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A Fair-Weather Fan's Guide to the Chicago Cubs' 2015 Season

By  Jon Hansen and Shamus Toomey | October 6, 2015 6:31am | Updated on October 6, 2015 9:58am

 Cubs players like to dump stuff on teammates' heads, like Anthony Rizzo does here to Chris Denorfia.
Cubs players like to dump stuff on teammates' heads, like Anthony Rizzo does here to Chris Denorfia.
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WRIGLEYVILLE — The Cubs are in the postseason for the first time since 2008, and some fans are now just getting into the action.

Here's a quick guide for the fair weather fan who wants to know just enough to get by in time for Wednesday's one-game playoff against the Pittsburgh Pirates (7 p.m. TBS).

1) Why do the Cubs rub their helmets when they get a hit?

Utility man Jonathan Herrera started the TV-friendly gesture in April against the Cincinnati Reds, apparently to have fun with teammate Starlin Castro.

"The real reason is it comes from Castro," Herrera told ESPN. "We were talking one day and we said something funny and he just rubbed his head real fast. I said, ‘Why do you do that?' So that day when I got on base it came natural to me to just rub my head. So now we keep doing it."

Some guys, like first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who is typically the instigator of these things, started doing it without knowing why.

"Johnny Herrera, I think, started it," Rizzo said shortly after the move debuted. "I've got to get the whole story on this, I just caught onto it. ... Obviously we took both games in Cincinnati, so we have to keep it going."

David Ross shows off the Cubs' 2015 helmet-rubbing "tradition." (Getty Images)

2) What's up with the "We Are Good" motto?

Rizzo told the Kap & Haugh show that it started with a tweet by catcher Miguel Montero. His teammates like to ride him for his broken English tweets, but after an early season win, Montero tweeted "#wearegood" and his teammates loved it and latched on. Now there are T-shirts, commercials, etc.

Shamus Toomey discusses Cubs fever ahead of Wednesday night:

3) Why are they playing just one game against the Pirates?

Major League Baseball tinkered with the postseason in 2012 and added what it calls a play-in game. That game pits against each other the two teams in each league with the best records that didn't win their division, or the Wild Cards.

In the National League, that's the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cubs. The winner of the one-game play-in Wild Card round earns the chance to play in the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

4) Were the Cubs supposed to be good this year?

Not this good. The Cubs finished in last place in their division last year, and conventional wisdom had them being competitive this year as they brought up some rookies and continued a massive team rebuilding project. But those rookies played really well, pitcher Jake Arrieta caught fire, the team came together in the clutch and here we are.

5) How dreamy are Kris Bryant's eyes?

You can get trapped in them.

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6) Who are all of these rookies?

Thanks to a run of bad baseball, the Cubs got very high draft picks in recent years. They also traded away some veterans to load up on young talent. Several of those young guys got promoted to the Big Leagues this season. They are: Kris Bryant (first game April 17); Addison Russell (first game April 21); and Kyle Schwarber (first game June 16).

Jorge Soler (age 23) and Javier Baez (age 22) made their debuts last season but are still part of the youth movement. And even Anthony Rizzo is still a youngster at just 26 years old.

7) Who is the guy with the hip glasses?

That's Joe Maddon, a hugely respected veteran manager who the Cubs nabbed in the off-season thanks to a loophole in his Tampa Bay Rays contract.

Not since Phil Jackson led the Chicago Bulls has Chicago seen such a well-respected, thoughtful, articulate, self-aware coach at the helm of a major sports team.

Maddon takes risks to take the pressure off his team, and they all seem to have worked this year. He's brought in a petting zoo before games and allowed disco balls and smoke machines in the post-game clubhouse. He's talked about his true desire of owning a bar called The Pink Flamingo. He shaved his head for charity in the spring, and grew a beard out of superstition in the regular season.

He bats his pitcher 8th instead of 9th, moves his guys around to different positions to keep them fresh and entertains the media (and the fans) with his creative approach to baseball and life.

8) Why are these Cubs so popular?

Because they're the Cubs and any success is a huge story considering their 107-year World Series drought. But they're also a lot of fun. From weird celebrations to furious comeback wins to Manager Joe Maddon's philosophy sessions to Pajama Night, the team truly seems to like each other and have fun.

The Cubs all wore pajamas home at the end of a long West Coast road trip in August. (Getty Images)

9) That guy with the big beard, is he the stud pitcher the Cubs gave $155 million to in the off-season?

Actually, no. The Cubs lured lefty Jon Lester to the team last winter with a huge six-year, $155 million deal. But the Cubs' real ace this year is the heavily bearded Jake Arrieta, a righty whom the Cubs got in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles in 2013.

Arrieta has been nearly unhittable for months — including racking up the lowest post-All-Star break earned run average in Major League history (0.75). He also threw the first Cubs no-hitter since 2008.

      
 

10) Isn't Wrigley Field still under construction?

Yes. The multiyear overhaul got underway last fall as construction crews tore down most of the bleachers and ripped up the parking lot to the west of the ballpark. The bleachers were rebuilt and opened in sections during the early part of this season. Two large video boards were added. The larger video board is in left field and the other is in right.

Work on the overall $575 million project continues and isn't scheduled to be done until 2018. A state-of-the-art, 30,000-square-foot underground team clubhouse is this coming off-season's big project.

11) So do they still have the metal troughs in the men's washrooms?

Yes. The troughs survived the renovation project.

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12) Has anyone hit that huge video board in left field?

Yes, Kris Bryant has been peppering it this year. He was the first to hit the board when he crushed a ball 477 feet against the Nationals on May 26.

And on Sept. 6, he hit the longest homer in the majors this season — 495 feet — and knocked it off the video board. And not just barely off it. It bounced off near the top.

13) While it seems like forever since the Cubs were in the playoffs, it's been worse. Much worse, right?

The Cubs have been in the playoffs seven times in 31 years (1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2015).

Before that run, the Cubs failed to make the playoffs from 1945 until 1984, a 39-year drought.

14) Was it just this year that we lost Ernie Banks?

The best player in Cubs history, Ernie Banks, died Jan. 23. With a catchphrase of "Let's Play Two," this season couldn't end after just playing one, right?

The Cubs and Wrigley Field are 95 percent owned by a trust established for the benefit of the family of Joe Ricketts, owner and CEO of DNAinfo.com. Joe Ricketts has no direct involvement in the management of the iconic team.

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