This Cubs team deserves to party

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The Cubs stumbled backward into this celebration.

They actually qualified for the National League playoffs at midnight Friday, when the Athletics beat the Giants in Oakland, California.

The Cubs didn’t have to win a thing Saturday to blow open all those champagne bottles. And they didn’t.

Indeed, they’ve lost their last three games — one to the Brewers and two to the smoking-hot Pirates — and four of their last six.

But as pitcher Jon Lester — one of his small sons perched atop his shoulders — carefully poured champagne inside first baseman Anthony Rizzo’s collar and down his back as Rizzo answered questions from a dozen reporters, nothing about the journey much mattered.

The Cubs are here. You get here, you party.

After seven years, they have made the postseason again, even if it likely will be as the second wild-card team and the third-best team in the five-team NL Central.

But once you get past the bouncer and onto the dance floor, who cares how you arrived?

Everybody on this 89-65 team is friends with everybody else, Rizzo said, never flinching as Lester continued pouring champagne down his back.

So that means the one-for-all attitude ignores hiccups such as the 4-0 shutout Saturday. And it ignores a suddenly impotent offense that has scored but three runs in the last three games.

Such potholes mean nothing to these kids, with a starting infield that averages 24 years of age and a starting outfield that averages either 25 or 27, depending on whether Chris Coghlan or Jorge Soler starts in right.

Grandpa/manager Joe Maddon takes care of the pressure by ignoring it and cheerfully leading the way down the trail.

‘‘It’s the mindset, the mentality,’’ Lester said of the ease with which this team has risen from nowhere, almost joyfully, and now is looking forward to the one-game wild-card matchup Oct. 7, likely against these same Pirates.

Some guys wore swimming goggles for this disco bash, which, in a way, is cheating. If you have champagne flying everywhere, own it.

‘‘It really burns,’’ said pitcher Jason Hammel, explaining why he was wearing dark-tinted ski goggles.

He was grinning because somebody generously handed him the things.

The locker room, of course, was nothing but a stinking rectangle, plastic sealing off the lockers like shrink-wrap. But the disco ball and strobe lights were special.

I’m guessing you could thank Maddon for that touch. He really likes parties. And when he held up his champagne bottle, he didn’t dump it on his head; he guzzled from it.

Rizzo had walked past, drinking from his own bottle, another full bottle in his back pocket like a cellphone or wallet.

Maddon approved of it all. And if he doesn’t mind that the Cubs have a tough and unlikely road ahead to success — the one-game play-in, then a five-game NL Division Series, then the seven-game NL Championship Series, then the seven-game World Series, possibly 20 postseason games to win it all — then why should we?

Are we getting ahead of ourselves here?

Uh, yes. This wasn’t even supposed to be that big a year for the Cubs. This, according to president Theo Epstein last winter, was supposed to be the year before the year. Maybe even the year before the year before the year.

What happened?

All the chumminess made everybody superhuman?

Or are these rookies — left fielder Kyle Schwarber, third baseman Kris Bryant, shortstop Addison Russell — that good?

It doesn’t hurt to have a lights-out pitcher, such as Jake Arrieta, wash up on your shore. Or to have a slugger/leader, such as the 26-year-old Rizzo, in the house.

But these parts don’t equal the whole. And that’s the way you get somewhere, with a team made much greater because of bonding.

The champagne, by the way, was Blanc de Blancs Cuvee Tradition Brut. Good stuff. French. And it shamelessly had big Binny’s labels on the back of each bottle.

Guess who shills for Binny’s? If you said Maddon, you’re correct.

Aw, so what?

A young woman was in the party mix that spilled out of the drenched locker room and onto the field. She was related to Maddon somehow, and she wore a black T-shirt that had a small photo of him on it and the words, ‘‘Joe Has the Antigoate.’’

Questionable spelling, but the point was clear: This guy blows past curses.

We’ll see.

At the gift shops inside Wrigley, they’re selling $35 T-shirts that say, ‘‘THE POSTSEASON IS OURS.’’

Slow down there. Drink the bubbly first.

Then hallucinate.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.


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