The St. Louis Cardinals are once again leading the National League Central Division. Dog bites man story, right? Yes. Except, perhaps, the most capable team rivaling the Cards isn’t Pittsburgh, Cincinnati or Milwaukee. It’s a team that has often been looked upon with laughter; a team that rarely contends for the postseason.
No longer, however, are the Chicago Cubs the laughingstock of baseball. In fact, players like Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Starlin Castro and Addison Russell have made this franchise suddenly legitimate in 2015. The addition of one of the most uniquely qualified managers in Joe Maddon hasn’t hurt the team’s learning curve, either. Any questions about the depth of their starting pitching might be resolved by a mid-summer trade or a plunge (once again) into next year’s free agency.
The Cards, a team I have followed passionately for decades, may hold on in 2015 over this youthful Cub team. The Cards have a very strong starting pitching staff, and the likes of Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez potentially give them three relatively young aces. But the Cards’ everyday impact players like Yadier Molina, Jhonny Peralta and Matt Holliday are aging.
From 2016 on, look out. The Cubs may very well become not only the annual team to beat in the NL Central but one of the best teams in baseball for the foreseeable future. The Cubs may evolve into baseball’s version of the Chicago Bears.