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Trade deadline ends emotional journey for Cubs’ core, fan base

Friday’s trade deadline will go down as a historic moment for the franchise as the team broke up its 2016 World Series core.

AP Photo/Paul Beaty

WASHINGTON — The emotions of Cubs fans across the country have bubbled over in the last 48 hours as the team broke up the core that delivered its first World Series title in 108 years in 2016.

There’s no denying the legacy that star players Javy Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo helped build. But that doesn’t make it any easier for them to see it end.

“It’s been a lot,” Baez said Friday after his trade to the Mets. “I think with [Anthony] being the first one that got traded, I think he was the hardest one to say goodbye to. It’s still hard to say bye to the boys and to the organization.”

Baez, Bryant and Rizzo each brought something special to the organization as it went from being one of baseball’s worst to one of its most emulated.

“I couldn’t be more proud of what we built,” team president Jed Hoyer said. “It was really difficult to have those conversations.”

Baez had been in the organization for 11 years after the Cubs drafted him in 2011, and while he was an inherited piece in Hoyer and former president Theo Epstein’s core, he became one of their most important players.

Rizzo was the player the Cubs identified as the centerpiece of their championship roster when the Hoyer/Epstein regime entered in 2012, and he was the team’s vocal leader until his departure Thursday.

“I remember sitting with his parents in a suite in Boston when he was diagnosed with cancer,” Hoyer said. “I remember hearing his voice when I was in San Diego and I traded for him. . . . I’ve been with him forever.”

Bryant was one of the final pieces of the core and accomplished more in his seven seasons with the Cubs than some players accumulate in a 15-year career. Manager David Ross, formerly a catcher on the championship team, has worked alongside all three players for years and is pained to see them leave.

“Emotional,” Ross said. “ ‘Emotional’ is the first word that comes to mind. ‘Sad.’ ‘Difficult.’ A lot of negative words that I usually don’t like to use. . . . Outside of the manager’s side, I feel like I’m losing some friends, and I think that’s difficult.

“I’m happy for them. . . . They get a chance to go to some teams that are in the hunt chasing championships, and they’re very good at that.”

Baez didn’t want to leave without acknowledging the fans that cheered him on since he was an 18-year-old.

“Just want to let you guys know that we love you,” Baez said. “We know the dedication that you guys give to the sports in Chicago and what it means to the city. I never thought it was gonna be this big, and when we won the World Series in 2016, the city was just going crazy, and the happiness around it was amazing. I didn’t really grow up in a big city following a team, so when I saw that here, it was pretty incredible.”