Have the Cubs had their 'Last Dance' or is it coming?
|Wednesday, May 27, 2020, 8:03 AM- -|
2020 and 2021 Cubs - last dance Bulls?
The city of Chicago has been set on fire with ESPN's recent 'Last Dance' documentary. For those of you who have not watched the documentary, it told the story of the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls. That season ended in a championship and began with some roster turmoil and some clashing between the coaching staff, the front office, and the players.
While the Cubs do not have a comparable player or personality to Michael Jordan, the Cubs do have the duo of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo that is comparable to the MJ and Scottie Pippen Duo. On top of that, the Cubs have the extreme personality and skill of Javier Baez, that besides the antics could be comparable to the wild card persona of Dennis Rodman. The laid back nature of Joe Maddon, who excels at managing egos and letting players play their own way, is also comparable to the coaching excellence of Phil Jackson.
The documentary exposed some of the financial burdens of having to pay many players at the same time, which is a reality the Cubs will face in 2021 when the likes of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kyle Schwarber all are headed to free agency.
Another thing the documentary shed light on is the fact that Jerry Krause and the Bulls' front office did not want to have to pay coach Phil Jackson, giving him a lame-duck year as the coach of the Bulls.
All of this while chronicling the finishing touch on one of America's most iconic, impressive, and influential dynasties of all-time.
These two situations are not filled with identical parallels. As I mentioned above, there is no Michael Jordan involved, there has been one ring won, not six — and the Cubs made a coaching change that did not quite coincide with the expiration of their players' contracts.
But for this group, there has to be last dance of sorts or a final run at winning together.
In an April interview with the Athletic and Ken Rosenthal, here is what Anthony Rizzo had to say about the team and their window.
"I haven't put much thought into that aspect of it. But we talked a lot in spring about not taking any of these days for granted. Not that we have, but because of that situation, the reality is that if you get off to a bad start, this team could look a lot different at the trade deadline. We were putting a lot of emphasis about getting off to a good start together. We didn't want to have this team broken up."
Rizzo even compared it to the scenario in a popular baseball movie.
"It was almost like (in the movie) "Major League" when they were selling the team — the team came together. That was the feeling we had. We don't want to put ourselves in a position to have to be sellers. We wanted to put ourselves in position to force (management's) hand and be buyers. We've been buyers the past five or six years. We know our front office, and Mr. (Tom) Ricketts would go out and do what we need to do to have a championship team. We were locked in on that."
The fact of the matter is the team needs to be successful in the early going, especially in a shortened season, to earn an opportunity to go all hands on deck for another run at a title.
But what about the 2019 Cubs? What about the fact that the Cubs forced the first World Series winning manager in over 100 into a lame-duck season that ended in his "mutual" dismissal from the team. Sounds awfully like the 1997-1998 Bulls saying this will be Phil Jackson's last year as coach of the Bulls.
Or what about the Cubs of 2021? Their roster construction will likely depend on the success of 2020 or lack thereof. Still, a season where the contracts of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and others are set to expire is awfully similar to the Bulls who were forced into a rebuild when they couldn't pay Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr and more after the 1998 championship run.
There are parallels and differences in both regards and both scenarios. Who knows, maybe in 20 years they will be making a documentary about the Cubs and their run of success. Perhaps then we will find out more about the relationship between Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon — or any other clue — and we can better understand the way things played out. But the biggest thing to remember is the story is not quite yet finished.
It's entirely possible that this group's last dance is in the past, but these Cubs still have the opportunity and the power to write their final chapter, and have their own 'Last Dance'.