The Cubs had a great team, a championship drought that lasted more than a century, a robust farm system and a delirious fan base. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein framed the question like this: If not now, when?
The Cubs had World Series rings in mind when they made the blockbuster Aroldis Chapman trade last summer, and the superstar closer for the New York Yankees will get his during Friday’s pregame ceremony at Wrigley Field.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said manager Joe Maddon, who will be part of the presentation.
The Cubs always viewed Chapman as a rental player and never had any interest in the kind of five-year, $86 million megadeal the Yankees put together. During the December conference call to formally announce that record-setting contract for a closer, Chapman said through a translator that Maddon misused him during the World Series, when he threw 97 pitches in Games 5, 6 and 7 combined.
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Maddon and Chapman did reconnect during the team’s January visit to the White House, and the manager has taken the high road whenever asked about those comments. Hearing Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up” and looking up at the video board for the triple-digit velocity readings became part of the Wrigleyville experience during that playoff push.
In what will likely be a private ceremony, the Cubs will also give a championship ring to Adam Warren, the swingman who got packaged with elite prospect Gleyber Torres in that 4-for-1 trade for Chapman last summer. Warren — who got lost in the shuffle after the Starlin Castro trade — has posted a 0.63 ERA through 14-plus innings out of a Yankee bullpen that revolves around Chapman.
Without that 100-mph fastball, it’s hard to see the Cubs surviving three playoff rounds last year.
“I couldn’t have come away after that World Series more impressed with an individual because of what he brought to us,” pitching coach Chris Bosio said. “Being able to go out there and do that is a testament to his conditioning. This guy posted up, and he came up with some big outs.”