One of my most cherished memories is November 2, 2016. It was late, after midnight, and I was on my feet in my living room with my ten-year-old son, Jimmy. The Chicago Cubs led the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in game 7 of the World Series.
My wife and daughter had gone up to bed. I’d encouraged Jimmy to do the same but he said he wouldn’t be able to sleep with me yelling at the TV. I was on edge. As a lifelong Cub fan, this was it. Everything hinged on what happened next. I was too nervous and edgy to sit.
It was the bottom of the tenth inning. Two out, one on, Michael Martinez of the Indians at bat. Mike Montgomery makes the pitch. Martinez hits up the third base line to third baseman Kris Bryant, who fields the ball and throws it to first basemen Anthony Rizzo. The play happens so quickly that I almost didn’t register it. Suddenly, Rizzo catches the ball and the players swarm the middle of the ballpark. The Cubs had just won their first World Series since 1908.
Jimmy and I were jumping and shouting “They did it!” over and over again. Naturally, we woke Angela and Josie but that was okay with me. The Cubs had finally done it; winning the big one in what had to be the most dramatic baseball game I’d ever seen. Leave it to my long-suffering Cubbies to go down to the wire like that.
I thought a lot about my dad that night, and how much he would have enjoyed that 2016 team and the magical season they had. He grew up in Chicago, suffered through all the decades of heartache and ‘could-have-beens’. He passed in 2005, eleven years before the dream finally came true.
Like me, he would likely be deeply saddened, even a little mad, at the events of the last couple of days. Rizzo has been traded to the Yankees. Bryant has gone to the Giants. Javier Baez is now with the New York Mets. In return, the Cubs have gotten prospects.
I get why they did it. Rizzo, Bryant, and Baez will be free agents at the end of the 2021 season. It was unlikely the Cubs would be able spend the huge amounts of money needed to keep them. By trading now, they at least get something for them. They also dealt more recent additions like Craig Kimbrel (who has been nothing short of amazing this year), Trevor Williams, Jake Marisnick, and Ryan Tepara. I’d been counting on the last three to be part of a great future. From a business and forward-thinking standpoint, Cubs President Jed Hoyer did what he had to do.
But a big part of me still wants his head on a platter for doing it.
These trades weren’t just business transactions, or moves to position the Cubs for future success. They hurt. Cub fans love those guys. From the 2016 team, only Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward, Kyle Hendricks, and Jake Arietta remain. How long will any of them last?
Okay, time passes, players get older and less effective. Teams have to look to the future. The Cubs weren’t playing well this year and something had to give. They aren’t the first team to have a ‘fire sale’ and start over and they certainly won’t be the last. But to trade so many so quickly…man, that stings.
It’s going to be tough to watch the Cubs for a while. I’m not turning my back on them. I’ll still wear my Cubs jerseys, still root for them come thick or thin, and hopefully get up to Wrigley for a game every now and again. But I am going to miss those guys.
Thank you, Anthony Rizzo. Thank you, Kris Bryant. Thank you Javy Baez.
Now, excuse me while I turn my Cubs flag upside down in a sign of distress.