Cubs have 101 wins and that’s no fluke

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Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon makes the call to the bullpen in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. The Cubs won 6-4. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) ORG XMIT: PAGP115

The Cubs are, without question, the best team in the major leagues.

Think of that.

There is almost no statistic that doesn’t show them at or near the top of the heap, from pitching strength to defense to RBI to run differential to all the arcana that stats geeks can crank out.

But, really, the only thing that matters — wins — is what sets them far apart from the herd.

They won game No. 100 on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, the first time they had reached that magic number in 81 years.

Then, on Tuesday night, they rolled to No. 101 with a 6-4 victory against the Pirates, putting them nine games ahead of the closest National League team, the Washington Nationals, and 8½ ahead of the American League-leading Texas Rangers.

They have not won this many games since 1910, before this old scribe’s father was born, before this scribe’s grandfathers were in junior high — one in Chicago, one in St. Louis. This was just two years after the Cubs won their last World Series, something we take on faith because no one now alive saw it.

But back to the present. To have a record of 101-56, with a chance to win several more regular-season games, is almost mind-boggling.

In fact, it is mind-boggling

Because here’s the thing: There is no fluke involved with this success. The Cubs tanked for three years, loaded up, and now they have more talent, more potential, more possibilities for this and many seasons to come than anybody in the game.

Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javy Baez, Albert Almora Jr., Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, Jorge Soler, Jason Heyward and that nearly forgotten, injury-rehabbing slugger Kyle Schwarber — all are age 27 or under.

Veteran manager supreme Joe Maddon seems to have entered his golden era, wherein his people and baseball skills are at last flourishing with more talented athletes than he ever has had under his control.

He jokes, he makes odd field moves, he focuses, he guides and he almost never steps in a hole. His touch has been that of a watercolor artist — soft, deft, dynamic, beautiful.

After Bryant finished last year with 99 RBI, then got his 100th RBI of this season Monday, Maddon quipped, “Now there’s nothing for him to shoot for next year.”

In truth, Bryant can enter rare air this season if he hits one more home run, so he can join Hall of Fame immortals such as Eddie Mathews, Ralph Kiner and Joe DiMaggio by hitting 40 or more home runs with 100 RBI in just his second major-league season.

And we haven’t even mentioned the pitchers — Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and the shocking Kyle Hendricks — all right up there in Cy Young territory. Good pitcher Jason Hammel won’t even make the playoff roster because John Lackey, game No. 101 winner, is a little better and, at age 37, was brought in from the St. Louis Cardinals for one purpose only: to be there for the World Series run.

And that’s what all these wins are all about. The Promised Land.

It’s hard to believe the Cubs have been so injury-free that they have four pitchers who will end up with 185 innings or more, with Hammel right behind at 170 or so. And closer Aroldis Chapman, he of the ungodly blowtorch fastball and the dubious social past — love him or hate him, he’s built for winning games.

The 101 wins seemed to come almost casually, as if the Cubs simply pressed the accelerator on their precision Indy car and flew past other racers with lesser machines.

There has been no grand drama show on the Cubs, no whiny drama queen who created a scene that detracted from the goal: win it all. Hammel could be bitchy — would you want to be left off the October roster after winning 15 games? — but he’s not.

He’s a pro. He gets it. Maddon makes sure everybody, massive egos and all, gets it. That’s his genius.

On Tuesday night, Pirates pitcher Ryan Vogelsong hit Baez with a ball that could have broken the infielder’s hand. It didn’t, and he calmly went to first base and then was knocked in on Chris Coghlan’s three-run triple.

That’s how the Cubs do it: They come out of every potential disaster smelling like a wedding bouquet.

“With the number of wins, you guys know what this team is like,” Hendricks said after his victory Monday. “Just another step on the


But what a step. One hundred, 101 . . . where does it end?

Only 11 are needed in the postseason.

Boy, is that looking close.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.


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