Hot off the Presses: December issue recapping the 2015 season

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Even though I’m certain the best is yet to come for this young, talented Cubs squad, in some respects, I still hate to see the 2015 season come to an end. It was just such a fun ride.

In recent days, I’ve been asked the same question over and over: How do I feel about the way the campaign ended? Even though the Cubs fell to the Mets in four uncharacteristic games in the NLCS, it was hard for me to really be upset or frustrated with the result. Sure, I would have loved to see the boys in blue win it all. But a club most figured to be at least one year away from true contention finished the season in the NLCS. They were one of the last four teams standing. And this was after winning 97 regular-season games and two postseason series. Anyone who saw that coming in 2015, please raise your hand.

Every year, before the first pitch of the regular season, we at Vine Line place a little wager on what we think the club’s final record will be. I predicted 85 wins—and I still contend that would have been a solid season. Anything above .500 typically keeps a team in the Wild Card hunt until the final weeks.

But the Cubs exceeded expectations on almost every front this year. When different members of the same team factor significantly in voting for the MVP, Cy Young, Manager of the Year and Rookie of the Year awards, something has definitely gone right.

After the final out of the season, Cubs baseball president Theo Epstein talked to the media, and he said something during his press conference that stuck with me.

“If you think back to where we were on Opening Day, many members of this team were in the minor leagues in Double-A and Triple-A,” Epstein said. “If you looked out in the bleachers, we had plywood covering all the stands out there. We lost to the Cardinals on a cold and dreary night. Then you fast forward seven months later and look where we were with a young, dynamic, magical team at the big league level. The bleachers were filled with fans going crazy and supporting the team, and [then] beating the Cardinals in a playoff series. It’s just amazing how far the organization came this year.”

The team’s progress between November 2014, when manager Joe Maddon was hired, and the end of the 2015 season was truly remarkable. For this month’s issue, we relive the year’s best moments, and there were plenty to choose from. The team played so well—especially from July on—it’s easy to lose sight of where it all began.

It’s easy to forget that the main topic of conversation when the season kicked off was not the team’s playoff chances but the Wrigley Field bleachers—or lack thereof. It’s easy to forget that the Opening Day roster did not include Kris Bryant, Addison Russell or Kyle Schwarber. It’s easy to forget that coming into the season, people still saw right-hander Jake Arrieta as something resembling a fallible, flesh-and-blood human being.

We dedicated this month’s issue to celebrating everything that went right in 2015. In our pages, you’ll find the best images of the year, a month-by-month season recap and highlights from Epstein’s post-NLCS presser. We’ll also give you a head start on your holiday shopping with our annual gift guide.

Honestly, the best part of this past year is knowing that it was only the beginning. The Cubs went into the 2014 offseason as a team on the rise, but one with serious question marks. They enter this offseason as an experienced, playoff-tested group with few holes and plenty of resources—in both talent and money—to fill those holes.

Another thing Epstein said that resonated with me was that the whole team was loath to see this season end, and that they all wished Opening Day was already here. I think most fans feel the same way.

While you can’t wish away the winter, you can keep track of all the offseason action, from the hot stove to the winter leagues, in the magazine and on Twitter at @cubsvineline. And keep an eye on Twitter for a special holiday offer on the magazine in the coming days.

—Gary Cohen

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