1969 Cubs provide forecast for 2019 Cubs

SHARE 1969 Cubs provide forecast for 2019 Cubs

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon watches play against the Texas Rangers during a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, March 30, 2019. | Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

There was only so much — make that so little — Cubs offense Billy Williams could take. So the Hall of Famer left Wrigley Field early last Oct. 1 as the home team repeatedly failed to put rallies together in a Game 163 division tiebreaker against the streaking Brewers, who eventually won 3-1 to force the ill-fated Cubs into a wild-card matchup against the Rockies.

‘‘That was terrible,’’ Williams said. ‘‘I didn’t want to see that. You don’t want to see somebody celebrating on your turf.’’

How do three members of the 1969 Cubs see the 2019 season shaking out? It all starts in the National League Central, where the Brewers, Cubs and what might be a greatly improved Cardinals team — with slugging first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and elite reliever Andrew Miller added to the mix — are expected to wage a prodigious three-way battle.

‘‘It’s going to be a good race,’’ Williams said. ‘‘You’ve got the Cardinals, who’ve got a good team. But the Brewers, that’s the team. Because Milwaukee’s only 80, 85 miles away, you’re going to see a lot of Brewers fans here and Cubs fans there. This might be the future rivalry of baseball. The Brewers concern me. They’re going to be hard to beat.’’

Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins still gets fired up thinking about the manner in which the Cubs handled — make that didn’t — Brewers star Christian Yelich (left), the NL MVP, last season. It reminded him of a half-century-old exchange with then-Cubs manager Leo Durocher.

‘‘Leo used to ask, ‘You read the paper?’ ’’ Jenkins said. ‘‘ ‘Yeah, I read the paper.‘ ‘Did you see he got two more hits? Don’t pitch to him!’ ’’

Jenkins might be a Cubs fan for life, but he doesn’t consider them the favorites.

‘‘The Brewers are the team to beat in the division,’’ he said. ‘‘I believe it. They’ve got good hitting, and their pitching is up and above the other teams’. You better look out for those guys.’’

The Cubs do have a staunch believer in ’69 shortstop Don Kessinger.

‘‘I couldn’t play with Ernie Banks as long as I did without thinking this is the Cubs’ year,’’ he said. ‘‘I think it’ll be a heck of a race, but I do think the Cubs will win it. I really do. I really like the way Joe Maddon lets them play. It seems to me he allows them to play free and relaxed and play their game, not that he isn’t a good and tough manager.’’

So there you have it: The Cubs will be first to the finish line — unless they aren’t.

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