2022 was a tale of two halves for the Chicago Cubs organization and their fans. Yes, the team posted a 74-88 record, but how they started and how finished made it seem like they were two different teams.
Going 39-31 from the All-Star break until the end of the season, the Cubs won at least 40 of their final 71 games, leading many to believe that building off of the following seven highlights and some offseason tinkering the team could launch itself into playoff contention in 2023.
What better way to celebrate the first game of the season, especially after a ninety-nine-day lockout than with a home run! With the Milwaukee Brewers visiting Wrigley Field, Nico Hoerner, the Cubs’ twenty-four-year-old shortstop stepped up to the plate.
With the score locked at one run apiece, the Cubs had a runner on base as Hoerner stepped to the plate for the second time on the afternoon, facing Brewers Cy Young award winner, Corbin Burnes.
With a mighty swing, Hoerner jacked a two-run homer and the fourth of his career over the center field fence to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead and the eventual 5-4 victory. Hoerner’s opening-day blast would make him the second Cubs player within the past five years to hit the league’s first home run of the season.
On May 17, Cubs bench boss David Ross gave rookie Christopher Morel the nod, sending the twenty-three-year-old to the plate for his first major league at-bat.
Entering the game as a pinch-hitter, Morel sent a bomb over the left field fence, bringing the fans at Wrigley Field and his teammates to their feet. While he was unable to lock down a definitive defensive position with the Cubs, the team looks forward to his continued offensive contributions in 2023.
Rookie of the Month
At twenty-seven years old the Cubs right fielder is older than many of the rookies in the league, but that didn’t stop the former Hiroshima Carp from putting up some impressive numbers during his first month with the team.
After posting numbers of at least .300 and over twenty-five home runs in six straight years as a member of the Nippon Professional Baseball League, Suzuki would become the biggest name to come out of Japan since Shohei Ohtani. In the first month of a five-year / $85 million deal, Suzuki would hit .279 and add in four homers and fourteen RBI.
Seiya Suzuki and @MrLapara have been unstoppable to start the year.
— MLB (@MLB) April 18, 2022
All-Star Game History
Despite the roller coaster of whether he would remain a member of the Cubs that followed him throughout the season, which included heading into the All-Star Game, Wilson Contreras was selected to the mid-season classic wearing a Cubs uniform.
While this was a feat worth celebrating in itself, what was equally if not more important was the fact that this honor tied Contreras with Hall of Famer Gabby Harnett with three All-Star game starts by a Cubs catcher.
Contreras will also join an elite list of Cubs to appear in at least three All-Star Game starting lineups, including Hartnett, Billy Herman, Stan Hack, Don Kessinger, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, and Sammy Sosa.
Wilson Contreras wasn’t the only member of the Chicago Cubs to take the field in Dodger Stadium during the All-Star Game as left fielder Happ also made the trip to the West Coast, making his first All-Star game appearance.
While his in-game action was limited to mostly defense and a walk, the fact that he was listed among the best in the game showed how much work Happ has put into improving his game over the years. But the accolades didn’t stop on July 19th as Happ would join Bob Dernier, Andre Dawson, and Jason Heyward as the only outfielders in Cubs history to receive a Gold Glove award, the first of his six-year career.
Willson Contreras will be answering your questions ahead of #MLBatFieldofDreams!
Drop your questions now using #MLBLive!
— MLB (@MLB) August 10, 2022
A few bright lights are shining in the Cubs’ future, with their first base prospect possibly being the brightest. Appropriately nicknamed “Mash”, the Cubs prospect hit thirty-six home runs during the 2022 season during his combined time in AAA, AA, and A+.
Mervis wasn’t just launching the long ball as he finished with a percentage line of .309/.379//.606 with 152 hits and 119 RBI. Should Mervis continue to post impressive numbers in the Arizona Fall League, there is little doubt that he will be part of the Cubs’ 2023 starting roster.
After striking out on the playoffs in 2022, many expected the Cubs to be active shoppers on the free agent market. Shortstop Dansby Swanson was their biggest purchase at 7 years / $177 million. Adding Swanson moves Nico Hoerner over to second base full-time, which gives the team a talented defensive middle infield.
Whether Cody Bellinger roams the outfield or plays first base, the former MVP is looking to bounce back to the same numbers that awarded him two trips to the All-Star Game. Following two injury-plagued seasons, Bellinger appeared to be back on track last season with the Dodgers, which the Cubs hope continues in 2023.
The Cubs improved their starting rotations by adding Jamison Taillon who spent the last two seasons with the New York Yankees and retaining Drew Smyly who finished 2022 as one of the best pitchers in the National League.
A former NL MVP is on the move!
— MLB (@MLB) December 6, 2022