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Cubs’ roller-coaster season officially comes to an end

The Cubs finish 71-91, their first losing season since 2014.

The Cubs end 2021 with their first losing season since 2014.
The Cubs end 2021 with their first losing season since 2014.
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

ST. LOUIS — The Cubs’ season has been unlike any other in franchise history, and the highs and lows have made for wild emotional swings. But their season officially came to an end with their 3-2 victory Sunday against the Cardinals.

The Cubs finished 71-91, their first losing season since 2014.

When you consider what happened since the team reported for spring training in Mesa, Arizona, nearly eight months ago, it’s almost as though the Cubs played two different seasons.

In the first half, the Cubs looked to be primed to make a playoff push and were tied for first place in the National League Central as late as June 24. But that was the beginning of the end in many regards, as they went on an 11-game losing streak that signaled the time for change had come.

‘‘I would say every year is different, no matter what,’’ right-hander Kyle Hendricks said. ‘‘You learn a lot about yourself, about the team. But this year, for sure [felt different]. There were some different circumstances, specifically at the [trade] deadline. You never thought you’d see that happen, and [it’s] just something you can’t prepare for.’’

The Cubs’ seismic shift came July 30, when they finally broke up their World Series core by trading Kris Bryant to the Giants, Javy Baez to the Mets and Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees.

The two months that followed were a stark difference from the previous 6œ seasons, with new faces and no spot in the postseason to play for.

The season finale also closed the book on manager David Ross’ second year at the helm and his first 162-game season. It offered him plenty to reflect on.

‘‘It’s been a nice learning process,’’ Ross said. ‘‘Lots of ups and downs, a lot of emotions, a lot of growth on a lot of fronts. Then there’s something to be proud of in the sense of getting to this point. All the transition and changes we’ve had, definitely grew a lot.

‘‘I get to continue to implement my kind of ways I want things done and [put] my stamp on this organization. But I don’t ever want to lose the winning ways, the culture, the ability to know what winning looks like and guys that have been able to compete on that stage and have success.’’

The Cubs head into the offseason with many questions. President Jed Hoyer has a long list of things to accomplish to get them back to the playoff-level expectations they had created in recent seasons.

The first step in that process will be to revamp the roster even more. The Cubs set a major-league record by using 69 players this season, breaking the old mark of 67 set by the 2019 Mariners. Only seven players from the Opening Day roster were on the active roster Sunday.

If there’s one thing fans can expect this offseason, it’s change. But as the Cubs try to turn the page, Ross wants to keep the winning mentality the team developed in recent years and carry it into 2022.

‘‘As much as there will be some change, you want to hold on to some of that tradition of winning and what’s been expected here,’’ Ross said. ‘‘I know the fans, the media, this organization still expects to play at a high level and compete for championships.

‘‘Those guys that were here created [those] expectations, and I don’t want that to go away while I’m here, that’s for sure.’’