Lu's Locker

Column: The Tragic Return of ‘There’s Always Next Year’

Lu Calzada | The PhoenixThe Cubs lost three of its historic players in 2021, as Anthony Rizzo ranks 6th in all-time in home runs hit for the Chicago Cubs with 242, Kris Bryant 15th with 160, and Javier Baez 17th with 140.

When the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016, I was still living in Dallas. My mom and I stared wide-eyed at our living room TV along with the rest of Chicago’s North Side, partially still in disbelief that this could be real. The curse was over. The series was won. The W flag we flew outside our house during the playoffs was nailed above our front porch where it hung like a trophy for the next month.

It felt too good to be true, and as a lifelong sports fan, I was subconsciously aware that all good things can and will come to an end. However, I hoped we would have a little while longer before they did.

In the last week of July, the Cubs did what I hoped I’d never see happen — they traded away three of their most iconic World Series players, and three of my favorite players at that. Within a few days, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier “Javy” Baez were all gone to different teams.

Considering the Cubs also traded six other players in that span after the All-Star break, this more or less cemented them into their rebuilding era, ripping away my hopes of any postseason chances this year. After missing the postseason in 2019 — the Cubs’ first time not qualifying in five years — the news of not qualifying this year hit extra hard, even if it didn’t surprise me. 

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a staunch optimist when it comes to sports. But something about seeing those three core players leave in the span of days shot down all my hopes for this season faster than I could’ve imagined. Cubs fans everywhere are forced to return to our same pre-2016 mantra: “There’s always next year.” 

I think there comes a point as a fan of a team where you simply *know* it’s the end of the good old days for now. As a Blackhawks fan, it was the seven-game series we lost to the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, falling in the decisive final game by one point. As a Cubs fan, that same feeling of “Oh, so this is it,” initially struck with the news of Rizzo’s trade, and built up to a peak as the other two core superstars were quickly traded away after him.

So, where does this leave us, fellow Cubs fans? In despair, for me at least. Ever since I was around 10 years old and started to really get a grip on sports, I felt I always had hope in either the Cubs or the Blackhawks, the two Chicago teams I follow the most. Now, both are solidly in a rebuilding era.

However, all hope is never truly lost in sports. As my mom always tells me when I’m annoyed at our favorite teams, “Anyone can win on any given day.” The Cubs may have taken over 100 years to win big, but that doesn’t mean they’ll take 100 years again. Loyola made the 2018 Final Four, lost the first round of the next March Madness, and made the 2021 Sweet Sixteen again with an almost brand new set of players. 

I’m not saying we’ll have another deep playoff run in two or three years. To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out how the franchise plans to replace a player as unique and clever as Baez was. But while these questions swirl around all our heads right now, what I’m here to say is this — the roster may feel empty without our three former superstars, but we need to remember all eras must come and go. Another bright one might just be here before we know it.

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