LADY AT THE BAT: Cub-Like Yankees Open Series At Wrigley Today

Friday, May 5, 2017

Cub-Like Yankees Open Series At Wrigley Today

Every new season, if the Yankees are not coming off a championship, the question that is likely asked (or should be asked) is, "How do the Yankees become as good as the team that won the World Series?"  

This year that team is the Chicago Cubs, the Yankees next opponent.

The World Champion Cubs have struggled a bit this year, to a 16-12 record, which is still good for first place in the National League Central division. Working against the Cubs winning a second straight championship is the fact that only one team in the National League since 1922 has repeated as champion, the Cincinnati Reds of 1975 and 1976. But the Cubs have a real chance to be the first NL team to win back to back titles in over four decades.

And though I could never imagine asking this in my more than fifty years of following the Yankees, have the Yankees become more Cub-like recently? The Cubs built a championship through player development, which included trades of veteran players in demand, for top prospects of other organizations. The Cubs roster was filled with many young players who were either homegrown or acquired in trades and the roster was accentuated with a few free agent acquisitions (like John Lackey and Jon Lester ) or a veteran added at the trade deadline (Aroldis Chapman, you may remember last July)

So exactly how Cub-like are the Yankees these days?

The Yankees enter this series today at Wrigley with a 17-9 record, which isn't bad. At this point with 16% of the season in the books, the Yankees are contenders. In social media, some have compared this team to the championship team of 1977. A few brave souls have even compared this version of Yankees to that of the great 1998 team. All of that is a bit premature, but you have to love the enthusiasm of the Yankees fans. In truth, it is difficult to accurately pinpoint where the Yankees can reasonably expect to finish this season, but so far so good. The upcoming three games in Chicago might tell us something, but it is still just three games.

So my suggestion for Yankees fans, many filled with enthusiasm about their chances in 2017 and maybe a few still, with some serious doubts, is just sit back and enjoy the ride. The Yankees are on the right track with a .654 winning percentage (106 wins if you think they can keep it up all season) And if that winning percentage decreases as the season continues, there is more help on the way up from the minors. And it should be noted, the Yankees top prospect who will likely make an impact in the big leagues is former Cubs prospect, Gleyber Torres.

Torres won't be facing his former organization, but home grown talent including Aaron Judge will be there. Judge should interest any fan standing along the Wrigley outfield streets of Waveland and Sheffield when he is at the plate. Plus it appears catcher Gary Sanchez will return from injury in this series. Good young players have arrived in the Bronx, much like they did at Wrigley.

So, yes, I think the Yankees are becoming more Cub-like and perhaps they are ahead of the expected pace. And for the first time in my life, that is a good thing.

Cubs-Yankees Memories
Prior to interleague play, the Cubs and Yankees had a short but memorable history together. They met in eight games, all won by the Yankees. Those eight games, were World Series sweeps in 1932 and 1938. The '32 series is remembered for Babe Ruth's "called shot" By 1938, Joe DiMaggio was the Yankees star player and the Cubs could not carry the effects of Gabby Hartnett's famous "Homer in the Glomin'" to the fall classic.

The Yankees did not see the Cubs again until interleague play in 2003 at Wrigley Field. The Cubs took two of three games in that series, in one game rallying against the Yankees bullpen, thus denying Roger Clemens his 300th career win. In 2005 they met again in the Bronx and the Yankees swept the series. It was in this series where Derek Jeter hit his only career grand slam.

Overall, the Yankees are 9-4 in the regular season against the Cubs,  5-0 at home and they are currently tied 4-4 at Wrigley. The Cubs did play two exhibition games, both won by the Yankees, prior to the 2009 season, to open the new Yankee Stadium. The Cubs have never beaten the Yankees in the Bronx.

The only other possible meeting between the two teams would have been the spring of 1951, when the Yankees traded spring training homes with the Giants, training that year in Arizona. But 1951 was the final spring the Cubs trained at Catalina Island. I seem to recall reading that the two teams met when the Yankees traveled to Southern California but have yet to find any current articles on this subject.

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