Cubs ‘perked’ up for 2017 in drive to win it all again


For decades the Cubs learned the hard way that it took more than Gabby Hartnett, Phil Cavarretta or Sammy Sosa – more than even Ryne Sandberg or Ernie Banks.

Could it be that fixing what ailed a punch-line franchise was more about Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and the cast of Saturday Night Live all along?

“Perks.” That’s what Cubs All-Star Anthony Rizzo called it Thursday on the eve of a Cubs Convention that threatens to break all previous density, insanity and sound barriers for the event.

Rizzo, Ross and Fowler (left to right) sing "Go Cubs Go" with Bill Murray on Saturday Night Live in November.

“It’s amazing,” Rizzo said.

And barely two months after the Cubs beat Cleveland in a wild Game 7 for their first World Series championship in 108 years, Rizzo suggested the national accolades and worldwide recognition that followed – he was recognized by a fan while vacationing in Thailand – could be the previously unspoken key to that “foundation for sustained success.”

Make no mistake: The man who predicted a division title and playoff run in 2015 after a last-place 2014 refused to predict an outcome for 2017.

But he called this team better than the 2016 version and sounded even more confident in the reason he fears no championship hangover or letdown.

“Where we’re at, you want more,” he said. “Success is very addicting.”

Not to mention the spoils that included guest appearances for many of the players and manager on about every TV talk show they desired – including Rizzo, Dexter Fowler and David Ross twerking and singing with Bill Murray on Saturday Night Live.

“You just want to keep it going,” Rizzo said. “All the perks that have come this year have been amazing after you win. You see guys [on other teams] after they win championships go on a couple talk shows. We had probably 20 guys on different talk shows, and Saturday Night Live – guys just doing everything and branching out.

“It’s amazing for baseball. It’s good for baseball. And you want more. When I work out now, it’s, `how are you going to get that going [again]?’ It’s easy. I want to do it again. I think everyone else will have that mentality as well.”

If Rizzo was impressed by the downtown parade in November and the perks that followed over the winter, wait until he gets a load of what might be the most unwieldy Cubs Convention in the 32-year history of professional sports’ oldest fan fest.

In the five years since the three-day event moved to the Sheraton Grand Chicago, this year’s convention sold out quickest.

And the demand was so high the Cubs for the first time have spread some of the event across the street to the Loews Chicago — almost half the activities at the second hotel.

“I really can’t see it any crazier than it was last year,” Rizzo said. “But then, again, I couldn’t picture the parade being the way it was. So we’ll see. You can only fit so many people in that room. But it’ll be fun.”

All the returning players from the World Series roster, plus the retired Ross, are expected to attend the festivities, which begin with Friday night’s opening ceremonies. As always, roster of former players includes an All-Star cast, including Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Sandberg, along with Randy Hundley, Kerry Wood, Ryan Dempster, Bill Madlock, Steve Trout, Lee Smith, Ted Lilly, Jody Davis and Sarge Matthews.

A weekend of championship celebration continues Monday with a trip to the White House for a presidential reception.

But Rizzo’s already looking ahead. For the next one.

“Last year we were the team to beat, and we’re going to be the team to beat this year,” he said. “So we’ve got to go in there with the mentality of getting it on from the first day of spring until the last day.

“I think the experience we gained from getting swept by the Mets [in 2015] to playing in Game 7 in one of the best World Series ever [means] anything that’s thrown at us we’ll be able to handle.”