs got their own TV deal, and this ultimately led to more financial flexibility for the on-field talent. The Cubs were able to attract a top notch front office while luring top notch free agents to 1060 West Addison.

It was all sunshine and rainbows while the Cubs were winning and then it seems the pocket books were slammed shut. The Cubs went from having offseasons signing the Jon Lester’s and Yu Darvish’s of the world to signing Daniel Descalso’s and Steven Souza’s. There were glaring holes that needed to be addressed year after year and it seemed the front office’s hands were constantly tied due to money constraints.

Now you may be wondering, money constraints? Aren’t the Cubs one of the most valuable franchises in the WORLD? Yes, they are the 22nd most valuable franchise on this planet with a valuation of $3.36 billion according to Forbes. This is where the frustration with ownership truly sets in for Cubs fans. The Ricketts family transformed Wrigleyville into a money printing machine, they created their own TV network, and yet the biggest offseason transaction they make is signing Daniel Descalso to a two-year, $5 million deal.

In the offseason of 2019 and 2020, coming off the two most disappointing seasons given the expectations, the Chicago Cubs spent $10.78M and $3.5M. Not to mention, the front office would make genius moves like trading for Nicholas Castellanos and then ownership would not even give them a chance to re-sign a player that could have extended the life of this core. Now COVID-19 definitely played a part in the 2020 spending, but it was quite clear at that point that Ricketts was ready to move on from this core group of players.

While spending very little on free agents, the Cubs “attempted” to re-sign these star players. “Attempted” is in quotes because they offered these three franchise legends laughable contracts, which in turn led to all three of them wearing different uniforms as you read this article.

There is also some more blame to go around. These players did not always live up to expectations. Anthony Rizzo was as consistent of a player as they come. Kris Bryant while a superstar, did have his ups and downs and spent a lot of time on the IL in the last few years. Javier Baez made us forget his many struggles at the plate with his infectious attitude and flashy glove work. These players also did not always show up when needed and were a big part of the collapses from 2018-2020.

The front office also made some questionable decisions as well. They threw too much money at Jason Heyward, Brandon Morrow, and Tyler Chatwood to name a few. Ultimately, they were tied to the financial constraints that ownership had provided them.

If we are going to throw blame percentages around, it goes as follows:

  • Ricketts Family: 90%
  • Front Office: 5%
  • Players: 5%

The Future

After all the dust has settled and we watch all these players flourish on other teams like an ex that has moved onto bigger and better things, what’s next?

There is some good news, this will not be a rebuild of epic proportions. Jed Hoyer is going all in and ripped the band aid completely off. Believe it or not, the Cubs now have a pretty formidable farm system moving forward.

It isn’t an easy pill to swallow, but at least the return for these stars now account for 30% of the Cubs top 10 prospects. Not to mention, Jed Hoyer will have just a bit of financial flexibility these next couple years.

The only way Tom Ricketts can attempt to salvage his reputation around this town is to win. He needs to allow Jed Hoyer the financial freedom that Theo Epstein was allowed in the beginning of his tenure with the Chicago Cubs. There can be no more financial excuses, that is the last thing any Cubs fan wants to hear at this point.

It is time to move on, and the quickest way to get over all of this is by putting a quality product on the field at the Friendly Confines. This does not include the exciting players that are currently on the field at the moment. Give these guys your attention, Willson Contreras, Patrick Wisdom, Nico Hoerner, and Adbert Alzolay did nothing to hurt you. As Cubs fans, it is time to put our anger towards Tom Ricketts aside and look towards the future of this organization. This is no longer a loser organization, remember that.

Thank You

Lastly, I want to take a second to thank these players.

Thank you for everything you mean to this city. You truly brought all of us happiness that we will never, ever forget. I can speak for all Cubs fans when I say we wish you all nothing but the best. Sure, it is tough to watch you all flourish wearing different uniforms, but this is no surprise to any of us. We know what type of ball players you all are, you’re the type of players you build around. It is a shame that any of you are wearing different uniforms. That is something that should have never happened, it was not supposed to end this way.

If for any reason at all you want to come back and don the Cubbie blue pinstripes, we will be here with open arms. If not, that is okay too. We understand. We will all be on our feet when you step in the batter’s box wearing different colors happily cheering for players that every single diehard fan deserves.

Thank you.

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Old & Cranky
Old & Cranky
1 month ago

There is plenty of blame to go around but the majority of the blame belongs on the shoulders of the person who was instrumental in bringing this all together, Tom Ricketts.

Blaming Ricketts is wrong. They had one of the highest payrolls and failed. The fault lies with Theo and the underperforming players. How many times did we hear Theo say they needed to make changes and he never did.

Ryan Leonard
1 month ago

Hell of an article. Thanks for putting my thoughts into words

trackback
1 month ago

[…] first series after the MLB trade deadline, which they lost 2-1 to the Washington Nationals. As if trading four star players — Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Craig Kimbrel, and Kris Bryant — […]

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