The Cubs Now Sit at the Center of the Baseball Universe and That’s Pretty Awesome for Fans

For as much bombast as the title contains, this isn’t meant to be hot-takey or some kind of googly-eyed fête. It’s just an acceptance that we’re being forced to reconsider the location of the sun in the heliocentric model that once dictated our thoughts of free agency and player movement. The Yankees have always been there, but Shohei Ohtani may have shifted things when he summarily dismissed New York from his list of suitors without offering them an interview.

Then you’ve got Giancarlo Stanton, who SiriusXM’s Craig Mish reported late Thursday had included the Cubs as one of four teams to which he would accept a trade. The other three were the Astros, Dodgers (duh), and Yankees (see, they do still maintain some gravitational pull). Conspicuously absent were the Giants and Cardinals, the only two teams to have made offers for and engaged in talks with the prolific slugger.

After dousing Twitter with gasoline and lighting several matches, Mish updated his predictions for Stanton’s eventual destination this morning.

But wait, the Cubs aren’t on there. Does this blow my whole point? Not really. While neither the Cubs nor the Astros appear here — Mish tweeted Thursday that he didn’t believe either were “involved at a high level” — what I’m focused on is simply that the Cubs were included in the first place. Whether they had pursued him or not, Wrigley Field is a place Stanton was proactively willing to call home.

The Cubs aren’t going to trade for Stanton and they may not land Ohtani, but the fact that they’re so deep in the conversations on both is a ringing testament to just what they’ve put together at the corner of Clark and Addison. Despite their global appeal to fans, the Cubs haven’t always held universal attraction to free agents or players who are looking for a way out of their dumpster fire of a current team.

Hell, the Cubs have often been that dumpster fire.

It’s not just about the Ricketts family’s money or the front office’s acumen or Joe Maddon’s wacky antics or even Kris Bryant’s eyes. Well, maybe the eyes. But the truth is that it’s all of those things. The Cubs are smart and savvy and young and attractive and willing to spend, almost none of which have ever been true for more than a year or two at a time in the past.

So much for a consistent tone, as I’ve now gone from boastful to talk of moral victories to some sort of soft-focus wistfulness. Maybe that’s just my subconscious metaphorically representing the ebbs and flows of the baseball season via thematic choices. Or, more likely, I headed into this without a clear path and have been wandering around trying to find one.

In any case, my point is this: The Cubs have done more than simply build a team fans want to root for. They have created an organization that players want to join, not just one that fans think players should want to join (often to the extent that they take to social media to excoriate those players when they reportedly spurn said team). That’s pretty cool. Not the fans being jerks online, but the idea that the Cubs are, like, good and stuff.

Maybe try to enjoy that, at least until the actual games start and we can get back to worrying about why Maddon double-switched the wrong guys or went with that tired reliever for the third straight day.

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