At long, long last, Cubs step onto World Series stage

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The Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo looks on during Media Day workouts for the 2016 World Series against the Indians. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND — Doesn’t it seem like the World Series is upon us too quickly, as if Chicago hasn’t had sufficient time to digest the Cubs’ National League pennant? All those years of hunger and then only one big bite before a new quest begins for more?

Yes, it does. And yet – and this can’t be overstated — 107-year-old beggars can’t be choosers.

On Saturday, the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, setting off a massive party that is somewhere between still going on and still being recovered from. But the city moves forward, staggering maybe, haggard definitely, ready for the World Series. The last time the Cubs won one of those was 1908. By now, you’re aware of that like you’re aware of your first and last name.

The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948, a drought Cubs fans refer to as “child’s play.’’ Cleveland has known its share of sorrow, just a smaller share.

“One franchise and one city is going to be really happy,’’ Indians manager Terry Francona said Monday. “The other one is going to probably (hear) all the same things you’ve heard year after year, and you’ll probably hear it again. I hope it’s them.’

That the Cubs have been shooting for this since last season ended doesn’t make what is to take place Tuesday night any less surreal. The franchise that always talked about aiming high but was constantly being treated for self-inflicted gunshots to the foot is ready to take on the Indians in Game 1 of the Fall Classic.

The Cubs. The Chicago Cubs.

“We’ve envisioned this since last year, since spring training this year, every bus ride we take, we envision it,’’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “We talk about it. When you’re so wrapped up in it, good things happen. We’ve been talking about this and envisioning this that now that we’re here, it just feels like it’s another series.’’

All the Cubs are proud of being one of two teams left in the postseason, but some carry the profound knowledge of being on the verge of accomplishing what so many Cubs never got the chance to accomplish. Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux, among so many others, never won a pennant in Chicago.

“There are great players who played for the Chicago Cubs for 71 years and they never got to this point,’’ catcher Miguel Montero said. “I feel pretty blessed to be here and to be part of this team and going to the World Series. It’s going to be even more of a blessing if we win it all, because in 108 years it hasn’t been done. It’s a special group of guys, and we’ve got a chance to do it.’’

If the Cubs do win the World Series, they’ll do what Kiki Cuyler, Gabby Hartnett, Billy Herman, Rogers Hornsby and Hack Wilson never did. That’s a lot of talent and lot of years ago.

The Cubs got here by winning 103 regular-season games, the most in the big leagues. They won with great pitching and great hitting, which usually leads to good things. But one other ingredient has been overlooked: good luck.

“So many things have gone our way this year,’’ Rizzo said. “Guys staying healthy. Our pitchers have stayed healthy. Obviously, losing (Kyle) Schwarber was a big loss for us. Dexter (Fowler) coming back. Just a lot of things have gone our way this year that we really want to finish it off.’’

It looks like Schwarber will return in the nick of time, like any self-respecting superhero would. Superheroes don’t blow out two knee ligaments, as Schwarber did early in the season, but you get the idea. At a minimum, he’ll give the Cubs an emotional boost as he plays for the first time since April 7. At best, he’ll hit some homers as designated hitter in any games played at Progressive Field.

Wrigley Field figures to lose its collective mind when Schwarber is introduced before Game 3 on Friday. Actually, its mind is already gone, lost somewhere in the boozy party following Game 6 of the N.L. Championship Series.

“We’re focused on Game 1 and Game 2 here and then looking forward to getting back to Chicago and playing a World Series game in front of Wrigley crowd that hasn’t seen that in a long time,’’ pitcher Jake Arrieta said.

The Cubs are ready to play. They’ve done their NLCS partying. There’s one more series and one more party to go. Then they can ponder what they’ve accomplished.

“Hopefully we get it all done, and we’ll have plenty of time to think about it,’’ Montero said. “Not just a month or two months but the rest of our lives.’’

One more series. One more party.

“We are good,’’ Rizzo said. “If we win this series, we’re the best.’’


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