The moment Billy Williams knew the 2016 Cubs were destined for the World Series

The moment Billy Williams knew the 2016 Cubs were destined for the World Series

Billy Williams will finally get to witness the Cubs in the World Series.

The enormity of that statement hasn't even quite set in for Wrigleyville yet.

Standing on the left field grass about a half hour after the Cubs made history, Williams looked around at the 43,000 people still left in Wrigley Field and predicted people would be partying until 5 or 6 a.m.

The streets around Wrigley looked like a tornado ripped through it at 5 a.m., though the partying had quieted down quite a bit. Fans are pacing themselves for the final week of October that will prove to be unlike anything Chicago has ever seen before.

Somewhere, Williams is probably still trying to wrap his head around it all.

"I can't believe it," he said. "This is really, really something. 

"Standing on the field here, standing on this sacred ground, celebrating - it's a great feeling. It is a great feeling."

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Williams played 16 seasons with the Cubs and hit 426 homers while winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1961 and earning six trips to the All-Star Game.

He's spent his retirment years around the Cubs, following the team from spring training to the biggest moment Wrigley Field has ever seen Saturday night.

The 78-year-old shared with reporters the moment he knew this 2016 Cubs team was something special.

Williams admitted he never thought he'd see the day the Cubs would go to the World Series until the 2015 team put together 97 wins and knocked the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals out of the postseason before running into the New York Mets in the NLCS.

But he also thought that experience was invaluable for the young players and when he saw Dexter Fowler's surprise return to the team in spring training, something clicked for the Cubs legend.

"I love the fact that Dexter Fowler came back to play center field. 'You go, we go,'" Williams said, referencing Joe Maddon's phrase for Fowler's impact at the top of the order. "So [Jason] Heyward went back out to right field and all of sudden, our ball club is completely solid.

"I saw that in Arizona when Dexter came back in spring training and the guys saw him and he said, 'Hey man, good to be back.'

"And it was a tight-fit ballclub from that point on. They played well and they played for each other. And you see how it went all year."

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

Willson Contreras' bat-flip game is already in midseason form

The MLB regular season is still 13 days away, but Willson Contreras is ready for the swings to count.

The Cubs catcher hit an absolute bomb of a homer Friday afternoon off White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez, but it wasn't just a homer.

Contreras put an exclamation mark on the dinger (his third of the spring and the second this week) with an A+ bat flip:

I'm not sure what's more majestic: The 450-foot shot or the 45-foot bat-flip.

Either way, Contreras is ready for those 2018 NL MVP votes.

Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback


Cubs opposition research: It's an even year, so count on a Giants comeback

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

San Francisco Giants

2017 record: 64-98, last place in NL West

Offseason additions: Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Austin Jackson, Gregor Blanco, Tony Watson, Julian Fernandez

Offseason departures: Michael Morse, Matt Cain, Matt Moore, Denard Span, Kyle Crick, Christian Arroyo

X-factor: Brandon Belt

The trades for Longoria and McCutchen are going to get all the attention, but the Giants are sort of acquiring Belt, too. 

Their sweet-swining lefty first baseman only appeared in 104 games in 2017, missing the last few weeks of the season with a bad concussion. When he was on the field, he led the team in both homers (18) and walks (66) despite just 451 plate appearances. 

Belt has turned into one of the most patient hitters in the game and if he is able to stay healthy for a full season, would slot in perfectly in the 2-hole ahead of McCutchen, Longoria and Buster Posey. 

Projected lineup

1. Joe Panik - 2B
2. Brandon Belt - 1B
3. Andrew McCutchen - RF
4. Buster Posey - C
5. Evan Longoria - 3B
6. Hunter Pence - LF
7. Brandon Crawford - SS
8. Austin Jackson - CF

Projected rotation

1. Madison Bumgarner
2. Johnny Cueto
3. Jeff Samardzija
4. Ty Blach
5. Chris Stratton


The Giants tied for the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2017, surprising many around the league. Absolutely nothing went right for the team, from a lack of power on the field (Belt missed a third of the season and still led the team in homers), injuries (Bumgarner only made 17 starts) and general ineffectiveness (Mark Melancon).

But the Giants are a team that excels in even years, though the Cubs may have broken that juju by knocking San Fran out of the NLDS in 2016.

Still, between the return to health of key players and some big moves that improved the lineup, this team is primed for a return to form.

Watson is a nice piece at the back end of the bullpen and bet on a rebound from Melancon, who was one of the best late-inning relievers in the game from 2013-16 (1.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 147 saves).

Expect more out of the rotation with Bumgarner and Cueto a dynamic 1-2 punch. Cubs fans are familiar with what Samardzija can do if he gets on a role, too.

It seems crazy to pick the Giants to finish higher than the Diamondbacks, but they still have the same core of players from the championship years and have a much-improved roster.

Prediction: Second place in NL West, wild-card team

Complete opposition research

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Franciso Giants