In Loss, The Chicago Cubs Find Fuel For A New Frontier

The day after is always the worst. And that day after is even worse if it is the end of the latest – and perhaps greatest – shot at ending the most haunting dry spell in all of sports: the Chicago Cubs World Series draught.

The Cubs’ 2015 came to an end on Wednesday evening at the hands of the newly crowned National League champion New York Mets. The Metropolitans made quick work of their foes, ending the series in the minimum four required games, and they did so in the same undeniable manner that the Cubs had utilized to neutralize the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals in route to their first NLCS since 2003. And while this defied the pace the North Siders played at through the NL Division Series, as well as the predictions of a certain Robert Zemeckis film who's revived fame had been eerily timely, it became clear quickly that the Mets' fate was of higher priority than reversing the curse of Wrigley Field's summer inhabitants.

It was a sudden end for a club whom just a week ago, was a runaway freight train through all obstacles. Armed with two top-notch starting pitchers in Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, as well as a lineup laden with a stockpile of powerful bats, a supremely confident manager in Joe Maddon and the confidence that comes with a decisive victory over your greatest rival, the Cubs looked to be primed to make it to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

But it came crashing down and now they find themselves once again with a lost season and another tally on the prison wall of their championship-less century.

However, this time, even in defeat, things are different than they have ever been. While the disappointment in the outcome of the year is palpable, there is reason for more hope than there has ever been for the Wrigley faithful. Because regardless of how this year closed out, the future for the Cubs is arguably brighter than it is for any other team in baseball.

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 21: Jason Hammel #39 of the Chicago Cubs walks off the field after being relieved in the second inning against the New York Mets during game four of the 2015 MLB National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 21, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Sure, this year’s championship opportunity slipped away, but make no mistake about it: these aren’t your daddy’s….or his daddy’s….or his daddy’s daddy’s Cubs: these young bears have bite and have the opportunity to embark on the longest competitive window this franchise has seen in over a century.

If anything, the roller coaster of the 2015 postseason will better prepare this collective for its future than any other outcome could have. They learned what it meant to play in a winner takes all game, on the road, and emerge victorious. They also discovered what it meant to enter a series on the road, versus a top-seeded team and not let the moment or emotions be too big.

They also learned what it meant to be fueled by a home crowd and share the hunger of every moment of a given series, as if the past, present and future all hung in the balance with each pitch. Because, in all honesty, it did.

More importantly than anything else, their nucleus, whose average age across their infield is 24 years old and is compliment by an outfield whose returning starters are the 22-year-old Kyle Schwarber and the slightly senior 23-year-old Jorge Soler, learned what it means to lose together, in a sudden and unstoppable way, very early on in their careers.

Many experiences come from success, but so much more can be learned in defeat. And while the star is just taking off in the careers of the likely Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant, All-Star Rizzo, the talented middle infield duo of incredibly talented Addison Russell and Javier Baez, as well as the revived Starlin Castro, talent can only take one so far.

But no longer can anyone say the young Cubs haven’t “been there,” because they have. And while they will continue to add on to their collective in the form of marquee free agents, and even more homegrown talent, the most important element in the end may be the first loss this new era of the Cub collective took together.

Because now the bricks in the foundation have proven not only to be strong, but they know what it means to be cracked. And more importantly than anything else, they now have the knowledge of what it takes to avoid the hammer in the future.

And nothing is more dangerous than a talented and experienced young club that has had a taste now, and will do anything for more. And the most recent loss in the lineage of losses in the franchise’s history, could prove to be the most valuable one yet.

Less can truly end up being more, in time.

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