Kris Bryant’s Rookie of the Year Win is Also One for Hopeful Cubs Fans

Following a disappointing 2015 NLCS sweep by the New York Mets, Cubs Nation is still licking its wounds. I tend to agree with my friend and fellow Wrigleyville Nation Contributor Randy Richardson that the grieving process required to let go of this season will take some time. Our hopes hadn’t been raised so high in years, making the resulting fall that much more painful.

But this week, sports writers rubbed a little salve on our wounds while reminding us that the 2015 Chicago Cubs are a young team overflowing with potential. The once-hollow comfort of “Wait ‘Til Next Year” is finally legitimized by a group of (mostly) kids whose best years lie ahead of them.  In selecting third basemen Kris Bryant as the 2015 National League Rookie of the Year, journalists bestowed the award on the first Cubs player since catcher Geovany Soto took home the prize in 2008.

The 23 year-old Bryant tallied 127 points in the voting, easily beating Matt Duffy of the San Francisco Giants, Jung Ho Kang of the Pittsburgh Pirates  and Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers. That is certainly good, competitive company.

While I’m sure I’m not alone in confessing myself disappointed by Bryant’s lackluster post-season performance, the announcement offered occasion to remember how truly great he was throughout 2015. Bryant was a huge factor in the Cubs’ 97-game winning season, hitting 26 home runs and driving in 99 RBIs. Both of these statistics represent Cubs rookie records. Bryant also logged a .275 cumulative batting average and stole 13 bases. The numbers tell the story that the pain in our hearts almost occludes us from reading. Bryant had a great year, and under the capable management of Joe Madden, he’ll only get better.

Beyond the celebration of Bryant’s stellar season, the Rookie of the Year voting offers other reasons for Cubs fans to look toward next spring. Although he was called up from Triple A for the last time on July 16, 2015, and played just 69 regular season games, Kyle Schwarber (“Babe Effing Ruth!”) finished an impressive fifth in the voting. Schwarber’s three regular season multi-homer games are the most for a Cub rookie in his first 51 games since World War I (1914). If fans bemoan an overall lack of team offensive performance during the 2015 playoffs, that criticism halts at Schwarber’s door.

As writer Ryan Fagan of The Sporting News (which also conducted the Rookie of the Year voting) observed after NLCS Game 3:

“That was Schwarber’s fifth home run of these playoffs, and it set a mind-boggling record. Schwarber is now alone atop the franchise’s list of career playoff home runs.

The franchise started in 1876.

Schwarber was born in 1993. This is his eighth playoff game.

That’s crazy.”

With the Most Valuable Player, Manager of the Year and Cy Young Award announcements still to come, the celebration of the Cubs 2015 season may be far from over. In the three categories mentioned Anthony Rizzo, Joe Madden and Jake Arrieta are among the top contenders, respectively.

We went home for the 107th consecutive season without a World Series ring. There’s no way to completely take away the sting of defeat. There’s a lot of numbers to love, some to lament from the Cubs 2015 run. But here’s a few that should get us through a long, cold winter: 26, 25, 23, 21. Those are the ages of the team’s starting infield.

For the next few months, whenever a sneering or well-meaning individual tells you “better luck next year,” just nod and smile. We won’t need luck. All we need are the boys in blue back on the field.

 

Becky Sarwate is the current President of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, founded in 1885. She’s also a part-time freelance writer, award-winning columnist and blogger who lives in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago with her partner Bob and their beloved pup, Jude. Her collected works are published athttp://www.beckysarwate.com