The Chicago Cubs' 2015 season ended with a humbling sweep at the hands of the New York Mets, but in listening to the Chicago players and to manager Joe Maddon right after defeat, it didn't sound like an ending. Rather, they seemed to view it as a beginning, in the way they framed it emotionally, knowing how young they are, knowing that there is room for growth in this group of players.
"For me personally, I walked in the door not really knowing anybody in Arizona, hardly anybody when we got there in February, and how we built relationships and created a culture within one year is pretty spectacular within the clubhouse," Maddon said, detailing what he told the players right after they were eliminated.
"I mentioned to them how important it is as we move forward and [when] we go to spring training next year, we know exactly what we want to do and how we want to do it. On top of that, our young players have learned how to win on a major league level, which matters. And to get within four games of the World Series in your freshman year is not a bad thing."
Words worth remembering for this final chapter of our winter rankings, based on the input of evaluators: the top 10 teams in 2016.
1. Chicago Cubs
The addition of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist makes the Cubs even better and deeper, both at the plate and in the field, and they also added a reliable rotation plow horse in John Lackey. Their greatest challenge might be doing everything they can to win the National League Central over the course of the long season, because they've witnessed first-hand how a great team like the Pittsburgh Pirates can be reduced to a one-night-stand wild-card game and subsequently eliminated.
The Cubs are the early pick here to take another step forward this year and do something they haven't done since 1908: win the World Series. And they'll beat the