The 2021 campaign was mostly one we wish we could forget, but it was too emotional to mentally do so for Cubs fans. The Cubs traded Yu Darvish right before the new year at the end of 2020. Fans didn’t realize it yet, but it was the first of more frustrations ahead.
Almost one year later, that trade has yet to play out to a point where fans can say if the trade was successful or not, but there is a sense of hope. Perhaps we’ll feel the same soon enough about the next great Cubs team. Despite all that was bad, there were some exciting moments from this year. Check them out below.
Jon Sciambi Joins Cubs Broadcast Team
Boog Sciambi filled the hole Len Kasper left after he took the White Sox radio play-by-play position. It was a big hire for an important role. The hire was announced just a few days into the new year, meaning the Darvish trade news was still fresh. It was a breath of fresh air after seeing the Cubs trade Darvish, learning Theo Epstein stepped down as VP of Baseball Ops, and watching the club let Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester walk.
Sciambi didn’t have one particular call that sticks out this season, but he was certainly the type of name the Cubs needed after losing a staple like Kasper, who later returned to Wrigley later this summer during the Crosstown Classic and sang the seventh inning stretch.
Freeman vs. Rizzo
The month of April was not great for the Cubs. The offense was historically bad at some points, being one of the worst teams in the league in strikeouts and runs scored.
At the end of the month, the Cubs were in the midst of a blowout loss in Atlanta. David Ross needed to preserve his bullpen, so he brought out the greatest reliever of all time: Anthony Rizzo.
Freeman was 4-for-4 in the game, but that didn’t stop Rizzo from sitting the former NL MVP down on strikes.
Freeman and Rizzo are good friends, as both play first base and have been in the league for a long time. Blowouts are never fun for the losing team, but in that moment, it somewhat salvaged the night for Cubs fans and showed how fun baseball can be at times.
The Mayo Series
The Dodgers came to Wrigley Field in early May. Going into the series, the Cubs had lost seven of their last nine games entering a pivotal set against the World Series contender. In our series preview on the Cubs On Tap podcast, I said I’d eat an entire bottle of mayonnaise if the Cubs swept the Dodgers.
The boys in blue and white pinstripes must have heard me because that’s what the Cubs proceeded to do.
The Cubs swept the two seven-inning doubleheader games with a chance to sweep the series on May 5. It was a series in which fans truly began to see success from Justin Steele out of the bullpen.
The Cubs trailed 3-2 late in the game but were able to tie the ballgame in the bottom of the eighth inning behind an error and fielder’s choice.
The Dodgers took the lead in the top of the 10th inning, but a Rizzo game-tying single extended it another inning. The Dodgers took the lead again in the top of the 11th inning by one run, but the Cubs scored two in the bottom half behind Matt Duffy’s game-tying knock and Rizzo’s walk-off single en route to a series sweep.
The sweep was the beginning of the Cubs’ best month of the season, in which they won 19 games and entered June in first place in the NL Central.
I kept my word and had undoubtedly my viral moment of the year.
Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester’s Return to Wrigley
Entering the season, I marked the series with Washington in mid-May as a must-attend knowing it would be the return of Schwarber and Lester.
Schwarber had a quiet series but hit a home run in the first game of the set.
The Cubs proceeded to take three of four against the Nationals in a special and emotional series.
Patrick Wisdom’s Historic Week
It was a historic week for the Cubs’ third baseman in early June. Wisdom became one of three players to hit as many as seven homeruns in their first eight starts with a club.
Wisdom, who was called up on May 25, hit six homers during a hot streak that saw him go 10-for-23 with a 1.719 OPS. He was eventually named the NL Player of the Week.
Opening Day 2.0
I was lucky enough to be absolutely inebriated in the left field bleachers for the Cubs ‘Opening Day 2.0’ game in June. It was the first game where 100 percent of the seats were available to fans.
The Cubs trailed 5-1 early to the Cardinals but made a surging comeback behind a Joc Pederson home run and Anthony Rizzo’s 14-pitch at-bat that ended in a home run to the right field bleachers.
Of all the Cubs games I’ve attended the last 10 years, that was the first time I saw Rizzo go yard.
Bill Murray sang the seventh-inning stretch and Bears quarterback Justin Fields was also in attendance.
The Cubs went on to win 8-5 behind the offensive breakout in the middle innings and stellar pitching out of the bullpen from Keegan Thompson, Ryan Tepera, Tommy Nance, and Craig Kimbrel. It was a special day not just for Cubs fans, but all of Chicago at that point this year.
The Combined No-Hitter
The Cubs began what would eventually be a disappointing road trip, including the beginning of 11 straight losses.
Before the downfall, the Cubs opened up a West Coast road trip with a combined no-hitter behind performances from Zach Davies, Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera, and Craig Kimbrel in Los Angeles.
The Cubs won 4-0 at Dodger Stadium.
Javy Baez vs. Amir Garrett
Everyone knows the history between Javy Baez and Amir Garrett.
In late July, the latest edition of the drama lived up to the hype in what was the last memorable North Side moment for El Mago when he gave the Cubs a late walk-off victory.
It was the last home win for Baez, Bryant, and Rizzo before they were sent packing at the trade deadline.
The Michael Hermosillo Game
After mashing Triple-A pitching for most of the summer, the Cubs finally promoted outfielder Michael Hermosillo in August. The outfielder, an Ottawa native who grew up just south of the city along Interstate-80, has been a longtime Cubs fan.
Hermosillo wasted no time with the Cubs when he was promoted to the Major League squad, hitting his first home run with the Cubs a day after his promotion on August 18.
If not for injury, Hermosillo could have made a bigger impact with the Cubs the rest of the season, but nonetheless, it was a dream moment for him. Fortunately, Chicago brought him back on a one-year deal in November, so we should see him back at Wrigley Field in 2022.
The Rafael Ortega Game
It was incredibly hard to be a Cubs fan in late August this season, especially after the sell-off of the core that brought the Cubs a World Series in 2016.
There were some fun moments, however. Rafael Ortega’s offensive emergence was one of those instances. On August 23, he had a career moment he’ll never forget. It was one of many games I attended as well.
In the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie ballgame, Ortega hit lift-off and muscled one into the right field seats.
After the trade deadline, Ortega took full advantage of the opportunity that was handed to him in center field. The left-handed hitter finished 2021 with a .291/.360/.463 slash line in 330 plate appearance, good for an .823 OPS. He’s locked himself into a role with the Cubs in 2022.
Kris Bryant’s Homecoming
The Giants came to Wrigley in early September, and after the Cubs moved Kris Bryant to the Bay Area before the trade deadline, it was a series many fans circled on the calendar.
It was an emotional homecoming for not only fans, but for Bryant himself.
The playoff-bound Giants swept the Cubs in fairly easy fashion. Bryant went 4-for-12 with five runs scored and one run batted in over the course of the series.
We discussed in the offseason how Bryant could possibly return to the Cubs, but it still remains to be seen where the versatile outfielder and infielder could land come 2022.
Cubs Sign Marcus Stroman
It’s been a busy offseason for the Cubs. Jed Hoyer found his new general manager in Carter Hawkins and brought in Yan Gomes and Clint Frazier, but none of those moves got the fan reaction like the signing of right-handed pitcher Marcus Stroman.
The signing was a clear statement by the Cubs that they plan on contending in the NL Central in 2022. Stroman has quickly become a fan favorite because of his interactions on Twitter.
With the lockout currently in place, it’s hard to see exactly how much the Cubs plan on contending in 2022, but there is at least some new blood on the North Side that fans can get excited about.
New Year’s Resolutions
The year 2021 was tough all the way around. Some of our favorite players are gone. The postseason was spent at home. The Cubs were a laughing stock of baseball the last few months of the season.
On the flip side, there is hope. There is a youth movement within the organization and the future is bright. A World Series is unlikely in 2022, but there should still be a fun summer ahead for our Chicago Cubs.
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