By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Each January for years, with faithful fans packed into a hotel ballroom, the Cubs Convention would offer a sense of renewed hope.
For a franchise steeped in a losing history, talks of whether this would be the year would naturally arise. Rhetoric of the World Series was often greeted with cheers from the hopeful and with eye rolls from the realists.
This past weekend at the Cubs Convention, the Commissioner’s Trophy was sitting right in front of the fans. Last year was finally the year. As for this season?
“We’re looking forward to 2017,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in his opening ceremony remarks. “I think that anyone who knows Cubs history knows that when the Cubs win a World Series, they always win again the next year.”
A roar went through the jam-packed ballroom as Ricketts referenced the 1907-1908 repeat. There certainly weren’t any eye rolls this year — not with this Cubs team once again the favorite to win the World Series.
The Cubs reconvened in Chicago for the first time since their victory parade on Nov. 4 in front of millions. After a long postseason run that culminated in a seventh World Series game, many were exhausted and eager to return home after the parade. Manager Joe Maddon went straight from Chicago to his Cousin Eddie RV for a road trip, joining his wife, Jaye, and shutting down mentally.
Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and many more took their championship fame on a talk show tour. Addison Russell went to Disney World. There’s no confirmation to whether president of baseball operations Theo Epstein followed through on his month-long bender.
Winning the World Series was everything the Cubs could’ve dreamed. The frenzy in Chicago was still felt at the convention at the Sheraton Grand over the weekend, with the chills of that night still fresh in fans’ minds.
“I’ll never take that for granted,” Epstein said. “That’s a great honor.”
Now though, Epstein said that he’s back to a normal life “where you wake up and it’s not the first thing of.” Two months after their triumphant victory, Cubs players began turning the page, too.
Bryant, Rizzo and several other players gathered Thursday night at dinner and considered what they had accomplished, but then they turned their sights to winning the World Series again.
“We have the right group here that guys will just be able to realize what we did, how special it was,” Bryant said. “But just to realize how much better it would be to sustain that success and do it again next year.
“Hopefully we’ll be the team to beat. We certainly feel that way. We’re going to go with it and play our hearts out.”
From the reigning MVP to the manager and seemingly every fan at the convention, talks of a repeat were clear. They all want to do it again.
Bryant is right in that the Cubs will be the team to beat in 2017. They’ll have to embrace the target again to earn another championship. The Cubs have most pieces back in place from their World Series run. They fill the absence of center fielder Dexter Fowler with Albert Almora and Jon Jay platooning, and closer Aroldis Chapman has been replaced by Wade Davis. The fifth spot in the rotation remains up in the air after Jason Hammel’s exit in free agency, though it appears Mike Montgomery has the inside track.
The Cubs should pick up right where they left off as baseball’s best team. They certainly have the talent to win it all again. Now, they must refine their mental approach and move on from their 2016 victory.
After making World Series dreams a reality, the Cubs are already setting their sights on making this the year, too.
“We’re hungrier than ever,” Bryant said. “We would love to be that team goes back-to-back. I think we all have the right mindset.”