It was on April 14th 1908 the Chicago Cubs had their first opening day ever as defending World Series Champions. The Cubs defended their title and won the series again that same year. As we fast forward to the year of 2017 the Cubs fan base gets to relive that experience. We all remember last season the Cubs overcame a 3-1 deficit at the hands of the Cleveland Indians to win the 2016 World Series. Up until this past season talking to Cubs fans about history is a touchy subject, but now the mood has changed.
For the first time since 1909 the Cubs will open up at home as defending champs. They will host the LA Dodgers on April 10th. It only took two years for manager Joe Maddon to help build the Cubs into champs. The Cubs are one of the favorites to win it again in 2017. The windy city will see mostly familiar faces from last season. Only two differences to this year’s squad, Aroldis Chapman is no longer the closer, which he signed as a free agent and went back to the New York Yankees, The other change is outfielder Dexter Fowler signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, which is the rival of the Chicago Cubs.
Even with the departure of Chapman the Cubs quickly filled the role of the closer with Wade Davis. Davis was a part of the 2015 World Series Run with the Kansas City Royals as he picked up 17 saves that season, he followed that with 27 saves the following year. Davis may not have the 100 plus speed of a fast ball like Chapman, but he should be able to get the job done closing ball games. To replace Fowler the Cubs are expected to start Albert Almora Jr. in centerfield. Almora was a rookie in 2016 only appearing in 47 games. The rookie was able to bat 112 times with an average of .277 hitting 3 homers driving in 14 runs. Also veteran Jon Jay will be splitting time in center field with the rookie. Albert does not have a lot of speed or a high on base percentage so the Cubs are still looking for a leadoff man to replace Fowler. All signs point to either Jason Heyward or Kyle Schwarber, Heyward had a tough 2016 with a low batting average of .230. Schwarber on the other hand did not have much of a 2016 regular season, he only had 4 at bats before his collision with Dexter Fowler in Arizona that sidelined him for the season. Schwarber was able to return for the World Series against the Indians getting 7 hits in 20 plate appearances. Schwarber is looking forward to a healthy and big 2017 season. With Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo in the lineup opposing pitchers could have a tough time getting outs.
The Cubs starting pitching staff will look pretty much the same as the Championship team minus Jason Hammel, who has signed a two-year deal with the Royals. The starting staff is expected to be Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey. Hammels spot will be a spring training battle between Mike Montgomery and new comer to the Cubs Brett Anderson. Montgomery appeared in 49 games in 2016 for the Cubs, and only made 7 starts in a crowded pitching rotation. Mike was able to get 4 wins in the regular season and 1 win in the post season. Brett Anderson has been in the Major Leagues since 2009 and has made 115 career starts as a member of Oakland, Colorado and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Chicago Cubs have an excellent shot at repeating as World Series Champions. There have been 14 times in the history of Major League baseball where teams have had back to back champions. The Cubs were the first team to do so in 1907 and 1908. The most recent team to perform this task was the New York Yankees, in which they won 3 series titles in a row from 1998-2000. The Yankees also hold the record for the longest run of World Series titles as they were successful 5 times from the years of 1949 up until 1953. The Cubs have the tools to repeat whether they do or not is the big question. Everyone should expect to see this team to have a great 2017 campaign.