As the green ivy of the Wrigley Field outfield wall begins to turn red, the spirits of Cubs fans around the world turn blue as another season of Cubs baseball comes to a close in September.
As if anybody in blue pinstripes needs reminded, the Cubs' World Series championship drought—which began in 1908—will painfully reach 105 years.
Improvement has been few and far between for the North Siders. The team batting average finished two points lower than last year's final average, a disappointing .238 in 2013. However, the Cubs did finish five games better than last year's 101-loss season.
So the real question remains: When will the Cubs be championship contenders?
Although the Cubs finished 2013 with a record of 66-96, that doesn't mean that the Cubs cannot be a playoff contender in 2014. In fact, the 2006 Chicago Cubs also finished with a 66-96 record, then improved 19 games in 2007 to win the National League Central.
It should also be noted that the 2007 Central Division Championship was Lou Piniella's first year as the manager of the Cubs, raising questions on whether or not the Cubs should replace Dale Sveum. Sveum will learn his fate Monday after meeting with Cubs president Theo Epstein.
Although the current Cubs are far from being a playoff contender, the Cubs have a very solid minor league system, with quite a few young prospects looking to become the core of the Cubs in future years. Shortstop Javier Baez, outfielders Albert Almora and Jorge Soler and third basemen Kris Bryant and Mike Olt are all ranked in the top 100 prospects, according to MLB.com.
Baez, Soler and Bryant all spent time in High-A Daytona in 2013. Daytona finished with a 75-51 record and is ranked as the No. 6 overall minor league team. Daytona's 75-51 record gives them a .595 win percentage, which is only .004 behind the Cardinals for first place in the division.
In other words, the future looks very bright for the Chicago Cubs. Baez is expected to arrive in the big leagues in 2014, with Almora and Soler joining in 2015, followed by Kris Bryant in 2016 (all according to MLB.com).
Realistically, the Cubs could contend for the World Series as early as 2015 pending the development of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. Many changes would be needed to be made, but anything is possible.
Since the Cubs last World Series appearance in 1945, the Cubs have made the playoffs only six times. Those years were 1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007 and 2008. Interestingly enough, the Cubs lost a minimum of 90 games in each season prior to their playoff appearances, excluding the 85-loss 1988 Cubs (and of course the 2008 team).
History is on the Cubs' side in terms of turnarounds. With a strong minor league system and a great deal of potential in young stars Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, the sky is the limit for the Cubbies.
Let's just hope that stupid goat stays out of it.
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