When I visited Wrigley Field back in 2013, the Cubs were just one year into rebuilding the team under the management of Theo Epstein, and the big acquisition at the time was Anthony Rizzo – he wasn’t doing so hot. I remember having to watch the Cubs play on TV at a bar called Lucky’s Sandwich Co. because my cousin was too cheap to buy tickets and watching the Cubs lose to the Cardinals in Cubs’ fashion. Back then, the Cubs were not a competitive team and that was the Cubs way. But there was a charm in that, and I didn’t sense there was any urgency for that to change.
Fast forward just three years later to 2016 and the Cubs have managed to build a team that can call themselves World Series Champions after a 108-year championship drought – the longest in American sports history. What happened in those three years? How did they change? The Cubs Way does an excellent job to fill in those questions and provides insight that you can’t find anywhere else – okay fine maybe a comprehensive Google search could give you those answers.
Even though you could get the answers to all your Cubs questions via Google, I’m glad a book like this exists. The author, Tom Verducci, had unprecedented access to the team and does a fantastic job weaving key highlights of the Cubs’ rebuilding process in-between the seven-game World Series. It reads like a movie and I’m almost certain a 30-for-30 documentary or movie will use this framework in the future.
The book is obviously about baseball, but at its core, it’s really more about affecting change. For over a hundred years, the Cubs functioned in a state that wasn’t good enough to win a championship. Even though the desire for winning persisted, the pieces never really came together to create a winning combination. Why? Well, the book touches on a number of things from curses to poor management and culture. But you can’t help feeling there’s a sense of something greater, like destiny, at work here – the timing just seems to work time and time again.
All these good things aside, you have to really be interested in the significance of what the Cubs did to appreciate this book. To attempt this book without that curiosity to will lead to a 108-year journey to finish the book. In addition, you should have a rudimentary knowledge of baseball terminology or you will get lost at “ERA.” Tom Verducci wastes no time throwing you into the world of professional baseball without a life jacket, so you should be prepared to swim with basic baseball knowledge.
Benjamin Shibata really liked reading The Cubs Way but wants to know when the Angels will find their way. You can follow him on Twitter.