2019 top Cubs memories: Cookie Monster sings the 7th-inning stretch

2019 top Cubs memories: Cookie Monster sings the 7th-inning stretch

With the year coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is looking back on the top moments from the 2019 Cubs season.

There have been many memorable renditions of the 7th-inning stretch at Wrigley Field over the years.

Memorable, meaning unique (Chicago Bears legend Mike Ditka, actor Mr. T); faulty (NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, who referred to the ballpark as “Wrigley Stadium”); and brutal (Ozzy Osbourne, who mumbled his way through the song because he didn’t know the lyrics).

The group of memorable Wrigley renditions gained a new tier last season: downright fantastic — from a 'monster,' nonetheless.

Cookie Monster paid Wrigley a special visit on June 27. The loveable, fuzzy, blue guy took time out of his busy cookie-eating schedule on Sesame Street to sing his heart out, much to the delight of the near 40,000 patrons in attendance.

It was evident we were in for a treat from the start, as Cookie Monster dropped the greatest opening line in Wrigley’s 7th-inning stretch history.

“Hello, Cub fans. Today, ‘C’ is for Cubbies,” he said.

There’s no topping that. Not a chance.

Cookie Monster nailed his performance (obviously) even sticking to the line, “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks,” rather than requesting cookies. Which, let’s be honest, are the better snack option of the three.

That’s not to say he didn’t get his cookie request in, though…

“Let’s. Get. Some. Cookies,” he said at the end of his rendition.

Legendary.

To top it all off, the Cubs hung on for a 9-7 win and closer Craig Kimbrel notched the save in his team debut.

What a performance. What a day. Cookie Monster’s place is Wrigley Field history is secured, which we knew was going to happen one day, right?

Watch the video above for a full look at Cookie Monster’s performance.

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How the Cubs plan to climb out of the 'winner's trap' they now find themselves in

How the Cubs plan to climb out of the 'winner's trap' they now find themselves in

If the buzzword that came out of last year's end-of-season Theo Epstein press conference was “reckoning,” the phrase that rises above all others in 2019 is "winner's trap."

Epstein referenced it three separate times Monday afternoon inside the Wrigley Field press conference room, just a few feet away from the Cubs clubhouse that was all cleared out before Oct. 1, with no champagne bottles popped or celebratory toasts.

The Cubs president of baseball operations began his 82-minute season eulogy by thanking fans and accepting responsibility for the absence of postseason baseball this fall. He knows there are high standards set for this team and he - like Joe Maddon and the players - acknowledge this organization fell short of meeting those expectations.

But why did they fall short? Why did Epstein sit in front of the Chicago media (and any fans watching via the numerous live streams) and say many of the same things he said 362 days ago when the 2018 Cubs were stunningly knocked out of the National League playoffs after only one game?

"I think a lot of the issues that we have now started to show themselves towards the end of last year," Epstein said Monday.

While admitting it's disappointing that he's highlighting many of the same problems with this team as he did a year ago, Epstein attempted to explain why, using the idea of the "winner's trap."

"If you want to say we were stubborn with this group, I think that's fair," he said. "We had real belief in this group. To be self-critical and to be honest and accountable, I think there can be a bit of a winner's trap dynamic sometimes where, when you've had great success and won - that group at that time had won more games than anyone else in baseball over those four years - when you look back, you look at the methods and the players and everything that had gone on and you attribute the success to them, rightfully. But it can lead to attributing too many good qualities or placing too much faith in that.

"I think it requires real leadership to move beyond that and that's an area where I need to do a better job as a leader, letting go of the past and focusing on the future. And this is clearly a moment of transition...where we're gonna build something anew."

Epstein said a lot of this came up in conversations with Cubs players throughout the course of the season and while he felt there were some strong efforts made to try to correct the issue from last fall to this one, the problems persisted.

That's why, he felt, there was a major need for change this offseason.

That change began when Epstein announced Sunday morning that Maddon would no longer be the manager of this club, so there will be a new voice and a new field general on the top step of the dugout.

One of the main themes throughout Epstein's press conference was his desire for the franchise to stop looking backwards - especially at 2016 - and instead keep their focus on the future and trying to fix things moving forward.

In other words, he doesn't want anybody to rest on their laurels - and that includes himself and the entire Cubs front office.

For example, why did this Cubs team that was filled with a bunch of World Series winners and battled-tested players need somebody like Nicholas Castellanos to come in and "remind them what hunger looks like"?

Why did they need to get a spark in the middle of a pennant race from a 22-year-old shortstop with only 89 minor-league games to his name (Nico Hoerner)?

"Complacency is a tough word," Epstein said. "If I say there were instances of complacency, it's too easy to paint everyone with a broad brush and I wouldn't do that because I respect our players and their work ethic. I'm getting a lot of this also from our players, they're open with us about things that we as a group can do differently. I think there's a winner's trap of looking backwards - that applies not just to us in the front office, but also to the players.

"There's a lot of looking back at things that have worked in the past. There's a lot of looking back at 2016. There's a lot of reliance on our natural ability and the fact that this is how we do things and we've always come through in the past and a certain mindset that we have here. If you look at the last couple Septembers, you can make a strong argument that that doesn't work anymore. And so we have to try to create a winning culture for now, not what was a winning culture a few years ago.

"We're intent on doing better in that area. All of our players are. They all want to be part of something that's the best culture in baseball. That should be the standard. … We want to have a culture where when a player steps in here midseason, he's not providing energy - there's already energy."

Epstein and some Cubs players - in particular, Kris Bryant Sunday evening - admitted it was difficult to face all these realities last fall, because even though the season ended in a disappointing fashion, this team still won 95 games and they had the best record in the NL through 162 games.

This fall, there is absolutely no way to spin it as anything other than the fact the Cubs fell short.

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Jon Lester on Joe Maddon's tenure with Cubs: 'He should be revered as a legend'

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USA TODAY

Jon Lester on Joe Maddon's tenure with Cubs: 'He should be revered as a legend'

PITTSBURGH — Wednesday evening at PNC Park might be the last time Joe Maddon takes Jon Lester out of a baseball game.

The Brewers' win earlier in the day knocked the Cubs out of playoff contention, so Wednesday's 4-2 loss marked Lester's final outing of the season. With Maddon's contract up after 2019, there has been a lot of speculation that he and the Cubs may be parting ways this fall.

When asked about Maddon's status, Lester was effusive in his praise of his manager for the last five seasons on the North Side of Chicago, referencing how the Cubs led baseball in wins from 2015-18 and were only recently passed by the Astros and Dodgers this season.

"Man, I can't say enough positives about what Joe's done, just flat out for this organization," Lester said. "Up until I think here recently this year, we led MLB in wins. That's a testament to him. We broke a 108-year curse/streak, whatever you want to call it. 

"I think no matter what happens, if he continues here, gravy. I think if he doesn't, he should be revered as a legend in this town for a long, long time. What he did for this organization — you talk about a rebuild, you talk about signings and you talk about all that stuff, he was the first guy to write his name on that paper. He believed. Him believing made other people believe. 

"What he's done, not only for this organization — but for this city — it was huge."

Lester said any decision on Maddon is "above his paygrade" but he sure didn't sound like a guy who wanted change on the top step of the Cubs dugout.

Maddon has engineered the Cubs to 469 regular-season victories in his five years as manager and three of the four postseason appearances included a trip to the National League Championship Series. 

Of course, there's also 2016. That fall worked out pretty well for the Cubs.

When asked about the Maddon situation, Theo Epstein said Wednesday: "I'm going to keep that between me and Joe. It's just not something I'm comfortable talking about."

Maddon also pointed out Wednesday that he has a say in the matter, too, since he's not under contract. There are — and will be — some very enticing managerial jobs available, including the Padres and Ken Rosenthal linked Maddon to the Angels this week.

"When you're in the position I'm in...you do have choices, which is unusual," Maddon said. "But we'll talk it all the way through. Listen, we have a wonderful relationship. We work really well together, so we'll talk about it some more and see where it goes."

He admitted he doesn't know what the chances are of Epstein's front office asking him to return as manager for 2020 and beyond.

"We really haven't talked about that," Maddon said. "We've talked a lot about next year during the course of the season. We have done that. But we haven't gotten specific yet at this point right now. Over the course of the next couple days, we'll talk in greater detail."