Boston Red Sox

Cubs fan base named second most loyal in MLB, only trailing Red Sox

Cubs fan base named second most loyal in MLB, only trailing Red Sox

When you wait more than 100 years for a championship, you must maintain a strong sense of loyalty to your favorite team. 

Cubs fans have done that, supporting the club through thick and thin, from the mediocre years to the curse-breaking 2016 World Series season. They pack the Wrigley Field stands, consistently ranking in the top 10 in attendance season after season.

That devotion led to Forbes naming Cubs fans the second most loyal fan base in Major League Baseball, second to only the Red Sox.

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Per Forbes, the rankings are based on "local television ratings (per Nielsen), stadium attendance based on capacity reached, secondary ticket demand (per StubHub), merchandise sales (per Fanatics), social media reach (Facebook and Twitter followers based on the team’s metro area population) and hometown crowd reach (defined by Nielsen as a percentage of the metropolitan area population that watched, attended and/or listened to a game in the last year)."

All that science aside, does the 108-year wait for a championship warrant the Cubs being first on this list? In fairness, the Red Sox waited 86 years before winning the 2004 World Series, their first since 1918. Plus, in terms of attendance, the Cubs have only out-drawn the Red Sox in six of the past 10 seasons, a near-equal split.

Two historic clubs. Two historic ballparks. Two historic championships. In a loyalty ranking, you can't go wrong with either franchise. Here's how the list's top 10 panned out:

10. Braves
9. Phillies
8. Indians
7. Giants
6. Brewers
5. Dodgers
4. Yankees
3. Cardinals
2. Cubs
1. Red Sox

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Cubs' Willson Contreras thinks Jon Lester has a lot more left in the tank

Cubs' Willson Contreras thinks Jon Lester has a lot more left in the tank

Could 2020 be "The Last Dance" for Jon Lester?

Willson Contreras doesn't think so.

Lester is entering his final year of a $155 million deal with the Cubs, and it's a year that's definitely been cheated for all of us — not just athletes.

He's currently at home with his family in Georgia — going through the trials of eLearning — waiting to hear what's next for baseball.

"I'll tell you what, teachers don't get enough credit not only for teaching but for dealing with kids of all ages," Lester told ESPN Chicago's Waddle & Silvy last week.

Meanwhile, Lester's top catcher has been completing at-home workouts and taking batting practice with a pitching machine gun in his driveway.

In 2018, the Southpaw led the National League in wins (18) and finished the season with a 3.32 ERA.

However, Lester had a 180-degree kind of year in 2019.

Lester knows that last impressions are everything when it comes to teams deciding your fate, and for him, it was a season that consisted of a 4.46 ERA and allowing 205 hits, the most in the National League.

He understands that he's in the last guaranteed year of his contract with an option for 2021. The latter would have required Lester throwing 200 innings this year for the $25 million commitment to tap in.

“I know I have the team option, the player option, that sort of thing," Lester told Boston sports radio network website WEEI.com on Tuesday. "We'll figure that out one way or the other. I will either be here (Chicago) or be a free agent."

Lester also danced with the idea about returning to Boston once his Cubs contract expires.

"I'm open-minded to anything," he said. "Absolutely it would be cool to go back and finish my career where it all started."

And Theo Epstein would most likely be 100 percent okay with that, considering he drafted Lester in the second round of the 2002 MLB Draft for the Red Sox. He made his debut in 2006.

"Hopefully, I'm still a good enough caliber pitcher that the want of my services will still be out there for people," Lester said. "We'll see."

Lester started and won the final game of the 2007 World Series for the Red Sox and helped the team to another championship in 2013. Boston holds a special place in his heart.

But he added another World Series ring in 2016 — a very historical one — with Contreras, Epstein and the Cubs. Will his last dance take place in Chicago? It doesn't sound like he'll be finished anytime soon.

MORE: Jon Lester would ‘love to' stay with Cubs for rest of his career

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MLB Rumors: Will 2020 be Jon Lester's last year with the Cubs?

MLB Rumors: Will 2020 be Jon Lester's last year with the Cubs?

Is this the last dance for Jon Lester with the Cubs?

The lefty’s contract has a vesting/mutual option for 2021 for a guaranteed $25 million if he pitches 200 innings in 2020 (the number of innings will be prorated based on the actual number of games played this year). Should Lester not reach that number, the Cubs can buy out his deal for $10 million.

RELATED: Best free agent signings in Cubs history

Lester was asked about his future in an interview with Rob Bradford of WEEI.com:

“We’ll figure that out one way or the other. I will either be here or be a free agent. … I’m open-minded to anything.”

“Hopefully, I’m still a good enough caliber pitcher that the want of my services will still be out there for people.  I’m not getting any younger, and coming off a year like I had last year, this [season delay] isn’t going to help me.”

Last year was a rough one for Lester. He saw his ERA jump from 3.32 in 2018 to 4.46 in 2019. The 205 hits allowed (in 171.1 innings) were the most by any National League pitcher.

No matter what numbers he puts up from here on out, his $155 million contract has been one of the best investments the Cubs have ever made.

His signing at the 2014 Winter Meetings kicked the rebuild into high gear. He has started at least 31 games in each of his first five seasons with the club. In his 159 regular season starts, his ERA is 3.54; in 12 postseason appearances, his ERA is 2.44. A solid 2020 season would make him an attractive option for any team in need of a veteran back-of-the-rotation starter.

Could that be with the Cubs? Absolutely, especially with the team’s struggles to develop pitchers and the impending free agency of another starter, Jose Quintana. It could also mean a return to Boston, the organization Lester pitched for from 2006 to 2014.

“Absolutely it would be cool to go back and finish my career where it all started.”

So Lester has options beyond this year. Baseball fans can only hope he will be able to show he still has what it takes to be successful on the mound at some point in 2020.

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