30 in 30: The Chicago Cubs
2016 Record: 103-58
2016 Finish: 1st in MLB, 1st in NL
2016 in Review
The Professor taught summer school in 2016, y'all! Kyle Hendricks went 16-8 in 2016, hurling a league-best 2.13 ERA. Was Kyle Hendricks the #2 starter for the Cubs prior to the 2016 Season? No way, he was barely #3, but what Hendricks did was remove all doubt about his ability and his talent. Kyle Hendricks pitched the season of his life in 2016. Let's look at Game 6 of the NLCS for example.
Kyle Hendricks threw the best game of his life twice in this series. The first time in Game 2, Hendricks made one big mistake and gave up a dinger to Adrian Gonzalez. Hendricks threw 5.1 innings of 3 hit baseball, but he did give out 4 free passes. Game 2 was all Kershaw and even though Hendricks pitched a very good game Kershaw pitched better. Hendricks would not be outdone when they returned to the Friendly Confines. Even though Andrew Toles got on base in the first at-bat of the night, every inning afterwards felt like a perfect game. Bring them up, sit them down, go back to the dugout. It was too easy for Hendricks. In one way, you could look at this game as how the Chicago Cubs beat Clayton Kershaw, but really what happened was that Kyle Hendricks obliterated the Los Angeles Dodgers. If the Dodgers could have gotten any kind of run support for Kershaw it may have been a different scenario, but the Dodgers were facing 26 year old Kyle Hendricks and he had No Hit Stuff. In Game 6, the better pitcher was wearing number 28.
The second thing Hendricks did on Saturday was equally as important but harder to execute. Hendricks was able to, by standing on his head, remove all doubt from the equation. What makes Game 6 so incredible is that when Hendricks came out of the game in the 8th you wanted him to stay in and see if he could get it done. Your brain starts telling you he can do it and what’s the worst that could happen, as if it were June 6th, and you’re facing the fucking Reds. Hendricks took the bat out of the Dodgers hands and the fear out of the crowd. And that is somethign no professor can teach, even the ones from Dartmouth.
The offseason additions of Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward only half came to fruition, as Heyward struggled to get even remotely close to his previous form. Hewyard was a shell of his former self in 2016. If you had told me that Jason Heyward would be in danger of being benched during a World Series run, I would have laughed in your goddamn face. That's insane but was, unfortunately, the reality.
The other reality is that Jason Heyward and his .230 average are going to be making $28 million dollars in 2017. The other-other reality is that Heyward's contract has no buyout at any point. So the actual reality is that Heyward needs to show up in 2017, or this could be the dark mark on Theo Epstein's GM career.
The Chicago Cubs are standing on the brink of greatness, the beginning of a dynasty. Two-thirds of their World Series Starters are under the age of 27. This team is stacked and young. This is the 1998 Yankees: Part Two. We are not just witnessing a team break a 108-year-old curse, we're watching a legendary squad come into their own before our eyes. The Cubs won the 2016 World Series. No one can take that away from them.
But teams are gonna try. The Cubs now have a target on their backs and there's nothing more motivating than dethroning a potential dynasty. The Cubs are a powerful ball club, but the biggest giants fall the hardest.