The Chicago Cubs bowed out of the 2020 MLB playoffs on Friday with a whimper. The North Siders fell to the Miami Marlins in Game 2 of their Wild Card series, taking a 2-0 loss at Wrigley Field. After a season spent looking for offense, the Cubs once again fell short of their goals. The dynasty we were promised after the franchise's 2016 World Series win never materialized.
The Cubs won a title in 2016 with a youthful, exciting roster overloaded with talent. The average age of the team's position players was 27.4, the fifth-youngest in baseball that season. With stars like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and a young slugger in Kyle Schwarber, much was expected of the next few years. Some in Chicago were already counting up the future rings.
Four seasons later we're still waiting for the Cubs to recapture that magic.
Chicago has reached the playoffs in three of the last four seasons but hasn't returned to the World Series. The Cubs were beaten in five games by the Dodgers in the 2017 NLCS, and were bounced in the Wild Card round by the Rockies in 2018 and the Marlins this season. In 2019 they finished 84-78 and missed the postseason.
Given the talent those teams had at their disposal, the fact that Chicago hasn't been back to the World Series registers as a massive disappointment. Now the Cubs' core is getting older, as Rizzo is 31, Bryant is 28 and headed into free agency after the 2021 season and Schwarber is 27 and still hasn't become anything more than a masher without a defensive position.
While Yu Darvish was brilliant this year in a phenomenal bounce-back season and Kyle Hendricks was excellent again, the Cubs are facing some issues on the mound. Jon Lester is 36 and struggled this season and Jose Quintana has never lived up to his billing since a much-ballyhooed trade with the White Sox. In the bullpen, Craig Kimbrel has been a massive bust since signing a big deal in 2019.
The Cubs had a chance to make some noise this year thanks to the work Darvish and Hendricks did on the mound. They set up really well for the postseason. Unfortunately, the offense let them down. The Cubs finished 20th in all of MLB in runs, 27th in batting average (.220) and 21st in OPS (.705). They also struck out 568 times, the fifth-most in baseball.
Not only did the Cubs struggle as a team, their stars couldn't get it together. Baez (.203), Rizzo (.222), Schwarber (.188) and Kris Bryant (.206) all flirted with the Mendoza line, while Baez (.599), Bryant (.644), and Schwarber (.701) all had below average OPS marks. Given those facts, it might be time for Theo Epstein to change things up this offseason.
The dominance we were told to expect from the Cubs never arrived. While most Chicago fans will probably be happy for a long time after finally winning a World Series in 2016, this feels like a massive missed opportunity. The Cubs' championship window is closing rapidly, especially with Bryant headed for free agency after next season.
Unless Epstein makes some moves, the Cubs could return largely the same roster in 2021 and run it back one last time. But up until now, Chicago has wasted its chance to develop the dynasty many thought was imminent.