“It’s just different here,” the smartest man in the room once said.
From Illinois to Chicago, to Wrigleyville, all the way to the chalk lines, the energy and electricity could be felt, following the last five seasons of Chicago Cubs baseball under former President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. Some call it the best era in team history, and some are correct.
But it’s over now.
The 2020 offseason has ripped at the heartstrings of Cubs fans everywhere, beginning with Jon Lester’s departure. It continued with the news of Theo Epstein resigning, followed by the legendary broadcaster Len Kasper’s departure a few weeks later.
If that wasn’t enough, the team let World Series hero Kyle Schwarber walk. Then came the news that broke our spirits, as the new President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer traded Cy Young runner-up and fan favorite Yu Darvish for a bag of chips to the San Diego Padres.
It’s hard to put into words how loved this team was because of their successes, but it isn’t easy to look at the facts and know how much they under-achieved in 2018, 2019, and 2020. It was so hard to watch, but so hard to not be thankful for the three division titles, four playoff appearances, and of course, the culture-altering World Series championship captured on November 2nd, 2016.
So, what’s happened in the last five years? Let’s take a look back.
Chicago Cubs Schedule Results
What does the number 69 represent? No, it doesn’t represent what you’re thinking.
It’s an average number of wins the Chicago Cubs had between their final winning season (2009) and Joe Maddon’s arrival in 2015. Five straight losing seasons, including 101 losses in 2012, left Cubs fans wondering what this new Theo guy was doing anyway?
Dale Sveum, Mike Quade, Ricky Renteria managed some horrible baseball teams on the northside those seasons. But baseball works in mysterious ways.
Quietly, Epstein acquired a young Anthony Rizzo, a player he drafted to the Red Sox, from the Padres. Next, he committed highway robbery against the Baltimore Orioles, trading next to nothing for two no-name players Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. Then, Epstein traded for Addison Russell, drafted Kris Bryant, Wilson Contreras, and Kyle Schwarber.
2014 was a hard year to watch the Cubs, a team that spent much of the year in the NL Central basement. But on a warm, August 5th evening at Coors Field, a fiery shortstop prospect by Javier Baez’s name was called up. If you recall, the game went to extra innings. In the 12th inning, Baez recorded his first major league hit: A hit that traveled close to 430 feet, I might add.
Coors Field erupted with loud cheers from a crowd that was 75% Cub fans. As Cubs fans witnessed a celebration at home plate between Rizzo and Baez, the future had arrived, two players that would go on to become legends in the city of Chicago, two years down the road.
Time For 2015
A year that began with tears over the loss of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, went on to be one of the most exciting summers on the corner of Clark and Addison.
Any other season, the Cubs capture another division crown. But 2015 was a different animal, which made it the second most memorable in my lifetime. The Cubs nearly flipped their record from the previous year, finishing 97-65 and third in the division. Let’s start in April, shall we?
Normally, injuries are a bad thing, but an injury to Cubs third baseman Mike Olt ended up blessing the Cubs with Kris Bryant’s debut. He was a full-blown star from day one, finishing with 26 home runs, key postseason knocks, and eventually ran away with the 2015 NL Rookie of The Year.
Jake Arrieta won 22 games that year. 22 games! I know wins don’t define how good pitchers are, but Arrieta was untouchable that year. Every time Jake took the mound, the atmosphere was different. In the second half of the regular season, he posted the lowest ERA of any pitcher in the history of major league baseball before winning the NL Cy Young. He also tossed his first no-hitter in a Cubs uniform against the Dodgers.
At every turn, the Cubs were must-see TV. The most exciting team in baseball continued to show the world they were the real deal.
The Cubs had a scorching September that year, winning 19 games and clinching their ticket to the postseason. Behind the best pitcher in baseball, they traveled to PNC Park to take on the Pirates.
Pirates fans were just as fired up to be back in the playoffs. They finished one game ahead of the Cubs in the standings, and emotions were high. Then came a moment and a quote that will live on as the most stone-cold statement in team history.
Before taking the hill, Jake Arrieta responded to the trash talk of Pirates fans with, “whatever helps keep your hope alive, just know, it doesn’t matter.”
It didn’t matter. Arrieta took the mound and performed for ages. One of the greatest pitching performances in the history of MLB playoffs, an 11 strikeout shutout of the Buccos to send the Cubs into the NLDS.
Then came a matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Cubs continued to roll. Behind a record-setting amount of home runs, including the famous scoreboard shot from Kyle Schwarber, they defeated the Cardinals in four games. To make it even sweeter, it was the first playoff series-clinching win in Wrigley Field history.
2016: It Got Even Better
Instead of finishing in third place in the division, the Cubs took home the Central Division crown and won 103 games under Joe Maddon in his second season. The team got off to a scorching start to the regular season and never looked back.
The Cubs’ starting rotation dominated in 2016. Kyle Hendricks led the majors with a 2.13 ERA and was a finalist for the Cy Young. Towards the end of the season, Hendricks was being compared to MLB legend Greg Maddux because of his command and domination with a low velocity.
Arrieta followed up his Cy Young award with 18 wins, while Jon Lester posted a 2.44 ERA and was the ace of the postseason. No other rotation came close to the numbers those three put up in 2016.
Kris Bryant took another step forward, winning the NL’s MVP award, posting the third-highest WAR at 7.7 and hit .307 in the postseason. Anthony Rizzo continued to be Mr. Consistent, taking home another Gold Glove award and belting 32 regular-season home runs.
When it came to the postseason, each series became more and more thrilling. It began with a comeback victory in game four against the Giants when the Cubs rallied to score four runs and take the lead in the series-clinching game. Key knocks from Zobrist, Contreras, and the go-ahead single from Baez were among the most thrilling innings of baseball the team has ever played. Aroldis Chapman came in and shut it down in the 9th, and the Cubs moved on to the NLCS.
The NLCS featured tons of home runs from both sides, but the home run no one will ever forget was Miguel Montero’s go-ahead grand slam in game one. It was described as the loudest Wrigley Field has ever been, and it was the moment everyone knew this team had what it took to be champions. Oh, and Dexter Fowler followed it up with a solo shot of his own.
That series featured a red-hot Kris Bryant and a fearless Javier Baez, who even stole home in game one to put them up 3-0.
Following back-to-back shut out losses, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell brought the offense back in games four and five before the team returned home for game six.
In-game six, behind a dominant start from Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs never looked back, and they won their first pennant since 1945.
It was time for the World Series. Corey Kluber dominated game one, but the Cubs would receive clutch hits from Bryant and Rizzo in game two to tie the series. The home runs just kept coming from the Indians in games three and four, as they took both games relatively easily.
Game six had every fan sweating through shirt after shirt. The famous Chapman three-inning save, as he entered in the seventh inning and did not allow a run the rest of the way. The Cubs captured a World Series win at home, and the series was 3-2 in favor of the Indians and headed back to Cleveland.
Game six began with a solo shot from Kris Bryant but will forever be remembered by the grand slam hit by Addison Russell to blow the game wide open. The Cubs took game six easily, and it was onto game seven behind Kyle Hendricks.
Hendricks was masterful, but the Cubs baserunning won them the game. Bryant tagging on a short pop-up to score, Albert Amora tagging in the tenth inning to move up to the second base, etc. Asides from extra innings, the two unforgettable moments are Dexter Fowler’s lead-off shot to start the game and the infamous two-run home run by Rajai Davis off of Chapman to tie the game late.
It was time for extra innings. The Cubs put up two runs in the tenth, thanks to two of the most clutch hits in franchise history. Ben Zobrist’s double down the line and a single by Miguel Montero ended up being the game-winning RBI.
The Cubs had finally won it all.
2017-2020 A Similar End To All Three
Another division title for the Cubs in 2017, following a 92-70 regular-season record. This was another great season for the Cubs, but the Milwaukee Brewers were hot on their tails after Christian Yelich.
The Cubs went on to have another thrilling playoff series, which was against the Washington Nationals. The Cubs took game one in shut out fashion, watching their closer Wade Davis shut the door as he did all season long.
Game two was going great until Carl Edwards Jr. continued his struggles and gave up the game-tying two-run shot to Bryce Harper. The Cubs bullpen could not get out of that dreaded eighth inning, and Ryan Zimmerman cranked the go-ahead three-run shot. The Nats took game two.
Game three was dominated by Max Scherzer, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Zobrist broke it up, and Almora tied it up. A bloop single by Rizzo gave the Cubs the lead, and that bad man Wade Davis shut the door.
The Nationals took game four and set-up a thrilling game five.
Rizzo knocked in the game’s first tally before Daniel Murphy tied things up. The big blow came off the bat of Michael A. Taylor, who smacked a three-run homer off Hendricks.
A wild pitch and a two-run double by Russell gave the Cubs the lead on Scherzer. The two teams would trade runs for the next several innings before Wade Davis came in and struck out Bryce Harper to send the Cubs to their third straight NLCS. Their quest to repeat would end against the Dodgers, who got their revenge and lost to Houston in the World Series.
2018, 2019, and 2020 were similar seasons. The Cubs won 95 games in 2018, but their offense completely failed them in September. The infamous game 163 against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field cost them a chance for their third straight division title and instead put them in the wild card round to play the Rockies.
That game was a disaster. The Cubs managed one run, an RBI single off the Javier Baez bat, and lost 2-1 in 13 innings. The Rockies were moving on, and the Cubs went home way too soon.
2019 started great. The Cubs had a multi-game lead in the division in mid-July, and it appeared they were getting back on track. But then the offense broke again, and the wheels fell off completely. The team hit a league-worst .202 from the leadoff spot, a hole they have yet to fill since Dexter Fowler’s departure. Craig Kimbrel, a hall of fame closer, came in to help shore up the bullpen, and it ended up being a complete mess.
His velocity was down, teams began teeing off on him, and the Cubs continued to give away wins. Eventually, they were eliminated from postseason contention and finished the year 84-78. The addition of Nicholas Castellanos kept them over .500, for whatever that was worth. He drove in 36 runs in 51 games.
In 2020, a year like no one had ever seen, the Cubs played fine. Their offense wasn’t great, they battled key injuries like Bryant’s in particular, but they followed the fire led by the top of their starting rotation. Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks were magnificent. Darvish posted double-digit strikeouts nearly every game, and Hendricks just continued to give quality start after quality start.
The Cubs were kings of the NL Central once again, but the offense was nowhere to be found in September. In their playoff series with Miami, the Cubs put up nine hits and one run total. Bryant finished the year batting .206, while no batter was close to .300.
It marked the end of the greatest era in Chicago Cubs’ history. Now, it’s time for 2021. The expectations are much lower than they’ve been in several years, and the team will look and sound much different than they ever have.
2021 Cubs Home Games
The Cubs will kickoff 2021 with a six-game homestand against two division rivals: the Pittsburgh Pirates for three and the Milwaukee Brewers for three.
To end the month of April, the team will host the Braves, Mets, and Brewers before going on the road.
In May, the Cubs will welcome the defending champs to Wrigley for three games, the LA Dodgers. They will host the Pirates again before welcoming back Kyle Schwarber and the Nationals for a four-game set.
End of May and into June, Yu Darvish’s San Diego Padres will be back at Wrigley. That series will be bittersweet. Darvish was a fan favorite that did not want to leave.
In June, the Cubs will also play their first series against the Cardinals. The redbirds will come to town from the 11-13. Following the Cardinal series, the Cubs will play the Marlins and Indians at home.
In July, the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, and Reds will all be in town.
In August, the White Sox will come to Wrigley and showcase their team of stars from the 6-8. The Cubs will also welcome in Milwaukee for a four-game series and the Royals and Rockies.
In September, the Pirates will make another trip to the Friendly Confines, followed by the Reds, Giants, Twins, and Cardinals.
Chicago Cubs 2021 Road Games
You’ll notice that this season is a lot of home and home action because of the pandemic. That means the Cubs will play the Pirates and Brewers only for the first 12 games of the year.
To end the month of April, the Cubs will go on the road to Atlanta and Cincinnati.
In May, the Cubs will travel to Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh.
In June, they will spend a lot of time on both coasts. They will begin the month out west in San Francisco and San Diego, before heading to New York to play the Mets, and back out west to LA to play the Dodgers to end the month.
Coming out of the all-star break, they will travel to Arizona and St. Louis and then end the month in DC against the Nationals.
In August, the Cubs go to Denver, Miami, Cincinnati, and Chicago’s south side.
In September, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh will be their only road series before ending the year with a three-game series at Busch Stadium in early October.
Chicago Cubs Schedule FAQs
Q: Will the Cubs be competing for a playoff spot?
Good question, honestly. Judging on how good the National League is going to be, I will say not this year. The Dodgers, Padres, Cardinals, Reds, Mets, Nationals, Braves are all much better baseball teams. All of those teams have rock-solid starting rotations, aside from the Braves, because of injuries from last season. They all have MVP caliber player(s): Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Fernando Tatis Jr, Francisco Lindor, Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna, etc. The Cubs also traded the second-best pitcher in the NL last year, Yu Darvish, and will showcase a hand-me-down rotation.
Q: Are they going to enter a complete rebuild?
It appears they will not be doing that, but they are taking a significant step back. Changes need to be made; there is no question about that. The offense faltered for three seasons, and that can’t happen, especially when you have playoff appearances on the line like 2018 and 2019. They still have Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Wilson Contreras, and Kyle Hendricks. Those guys will keep them competitive.
Q: Who is going to be in their starting rotation?
Kyle Hendricks will be the team’s ace, followed by Alec Mills and Milwaukee Brewer Zach Davies in the third spot. As for the last two spots, I would bet that they get Adbert Alzolay a chance once a week, as well as Colin Rea. Rea came out of the bullpen last season but showed some promise. I would guess he will be used more as a spot starter in 2021, and that means they need to go out and get one more pitcher.
Q: Will Javier Baez get an extension?
Many reports say this is their plan. It’s a smart plan because trading Baez would be flat-out stupid, from on-field and marketing perspectives. Baez is top-10 in jersey sales, puts fans in the stands, was a runner-up MVP in 2018, and is a player that this team can build around because of his age. If I had to put my money on it, I would say Baez gets a five to seven-year extension in the $200 million range.
Q: What is the future of Anthony Rizzo?
Rizzo is 31-years-old and still one of the best first basemen in the game. He may not produce runs the way he did three years ago, but he’s still an all-star caliber player that doesn’t miss many games. Rizzo will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022, so my guess is the Cubs will try to extend him this year, along with Baez. If they are terrible to come to the trade deadline, it might be time to brace for a move.
Q: What is the future of Kris Bryant?
If the Cubs choose to extend Baez and Rizzo, there’s little to no chance of them resigning Kris. I know that’s stupid because they are a big market team with deep pockets, but for whatever reason, the Ricketts family is crying poor mouth and claiming they lost money. Let’s be clear: The Cubs did not pull in nearly as much revenue because of the pandemic, but that is not the same as “losing money.” The billionaire family is cheap, and that likely means the departure of fan-favorite Kris Bryant.
Q: How does the Cubs farm system look?
It’s still depleted and does not have any top MLB prospects. That is a big problem that could be addressed in a Kris Bryant trade. However, the Cubs already traded their best asset to the Padres and got four rookie ballplayers. No top prospects. LHP Brailyn Marquez, OF Brennen Davis, and C Miguel Amaya, are the team’s top three prospects, followed by the local kid and SS Ed Howard. Again, all of those guys’ talent is unknown. I want to remind fans that Nico Hoerner was the team’s top prospect and likely start at second base for them this year. Hoerner spent his entire 2020 campaign with the big league club but should be ready to start in 2021.