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2016 NL Central Preview: Chicago Cubs

April 2, 2016

Cubs

The Cubs will always be the Cubs until they’re no longer the Cubs. While their performance during the 2015 season was cute, do the Cubs truly have what it takes to play Major League Baseball for the first time in 108 years? I checked in with Ivy Envy to find out.

It’s been a quiet offseason for the Stupid Cubbies. What have they done (if anything) to improve the team after being methodically swept out of the playoffs by the New York Mets?

Heading into the off-season, you expected the front office to stand pat and perhaps develop a little depth and continue looking at versatile players.  They did that, and swiped Jason Heyward and John Lackey from the Cardinals.  Heyward choosing the Cubs over the Cardinals will provide @BestFansStLouis content for years, I believe.  Some of the middle infield log-jam was resolved when Starlin Castro was traded to the Yankees, which is a move that allowed the Cubs to sign Ben Zobrist.

For the first time in years, the Cubs have a line-up that doesn’t need much tinkering and all of the pieces are in place.  This front office is not prone to overreaction and many expected the depth to be strengthened and they surprised us with a 26-year old right-fielder coming off a 6 WAR season and a veteran starting pitcher coming off a 3.5 WAR season.  And I think Reds fans can revel in Cardinals fans getting burned.

Wrigley Field, and the douche-vortex that surrounds it, is currently undergoing a huge renovation. Assuming you’ll be able to fight your way through the backwards-hat wearing bros, what’s the feature you’re most looking forward to checking out once construction is done?

The feature I’m most looking forward to is a ballpark that isn’t crumbling.  I stood in the 200-level, under the upper-deck for the last out of Game 4 of the NLDS as the Cubs eliminated the Cardinals. Looking above at the netting that is there to catch falling concrete, I hoped that the building could withstand the vibrations of the first Cubs playoff series clinching moment at Wrigley Field.  Thankfully, I survived, but without renovations, Wrigley wasn’t going to survive.

I’m also a parent and I’ve been taking my 9-year old daughter to Cubs games for 4 years.  Wrigley and the neighborhood are not exactly family-friendly.  I know the traditionalists scoff at the “Disneyfication” of the area, but I’d love to have a decent place to eat and with my kids before a game that isn’t full of the aforementioned backwards-hat wearing bros.

The Cubs teams of the 2000s were a genuinely unlikeable bunch of guys (from an outsider’s point of view). This team is different. Even a non fan like me can’t help but smile when I see these dudes play. How much does Joe Madden have to do with the culture change?

I figured most fans of other NL Central teams are sick of the zany Maddon with his zoo animals and dress-up days.  When the front office was assembling this team through the draft and signings, they frequently noted that these were “character guys”.  The result is a young team with likable players that 1) fans can relate with and 2) are pretty damn marketable.

Most Cubs fans feel that the 2015 season was the most fun season of their lives. 97 wins was completely unexpected as most of us expected a slightly over .500 season.  It wasn’t just the winning that made it fun, it was the personalities on the team and the entertaining moments that fans witnessed.

The personality of this team is quite refreshing after years of Milton Bradleys and Carlos Zambranos.

Who is your favorite current Chicago Cub, and why? Remember, Jeff Samardzija is now on the Giants.

Yes, my love for Jeff Samardzija will never die and my heart fluttered with the reports that he and Epstein had discussed a contract over dinner.  It’s hard to choose a favorite player and you could make the case for about any player on this team.  It’s really been a pleasure to watch Anthony Rizzo develop into the leader of this team, though.  The Cubs traded away pitching prospect, Andrew Cashner for an unproven Rizzo who had struggled in his short stint in the big leagues with the Padres.  We’ve seen him work through adjustments and develop into one of the best 1st basemen in baseball.  He and Starlin Castro were the only bright spots on a miserable stretch of Cubs baseball and now he’s the anchor of the team.  It also doesn’t hurt that he tried to take on Aroldis Chapman and the entire Reds bench in 2014.

Your prediction for the 2016 Stupid Cubbies.

I think the Cubs will be a better team than they were in 2015, but have a worse record.  I’ll predict 92 wins, which would hopefully earn them the NL Central.  While the playoffs are a crapshoot, I think the front office has did everything they could in the off-season to give Maddon depth and versatility. I expect them to do the same thing at the trade deadline if there’s injury or poor performance in certain areas.

Thanks again to Ivy Envy. You can listen to them blabber on about the Chicago Cubs at ivyenvy.com.

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