Jason Heyward was released Monday morning as the Chicago Cubs lost another tie with their former World Championship team.
There’s only one Cubs player left on this team, but Kyle Hendricks is fading. At almost 33 years old, Hendricks is playing a game that has surpassed him. Pitchers no longer average 87 mph on their fastballs.
Even in his heyday he was more of a relic of a time when gaming was simpler, but now more than ever he’s a dinosaur playing a game meant for humans. Evidenced by his meager ERA totals over his past two seasons (4.78), Hendricks looks like a tie to the past.
He is the last Cub to have played with Dexter Fowler and Jason Hammel, Aroldis Chapman and David Ross.
Strange to say, as the title was only six years ago in November 2022, but the Cubs championship feels like a dream of the past with all its pieces strewn about in the wind.
Fowler, Hammel and Chapman were the first big chunks to go. All three were free agents in the offseason and signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees, respectively, while Ross traded dancing on the mound for Dancing with the stars.
Meanwhile, Jorge Soler was sent to the American League’s Central Royals, so the Cubs could have their turn with Wade Davis, though Soler would go on to do his own playoff magic half a decade later.
During the 2017 trade deadline, the Cubs sought to make more room for future star Willson Contreras by trading NLCS hero Miguel Montero for cash consideration.
This offseason the net continued, as Jake Arrieta left for a lucrative free agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, one that ended badly for both parties, while John Lackey decided to hang up its spikes at the end of the season after a dismal 2017 National League Championship Series.
The core, however, was still intact. The 2018 Cubs were one of the best iterations of that dynasty, winning a second-best 95 National League games over the backs of Javy Báez, Ben Zobrist, Anthony Rizzo and Contreras. The heroes of 2016 were still the heroes of 2018.
Even though it didn’t seem like it at the time, this offseason was the beginning of the end. For the first time since 2014, the Cubs failed to make the playoffs. They underperformed their race differential while arms like those of Jon Lester and Craig Kimbrel showed serious signs of age.
Finally this offseason, the Cubs dismissed Addison Russell, following a domestic violence incident in September 2018 – the offseason Chicago also lost the heart and soul of its championship team. At 38, Zobrist finally decided to quit, hanging up his pointe shoes for the last time.
Although the Cubs made the playoffs again in 2020, it was a hollow success. They were swept home by the Miami Marlins in the Wild Card round in front of an empty Wrigley Field.
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No fans were able to attend Kyle Schwarber’s final game as the Cub as it was quickly unoffered this offseason. No one saw Jon Lester throw his last blue-striped pitch either. Both signed with the Washington Nationals in 2021.
As 2021 approaches, the young core that won the World Series has still held firm in the clubhouse. Contreras, Rizzo, Bryant, Báez and Heyward still remained.
As late as June 24 of that year, the Cubs were still leading National League Central. Maybe these fan favorites would get contract extensions and stay with the Cubs for their careers. It was before the collapse.
June 25 marked the start of an 11-game losing streak, and by July 31 they had fallen from the roof to the ground as they sat fourth in the NL Central, 11.5 games from first place.
Thus, the Red Wedding Cubs began.
Rizzo was the first to go, leaving Chicago for New York, bringing back prospects Kevin Alcántara and Alexander Vizcaíno.
The next domino was Báez, who partnered with Trevor Williams to bring the Mets’ top prospect back to Pete-Crow Armstrong.
Finally, 2015 Rookie of the Year and 2016 MVP, Bryant left for San Francisco. Although he brought prospects Alexander Canario and Caleb Killian to Chicago, they didn’t fill the void the trio left in the hearts of every Cubs fan.
Yet in 2022, a motley crew remained in the clubhouse. General manager Jed Hoyer opted not to trade Contreras at the deadline, although a deal was reached.
Instead, he and Heyward slowly faded away, earning home dismissals late in the regular season. Contreras became a free agent Nov. 6, while Heyward was released on Monday.
Hendricks remains, the only character from those glory days.
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