By the time the 2039 season ended, the city of Chicago had captured its league-leading seventh championship, beating the Caribou in four of six games.
The Caribou provided plenty of drama themselves this season. Predicted to finish dead last in Canada, they started hot (49-28 over the first three months) before fading down the stretch (28-39). They had done enough early to keep themselves in the Wild Card hunt and swept Hamilton to end the season and clinch their playoff berth.
Thunder Bay spat on their sub-.500 Pythagorean record, finishing 10 games above .500 and doing so without any players having superstar seasons. Just two finished above 3.0 WAR, both pitchers. Starter José González managed 4.7 WAR and had Jack Morris workman-like stats, starting 31 games (a league high) and pitching 200 innings. He also kept the ball in the park, giving up just 0.2 HR per 9 IP, leading the league. Kyle Wolfe had one of the all-time great seasons for a closer, managing a 4.2 WAR and a league-high 42 saves.
The Caribou had limped to the finish line but were defying expectations. That would continue in the Canadian Championship series.
The clear underdogs against Kingston, Thunder Bay made quick work of the favored Comets with dominant pitching and defense. They allowed just six runs over five games and outscored Kingston 24-6. It looked like they had found that early-season magic.
The series against Chicago would not go their way, but it was a much closer series than most expected and closer than the final result would indicate. Chicago would take the first two but narrowly escaped a split in the home opening series with an extra inning win in game 2. The Caribou stampeded back with a game three shutout. They looked like they might be ready to tie up the series in Game 4 until a late comeback changed things, putting the Architects up 3-1.
The Caribou managed to win their last one at home, another shutout, their fourth of the playoffs. With the series at 3-2, Chicago Ace António Méndez would hold the Caribou to one hit and two runs (one earned) in 6.2 innings. It was more than enough for Chicago to close out the series and end Thunder Bay’s storied season.
Chicago had the opposite season trajectory of the Caribou, stumbling a bit out of the gates but finishing strong to the point where most Great Lakes Baseball fans felt that they had seen this too often.
Chicago got consistent performances from names that we are used to hearing in the Windy City. Daniel Huffman led position players with 5.6 WAR, slugging 23 HR and a .850 OPS. Starting pitchers Everton Mounsey (15-4 2.58 ERA) and António Méndez (13-4, 2.98 ERA) are competing for Pitcher of the Year.
A couple of other new names had a big impact on Chicago’s season. A midseason signing of Eric Orr seemed to be a catalyst for the turnaround. Though he started just 53 games, Orr earned 2.1 WAR, had a .878 OPS, and smacked 10 home runs. But the biggest may have been rookie center fielder António “The Terrible” Méndez. At just 20, he had a 105+ OPS, but his standout defense in center helped make him the second most valuable player on the championship team with a 3.9 WAR and a likely lock for Rookie of the Year.
The Architects have been in the championship conversation every season of this decade, missing the playoffs just once. With an aging roster—and one that will be getting more expensive by the year—how long they can continue to stay (and some would say overstay) their welcome into the next decade is anyone’s guess.