The Cubtober Diary: 21 minutes define an era of Cubs baseball
SAN FRANCISCO – When many sum up the recent dynasty of one of the professional sports teams in Chicago, it’s typically a measurement of time that refers to their defining moment.
That’s 17 seconds.
In that time span of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins in 2013, the Blackhawks showed why they are the class of the National Hockey League in this era. Down by one in the final 80 second of the game they scored two goals in a span of 17 seconds to win their second of three Stanley Cup titles the past seven years.
The number of seconds it took to score those goals is so synonymous with the team a highlight film of the year was named “17 Seconds” in its honor.
After Tuesday night, the Cubs have a number of their own: 21 minutes.
In that time span on baseball’s biggest stage, the Cubs showed what they are all about in what appears to be a golden era of the franchise. It’s not nearly as quick as the Blackhawks pulled off their moment, but then again when is anything fast with the Cubs.
Yet to define this era of the franchise it is important to look at how this comeback was pulled off and who did it.
Theo Epstein had to love it, even if he didn’t look it earlier in the game when FS1 cameras caught the Cubs president looking a bit mellow when the team was trailing to the Giants. The building blocks of the franchise were the ones that turned his frown upside down from the start of the frame.
Kris Bryant started it innocently with a hit that chased Derek Law from the game. Anthony Rizzo, a meager 1-for-15 in the NLDS, had the patience to draw a walk off Javier Lopez, who then was lifted for another pitcher.
Ben Zobrist, one of the prize free agent signings in the offseason, delivered his second RBI of the series off Sergio Romo to cut the lead to two.
Joe Maddon then made a wise decision after being questioned on a few of them in a Game 3 loss to the Giants the night before. He took out Addison Russell – who like Rizzo had just one hit in the series – and initially put Chris Coghlan up to bat. When Romo was lifted for Will Smith, Maddon took Coghlan out and put in rookie Willson Contreras.
Despite the fact that the team had a pair of veteran catchers on the roster, the organization decided to bring him up to the majors in the middle of 2016.
All of those decisions paid off in a big way as Contreras singled to center to bring home Rizzo and Zobrist to tie the game at 5. Two batters later, Javier Baez stepped to the plate against the fourth pitcher of the inning in Hunter Strickland.
Once considered someone on the trading block with a host of talented infielders on the Cubs’ roster, Maddon and the front office kept the faith with Baez as he dealt with the death of his sister, an injury, and inconsistency in 2015. That faith has paid off in this series not only with a Game 1 home run but also a collection of highlight-reel defensive stops at second base.
Again Baez rewarded the faith of his team with the final blow of the inning – a singled to center that brought home the go-ahead run to make it 6-5.
From the first pitch to Bryant to Jason Heyward crossing the plate for the game-winning run, 21 minutes past. In this relatively short slice of time the Cubs’ decisions to rebuild, ability to evaluate talent, stick with said players even thorough rough stretches, and then find a man to make it work were validated.
A group of young players led by a new age manager used a fearless attitude to deliver one of the most important innings in franchise history. Maybe in a few weeks we’ll seed “21 Minutes” Cubs jerseys popping up around Wrigley or, dare say, a parade.