When the Chicago Cubs take the field Wednesday night in their one game Wild Card match-up with the Pittsburgh Pirates, there will be several numerical coincidences that would suggest to any die hard Cub fan that 2015 just may have a different feel to it than previous years. For starters, first pitch of the National League Wild Card game is scheduled for 7:08 pm CST on October 7th, 2015. But for Cub fans, it represents something a bit deeper. The game time in military time would read 19:08, otherwise known as the last time the Cubs were World Series champions. With Wednesday also being 10-7, it is also 107 years since that last championship season. Coincidence?
The 2015 Cubs were suppose to be still a year away from experiencing the playoff atmosphere. But the team that Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and company have built from the ground up has melded together about as good as anyone could have anticipated. The success of this growth really can begin and end with the managerial hire of Joe Maddon. His brand of baseball and philosophy is absolutely perfect for this team. Maddon has a way of getting the very best from young players, mixing in a few veterans, and watching the success play out between the white lines. Maddon has a calming effect that allows his players to compete loose, have fun, and have their natural abilities come through for optimal results. Case in point, since Addison Russell made the full-time switch to shortstop, the Cubs have the best record in all of baseball.
After Maddon, there is Jake Arrieta who will get the ball on Wednesday night. It is becoming increasingly difficult to put the run that Arrieta is on into words. Arrieta has elevated his game into the upper tier of pitchers within the game. On the season, he has 33 starts, 29 quality starts, 22 wins, 236 strikeouts, a 1.77 ERA, four complete games, and one no-hitter. In the second half, Arrieta set a record for having the lowest ERA in history. Arrieta has lost only one time since the All-Star break (where he was not even named to the All-Star roster mind you), and that was the Cole Hamels no-hitter. He is also a staggering 10-1 following a Cubs loss with the only blemish being the aforementioned no-hitter. Arrieta has prepared himself for the very moment that will take place on Wednesday, and he does not seem to be the least bit rattled by the big stage.
Then, there is rookie Kris Bryant. Bryant’s rookie season features an All-Star game selection, setting new team records for home runs and RBIs by a rookie, and in the process he also had Major League Baseball’s best-selling jersey on the year. Bryant is the youngest player to ever top the list of jersey sales.
While Bryant is one cornerstone of the Cubs, Anthony Rizzo is the other. At 26, Rizzo is the grizzled old guy on the block on the North Side among all of the youngsters. He is the heart, leader, and face of the franchise. In Spring Training, it was Rizzo who threw down the gauntlet saying that these Cubs would reach the postseason. Rizzo has brought his stock up to an MVP-caliber level. It is incredible to think that all of this was done by a guy who was fighting cancer the last time the Cubs reached the playoffs in 2008.
What makes this Cubs team special is that for all of the youth that is on the roster, never was there a moment too big throughout the season. When the Cubs were in the mix, they turned in a month of August that was one of the best in franchise history. Chicago also withstood the supposed Sports Illustrated cover jinx in the process. In September, they took the season series from the Pirates, and in their last six games against the St. Louis Cardinals, really put the Cardinals on notice that the Cubs were coming for them. On Wednesday night, the Cubs will be playing postseason baseball for the first time since 2008, and looking for their first playoff win since 2003. A win would set up the first ever playoff meeting between the storied rivals Cubs and Cardinals.
Whether or not the Cubs do make a deep playoff run in 2015 remains to be seen. But there is always that chance that Back to the Future II was onto something with the Cubs being World Champions in 2015. For the record, when Marty McFly does arrive at the date October 21 2015, the Cubs just may be hosting Game 4 of the NLCS. Just another coincidence for Cub Nation. Who’s to say that the numbers are not onto something special in Chicago?