Constable: Whether All-Stars, Cubs or country, 2016 seems eons ago
The 2016 MLB All-Star Game was five short years ago. The Chicago Cubs, on their way to the 2016 World Series championship and a White House visit with President Obama, placed their entire starting infield, plus outfielder Dexter Fowler, in the National League's starting lineup. Cubs pitchers Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester also were All-Stars.
In 2016, masks were reserved for kids at Halloween, bank robbers and Mexican wrestlers. You could find gas for less than $2 a gallon. And Cubs fans were looking ahead to more titles, thanks to a bevy of young stars.
The only thing that hasn't changed much since then is that 2016 starter Kris Bryant of the Cubs still managed to snag a spot as a reserve on the 2021 National League All-Star roster. The other All-Star Cubs haven't fared as well.
The 2016 All-Star starting shortstop, Addison Russell, only 22 with a bright future, is now a 27-year-old shortstop hitting .304 for Acereros de Monclova in the Mexican minor leagues, where he eventually ended up after he served a 40-game suspension for abusing his wife, went into a slump and was abandoned by the Cubs in 2019.
Starting 2016 All-Star second-baseman Ben Zobrist, who would go on to win the 2016 World Series Most Valuable Player Award, is out of baseball and in the midst of an unpleasant divorce from his childhood sweetheart, Julianna Zobrist, after accusing her of having an affair with their minister. Starting 2016 All-Star first-baseman Anthony Rizzo, with his .247 batting average, is no longer an All-Star and fueled a controversy by not getting vaccinated against COVID-19, but is one of the few Cubs hitting his weight, give or take a pound/hit or two.
The only Cubs left from those 2016 champs are Rizzo, Bryant, shortstop Javier Baez, outfielder Jason Heyward, pitcher Kyle Hendricks, catcher Willson Contreras and the ghost of pitcher Jake Arrieta, who is injured and has a 5-9 record and a whopping 6.30 ERA.
Just as the Obama White House has given way to a couple of new guys since 2016, Wrigley Field also had some turnover, with the Cubs no longer resembling that 2016 squad. Lovable Kyle Schwarber, whom the Cubs decided was no longer needed, has 25 home runs for the Washington Nationals, second most in the National League, and was selected for the 2021 National League All-Star Game but won't play because of a recent injury. Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel joins Bryant on the All-Star squad but is almost certain to be traded to a contending team soon.
Even the 2016 favorites who still play for the Cubs could very well be traded by the end of this month. Bryant, Rizzo and Baez will become free agents if the Cubs don't re-sign them. Hendricks and Contreras could be traded for young prospects.
That same dismantling happened to the second-most-loved Cubs team in our lifetimes, the 1969 Cubs.
Ernie Banks, the former MVP shortstop who played first base for the 1969 squad, was the only regular member of that beloved team who didn't get shipped off to another team during the next five years. The Cubs released him after the 1971 season and Banks retired.
Fellow Hall-of-Famers Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams were all traded. At the end of the 1973 season, Santo was traded to the Chicago White Sox, and Jenkins was dealt to the Texas Rangers. That same off-season, the Cubs traded All-Star catcher Randy Hundley to the Minnesota Twins and All-Star second-baseman Glenn Beckert to the San Diego Padres. Williams was shipped off to Oakland after the 1974 season, which also saw outfielder Jim Hickman traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with closer Phil Regan. Starting pitcher Dick Selma was traded after that 1969 season to the Philadelphia Phillies. Left-handed starting pitcher Ken Holtzman was traded to Oakland after the 1971 season, and 20-game winner Bill Hands was dealt to the Minnesota Twins in 1972.
The last of the 1969 Cubs, All-Star shortstop Don Kessinger, was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1975, and that almost glorious 1969 was relegated to history.
With the currently floundering Cubs seemingly content to flirt with a .500 record, the only drama left in the 2021 season might be the roster. Who will be the last 2016 Cub to leave Wrigley Field? It might not be the answer Cubs fans want, but I'm betting on Heyward, whose $184 million contract doesn't expire until after the 2023 season.