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Emma: Magical 2015 Season Was Just The Beginning Of Cubs' Contention

By Chris Emma--

(CBS) Rain began to pour late Tuesday evening at Wrigley Field, and any fans fled to the exits. Yet, some sat in despair, sheets of rain falling down and too many heads looking up to the skies.

The Cubs had just fallen behind 3-0 in the NLCS, with what seemed inevitable coming Wednesday. They knew what was coming. Sure, this team is different than those of the past, yet it all seems so Cub-like. Another season that seemed destined for something more came crashing down like heavy rain.

Game 4 brought what was a gut-wrenching reality that seemed to be all but a formality, as Jason Hammel gave up four runs in the first inning, the Cubs' bats stayed largely quiet and a magical 2015 season came to a miserable end, with the Mets sweeping their way to the World Series, earning an 8-3 win. It was a long, slow, painful death.

What makes it all so frustrating is the Cubs didn't play anywhere near their best baseball in the four-game NLCS sweep. Their pitching was a letdown, the bats brought little help and the gloves were shaky. The stage wasn't too big, the lights weren't too bright -- the Cubs just weren't very good. Four futile games didn't reflect a special season.

Lost in the lethargy, with the gut-wrenching pain of another Cubs postseason letdown, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture. The most loyal of fans would prefer not to look toward 2016 when there was a dream for 2015 crushed by Daniel Murphy's uncanny heroics, David Wright's timely glove and so many fire-balling arms. The Mets are a worthy National League champion.

As soon as the swelling dies down, Cubs fans, appreciate where this organization stands. The entire franchise has been turned around by Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Joe Maddon and crew, built from loser to long-term World Series contender. Count names like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler and more as reasons for hope. There are more to follow, too.

In 2015, the Cubs were a rousing success. This young team arrived as a contender way ahead of schedule, far surpassing the most optimistic of expectations. Everything came together right for the Cubs to win 97 games, top the Pirates in the one-game wild-card playoff and beat the Cardinals in four games during the NLDS.

From this season, the Cubs can also savor that they had the likely NL Manager of the Year, the runaway NL Rookie of the Year and likely NL Cy Young winner. From 11 walk-off wins to Jake Arrieta's no-hitter and 20 wins, there was much to enjoy, even if this ended so soon.

So many triumphs followed in a fun season, as Maddon made the most of a talented core. The Cubs kept getting better as the season went along, playing terrific baseball as the postseason arrived. That's what made four heartbreaking games so hard to handle, because the Cubs were much better than the NLCS showing.

Nothing is guaranteed for the Cubs' future -- insert any narrative if you must -- but the team is built to last. That winning culture has been instilled.

It was  rocky ending, but there's a bright future ahead. This 2015 campaign was a great success, and the best may be yet to come.

Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.

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