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BCB After Dark: Four to the core

The late-night/early-morning spot for Cubs fans asks if the team has a core in place to compete for a title by 2026

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Chicago Cubs Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s another Wednesday night here at BCB After Dark: the swingin’ spot for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. We’re both celebrating and drowning our sorrows this evening. So whichever you feel like doing, we’d love for you to join us. If you’ve got a coat you’d like to check, we can do that for you now. There are still a few good tables available. The hostess will be glad to seat you. Bring your own beverage.

BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.

The Cubs lost to the Mariners this afternoon, 5-2. Yeah, that’s a bummer, but if you’d have offered us a 4-2 homestand last week after the rainout in Cincinnati, I think most of us would have taken it.

Of course, the big news is something that I didn’t think was going to happen. The Cubs signed Ian Happ to a three-year extension that runs through 2026. To be fair to me, I wrote “In all likelihood” and not that there was no chance that Happ would sign an extension after he failed to do so before Opening Day.

Yesterday, I asked you if you thought the Cubs or the Cardinals would finish with a better record in 2023. A clear majority of 56 percent of you still think the Cardinals are going to have a better season than the Cubs will. Still, 44 percent of you believe in the Cubs.

Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.

One of the first records (maybe the first) I ever got as a kid with “adult” music on it (meaning not children’s songs) was one of those K-Tel compilation albums. Anyone of a certain age will know what I’m talking about. For those of you too young, it was the 70s version of the “That’s What I Call Music” series.

Anyway, that particular album had on it the hit jazz-fusion version of Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” by Deodata. That particular piece of music was pretty well-known back then from its use on the soundtrack for director Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Brazilian Deodato’s version went all the way to number 2 on the pop charts in 1973.

So here is the Eumir Deodato Trio in 2011 performing “Also Sprach Zarathustra.”

I kind of ran out of time this evening to write a film essay and I really can’t think of a question at the moment. I’m always looking for good ideas though, so if you have one, put it down in the comments.

To give you something, I’m going to write a few words about Zero Hour!, the 1957 film directed by Hall Bartlett and starring Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell and Sterling Hayden. These days, Zero Hour! is best-known as the film that the 1980 film Airplane!, directed by David and Jerry Zucker, was based on.

If you’ve seen Airplane!, you know the plot to Zero Hour! Heck, the Zucker brothers didn’t even bother to change some of the dialog. No, there’s no flight attendant in Zero Hour! that speaks “jive” nor does any kid recognize the co-pilot in the film as Los Angeles Rams star Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch like they recognize Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Airplane! But the basic plot of the two films is identical. A traumatized war pilot gets on a plane to try to salvage a romantic relationship and ends up having to fly the plane when the entire crew gets food poisoning. He’s talked down by his former commanding officer.

Zero Hour! was ripe for parody because it’s a film that takes itself quite seriously and it really shouldn’t. Because it’s not a good film. It’s also a sad film because five or so years previous, big stars like Dana Andrews and Linda Darnell would never have been caught dead in it. It’s sad to see how far their stars had fallen by 1957. I don’t know why Hayden, who was in his prime, is in this film other than he was never really a leading man and probably took any supporting role he was offered. Maybe he owed someone a favor. Hayden is probably also the only actor actually trying in Zero Hour!

Of course, it is kind of fun to watch Zero Hour! if you’re familiar with Airplane! If you’ve ever wondered how your favorite comedy would do as a drama, here’s your chance to find out. It’s an interesting comparison. It’s also an interesting historical artifact from a time when airplane travel was new and exciting for most Americans and not a necessary evil that involves taking your shoes off.

Maybe someday, I’ll do something a little more in-depth comparing Zero Hour! to Airplane! But for now, if you want to laugh at a movie that wasn’t meant to be a comedy, you could do worse than Zero Hour! At least if you can get over that there are two once-great stars in their Love Boat phase phoning it it.

Here’s the trailer for Zero Hour! Honestly, it’s pretty funny. It’s not supposed to be funny, but that’s not our problem. And you can see how bad things were for Andrews and Darnell just from this trailer.

Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.

With the signing of Ian Happ to a three-year extension earlier today, the Cubs now have four position players locked up and under contract through the 2026 season: Dansby Swanson, Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner and Seiya Suzuki. Swanson is under contract through 2029. The other three reach free agency after the 2026 season.

So these four players appear to be the new “core” of the Cubs for the next few years. Obviously they can and will add more players through the minor leagues, trades and free agency, but it seems almost certain that these four will be on the Cubs through the 2026 season.

Tonight’s question is: Is that core good enough? Will the Cubs compete for a World Series title by 2026? I’m not going to ask if the Cubs are going to win the World Series over the next four years—there’s too much luck involved in that. Ask the Dodgers, who have have won more than 90 games in each of the last ten seasons. OK, they only won 43 games in 2020, but that was 43 out of 60 games played. That was a pace of 116 wins. The Dodgers had a team that could have won the World Series in each of those ten season and only did once—the year they won 43 games.

But I think we can define a team that competed for a World Series as one that at least plays in the National League Championship Series. And while they don’t have to be the favorite, they can’t be a team that sort of snuck into the playoffs as the final Wild Card and then got lucky in a series or two. A World Series contender should be a team that is a real threat to win 95 games in a year, even if they “only” managed to win 91 or 92.

So now that the definitions are out of the way, do you think the Cubs will be a World Series contender by 2026? Can a team anchored by Swanson, Hoerner, Happ and Suzuki win it all? Yes, we know they would need good pitching and a few other players as well, like a center fielder, a catcher and a first baseman, for example. A third baseman would be nice to have as well. Otherwise teams would bunt on them a lot. But I think you can assume that these four “core” players will at least be four of the best five position players on the team for the purposes of this question.

So have the Cubs built the core of a team that will compete for the World Series by 2026?


Will the Cubs compete for a World Series title by 2026?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    (154 votes)
  • 23%
    (48 votes)
202 votes total Vote Now

Thank you to everyone who stopped in tonight and all week. The place is always better when you’re around. Please get home safely. Tip your waitstaff. And join us next week for more BCB After Dark.