The Chicago Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908, haven’t been to the Fall Classic since 1945 and have failed to reach the playoffs in each of the past six seasons.
Oddsmakers tabbed the Cubs’ chances at reaching the 2015 World Series at 50-1 before free agency started. Once they signed coveted free-agent pitcher Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million contract, those odds lowered to 20-1. Factor in Joe Maddon, who resigned from the Tampa Bay Rays with a year left on his deal and signed on to be the Cubs' skipper days later, and Vegas puts “the lovable losers” as a 12-1 shot as World Series champions.
The Cubs have finished 5th in the National League Central for five straight years, but that didn’t matter to Lester.
“The lure of bringing the World Series to this town and this team really interested me and my family,” said Lester, who is on this week’s national cover of Sports Illustrated.
It’s clear that club president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and owner Tom Ricketts are not messing around in trying to bring a championship to the franchise. Wrigley Field is undergoing a nearly $400 million renovation and the team is loaded with young talent, including Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Starlin Castro, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo, who led the team in home runs, RBI and on-base percentage last season.
Lester said part of the reason he signed was because he felt comfortable with Hoyer and Epstein.
“I don’t really want to say it was a sales job, because I really believe what they believe, that this could be the next dynasty over the next six, seven, eight, nine years," he said. "I think I’m pretty good at knowing when it’s somebody you can believe or when you can see through the b.s. I felt like there was no b.s.”
For more on Lester and the Cubs, check out Tom Verducci's story in this week's Sports Illustrated (subscribe here).
Also featured in this issue: the year in sports media, features on the San Francisco 49ers struggles, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and North Carolina forward Kennedy Meeks.
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2014 Sports Illustrated Covers
December 29, 2014 | The Buckeyes are down to their third-string quarterback for coach Urban Meyer, who is two victories away from claiming his third national title. *This is a double issue: Dec. 29, 2014 0 Jan. 5, 2015.
December 29, 2014 | Oregon’s high-powered offense led by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota looks to lead the Ducks to their first national championship.
December 29, 2014 | Florida State, winners of 29 straight games, are led last year’s Heisman winner Jameis Winston and a resiliency unmatched in college football.
December 29, 2014 | The Crimson Tide are back in the title hunt, seeking their fourth national championship in the last six seasons.
December 22, 2014 | Jon Lester’s arrival in Chicago, along with a six-year $155 million contract, has expectations high for the "lovable losers," who are now 12-1 favorites to win the 2015 World Series.
December 22, 2014 | The San Francisco 49ers three-year NFC Championship game appearance run is coming to end and head coach Jim Harbaugh’s tenure with the team could soon be coming to an end as well.
December 15, 2014 | San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner had a postseason for the ages, giving up only six earned runs while pitching a record 52 2/3 innings helping the Giants to their third World Series title in the past five seasons. He is seventh MLB pitcher to be awarded Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year.
December 8, 2014 | The Pelicans do-it-all forward Anthony Davis is headed for superstardom, complete with an offensive game that’s hard to defend and a fearless defensive presence around the basket.
December 8, 2014 | Wisconsin’s record-setting running back Melvin Gordon has his sights on the FBS single-season rushing record and the Heisman Trophy.
December 1, 2014 | Big, strong and fast, Jordy Nelson is perhaps the NFL's best deep threat and undoubtedly one of the league's best receivers, even though he hasn't always been recognized as such. On pace to finish atop the franchise's all-time leaders in receptions and receiving yards, Nelson, who's on this week's SI cover, is a solid bet to make his first Pro Bowl this season, and he's helped the Packers (8-3) become a Super Bowl contender once again.
November 24, 2014 | The Patriots may have a found another diamond in the rough, this time with undrafted running back Jonas Gray, who ran for 199 yards and 4 touchdowns in a Monday night victory over the Colts.
November 24, 2014 | One of the NHL’s best defensemen, P.K. Subban of the Canadiens. hopes to help bring the Stanley Cup to Montreal for the first time since 1993.
November 17, 2014 | The NFL’s most dominate defensive player, Texans All-Pro J.J. Watt, wants to focus on nothing else but the next play and piling up victories.
November 17, 2014 | The Arizona Cardinals are sporting the league’s best record, despite injuries across the board, including to their starting quarterback.
College Basketball preview: Duke
November 10, 2014 | Freshman Jahlil Okafor and the Blue Devils have the nation’s No. 1 recruit class and will look to avoid last season’s disappointment after losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Mercer.
College Basketball preview: Kentucky
November 10, 2014 | With nine talented McDonald's All-Americans on the roster and sky-high expectations, preseason No. 1 Kentucky leads a pack of teams looking to reach the Final Four in Indianapolis.
College Basketball preview: Wisconsin
November 10, 2014 | Paced by the nation’s most efficient offense, Wisconsin and Wooden award candidate Frank Kaminsky look to dethrone Michigan State as the Big Ten’s top team.
College Basketball preview: Texas
November 10, 2014 | With five returning starters plus freshman Myles Turner, Texas may just have enough to end Kansas and its 10-year stranglehold on the Big 12.
College Basketball preview: Arizona
November 10, 2014 | The Wildcats are paced by a ferocious defense and another stellar recruiting class but can they break through to get to the Final Four?
The World Series
November 10, 2014 | San Francisco’s third World Series victory in five seasons can be credited by a dominate pitching performance by Madison Bumgarner and a shrewd front office that is built to win.
The World Series special issue
November 3, 2014 | SI's special digital edition on the heels of the San Francisco Giants winning Game 7 of the World Series over the Kansas City Royals.
The World Series, Royals and Giants
November 3, 2014 | As the World Series comes to a close, the Giants and Royals try to play the kind of baseball that got them this far: playing stingy defense to go along with outstanding pitching.
November 3, 2014 | Admit reports of locker room turmoil, the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks win over the Panthers on Sunday have quieted their critics…..for now.
October 27, 2014 | The Cleveland Cavaliers squarely have a target on their backs after LeBron James and Kevin Love joined the team. But does that make them the favorites for the championship?
Kansas City Royals
October 27, 2014 | The World Series between the Royals and Giants may lack power hitting prowess, but will feature plenty of running, timely hitting and outstanding pitching.
October 20, 2014 | Mississippi State quarterback and Heisman candidate Dak Prescott has the Bulldogs sitting on top of the polls after a shocking run through some of the top teams in the SEC.
October 20, 2014 | There are thousands of homeless athletes around the United States and an SI investigation found that most of them thrive and survive with the help of sports.
Ole Miss and Mississippi State
October 13, 2014 | The Magnolia State was front and center of the college football universe last Saturday, with Ole Miss and Mississippi State scoring historic victories and throwing the college football playoff into complete chaos.
Kansas City Royals
October 13, 2014 | Lacking power, but plenty of speed, the Kansas City Royals are four victories from their first World Series appearance since 1985.
Adam Jones and Alex Ovechkin
October 6, 2014 | Hoping to avoid early playoff exits, fans of the Beltway teams pins its championship hopes on Orioles outfielder Adam Jones and Capitals center Alex Ovechkin.
Adam Wainwright and T. J Oshie
October 6, 2014 | The St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Blues, led by Adam Wainwright and T. J Oshie, look to get past last year’s disappointing playoff exits.
Clayton Kershaw and Anze Kopitar
October 6, 2014 | Although Los Angeles has no NFL team, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and Kings forward Anze Kopitar are making sure that fans in the area don't miss America's most popular sport.
September 29, 2014 | As New York Yankees shortshop Derek Jeter closes the book on a 20-year career, he reflects on what has changed in the time that he has been in pinstripes.
September 22, 2014 | Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is almost certainly going to be a first-round NFL draft pick next year, but why are scouts so high on him?
September 15, 2014 | The focus is now on the National Football League and how they handled the situation involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
September 8, 2014 | The case can be made that Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is already one of the NFL’s best at his position. Just don’t tell him that.
September 8, 2014 | The National League’s reigning MVP Andrew McCutchen is leading the Pirates back to another possible playoff berth.
Tony Romo and Nick Foles
September 1, 2014 | The NFC East features two of the most talented signal callers in the league in Tony Romo and Nick Foles. But if neither team’s defense shows up, both might be sitting at home watching the playoffs this season.
Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick
September 1, 2014 | The NFC West title goes through Seattle, but the 49ers and quarterback Colin Kaepernick will try to reach the NFC Championship for a fourth straight year.
Drew Brees and Matt Ryan
September 1, 2014 | Atlanta and New Orleans both have enough offensive firepower to outscore anyone. And outscoring, and not stopping opponents might be enough to win the NFC South.
Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford
September 1, 2014 | Two quarterbacks, Chicago’s Jay Cutler and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, look to detrone the Packers in the NFC North and lead their teams to a division title.
August 25, 2014 | Mo'ne Davis, a 5-foot-4 inch, 111-pound eighth grader is not only taking the Little League World Series by storm, but the rest of the nation is starting to take notice as well.
August 25, 2014 | Lakers star Kobe Bryant knows the end of his career is near, but is doing to things to prolong a Hall of Fame legacy and to set up for his future.
Kansas City Royals
August 25, 2014 | After nearly 30 years of missing the playoffs, the AL Central leading Kansas City Royals are on the brink of joining the postseason party.
August 18, 2014 | Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston seeks to become the first back-to-back winner in almost 40 years. The Seminoles are also big favorites to repeat as national champions.
August 18, 2014 | Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper hopes to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 season, by leading the Crimson Tide back to the title game.
August 18, 2014 | Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight looks for a repeat performance after bursting on the scene by shredding Alabama’s defense in the Sugar Bowl.
August 18, 2014 | UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley passed up NFL riches to try to lead UCLA back into the national spotlight.
August 18, 2014 | Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller looks for a better end of the season, after two consecutive losses knocked the Buckeyes out of the championship picture.
The 60th Anniversary Issue
August 11, 2014 | With over 3,000 covers spanning the last seven decades, Sports Illustrated's 60th anniversary issue pays tribute to the readers as the cover features a mosaic with thousands of reader submitted photos.
August 4, 2014 | UCLA quarterback and Heisman Trophy hopeful Brett Hundley passed up NFL riches to try to lead the Bruins back to national prominence.
August 4, 2014 | The NFL’s leading rusher in 2013, LeSean McCoy credits offseason workouts for the reason he has been able to stay healthy.
August 4, 2014 | Jamaal Charles, SI’s No. 1 fantasy running back, accounted for 35 percent of the Kansas City Chiefs offense, while leading the team in rushing and receiving.
August 4, 2014 | The NFL’s offensive rookie of the year looks to improve on an 1,100 yard rushing season.
July 28, 2014 | Rory McIlroy keeps things in perspective as he is shooting to complete the career Grand Slam at next year’s Masters.
July 28, 2014 | As Saints quarterback Drew Brees enters his 14th NFL season, he relies on flexibility, core stability and rotational strength to keep in shape.
July 21, 2014 | Cleveland has reason to believe again after LeBron James decided to rejoin the Cavaliers. SI takes a closer look at how James' return came together and what it means for Northern Ohio.
July 7-14 | When you think of the Chicago Cubs, the first name that usually comes to mind is Ernie Banks. Banks, along with former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Nate Newton, are featured in SI's "Where are they now?" double issue. In the issue, Banks explains why the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. "First of all, Wrigley Field. It's a different place to play," Banks tells SI's Rich Cohen. "I mean, the wind blows all kinds of ways. Foul lines are very close to the wall."
July 7-14 | Nate Newton and his fellow Dallas Cowboys linemen helped running back Emmitt Smith win four rushing titles.
June 30, 2014 | This week's Sports Illustrated cover features Houston Astros rookie right fielder George Springer, who is trying to help the team climb out of baseball's cellar. Springer, who has 14 home runs and 39 RBI in only 59 games this season, along with major league hits leader Jose Altuve, still have some work to do as Houston sits at 33-45, good for last place in the American League West as of June 25. Check out the Sports Illustrated print edition this week (subscribe here) for SI.com writer Ben Reiter’s piece on how scouting and modern-day metrics are potentially building the Astros toward championship contention in the future.
June 23, 2014 | Chuck Noll, the coach behind the Pittsburgh Steelers' famed "Steel Curtain" defense, was undoubtedly one of the greatest coaches ever to man an NFL sideline. In 23 seasons, Noll compiled a 209-156-1 record, but the Hall of Fame coach will be remembered most for leading the Steelers to four Super Bowl victories in six years. Noll died in his sleep at his Pittsburgh-area home last week at the age of 82. This week's Sports Illustrated features remembrances from SI senior writer Tim Layden and former Pittsburgh running back Rocky Bleier, who anchored the backfield of those championship Steeler teams.