Cubs 2020 hindsight: Best and worst of unprecedented year originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Yu Darvish out the door, along with Len Kasper and Theo Epstein? Another rebuild starting for the Cubs after another quick exit from the playoffs? Organization-wide layoffs and billionaire owners claiming “biblical” losses?
Why should the year be any different for Cubs fans and many employees than the rest of the country during a lousy 2020?
Anybody know if Jon Lester’s tab is still open at The Lodge?
If 2020 in the Cubs’ universe delivered the same tests of will, endurance, patience and well-being — along with its frequent body blows — that it did for millions of others, at least it has reached its bitter end.
And yet as much as we might like to forget the past year, it is hard to imagine it being forgotten anytime soon — and not all because of the crushing impact of COVID-19 or the recurring injuries of social injustice that provoked a generational movement in the streets (and locker rooms) across America.
A golden era of Cubs baseball rolled to an end for its championship core with a sixth consecutive winning season and return to the playoffs a year after its lone playoff miss during that run.
They couldn’t beat the Marlins in the first round, but they beat back COVID during the truncated season with the most effective execution of safety protocols in the game (more on that below).
Durable José Quintana was lost for most of the two-month season because of a freak dishwashing injury, but Alec Mills stepped into the rotation and even delivered one of the unlikeliest no-hitters in history.
Most of the Cubs’ lineup of All-Stars slumped during the 60-game season under unusual conditions that included limits on ballpark routines and bans on in-game video. But Darvish led a surprisingly effective rotation, just missed winning his first Cy Young Award and said he feels “three times” better on the mound than he did in his prime — just in time for the Cubs to leverage that rebirth in a salary-dumping trade to the Padres for A-ball prospects.
Who knows? Maybe Zach Davies helps lead a new-look Cubs team to a repeat in the worst division in baseball in 2021.
Until then, our look back at 2020 as we count down to the hope of relief and healing with a new year: