World Series bound: `This is a new Chicago Cubs team’
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These aren’t your father’s Cubs.
Or your grandfather’s – or his goat’s.
Maybe one day next month or next spring – after Addison Russell, Kris Bryant and Javy Baez have had a chance to rest up from a month in their personal October sandbox – they might even realize it themselves.
Until then, know only this: Next year finally arrived for the Cubs, at roughly 9:45 p.m. Saturday night – just 71 years and 12 days since the last time they saw a pitch in the World Series.
“We don’t care about history,” said Bryant after he drove in the first run in a 5-0 victory over the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series clincher that shook Wrigley Field to its newly poured foundation.
“This is a completely different team,” Bryant said. “Different people all around. It don’t matter. This is a new Chicago Cubs team. And we’re certainly a very confident group.”
Kyle Hendricks outpitched three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw with 7 1/3 near-flawless innings, and the youngest lineup to ever take the field in a league championship series clincher did the rest to propel the Cubs to their first World Series since 1945.
They’ll face the American League-champion Indians in Game 1 on Tuesday night in Cleveland.
“There’s another trophy we want,” said general manager Jed Hoyer, who came in with team president Theo Epstein in the fall of 2011 and began a full rebuild. “You take a little bit of time to appreciate doing something that hasn’t been doing in 71 years—you look at the way these people are celebrating, and it’s awesome.
“But we’re not going to be satisfied,” he said. “We want one more trophy; that’s the goal. So you take tonight, you enjoy it, and then you get ready to win four more games.”
If there was a downbeat note on this night of unbridled release by generations of fans who were packed 42,000 deep in the ballpark – and tens of thousands deeper in the surrounding streets and sidewalks – it was the moment manager Joe Maddon made the slow walk to the mound to pull Kyle Hendricks from the historic start.
Maddon, the first manager to take the Cubs to the World Series since Charlie Grimm, was booed by the full-house, full-throated crowd – which then quickly pivoted into a standing ovation for Hendricks.
“Our young players are playing like they’re 32-year-old veterans,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said of Hendricks, 26, and a lineup that included two rookies and three other players 25 or younger.
“I saw the young players that were in this organization, and I saw the leadership from the front office,” Arrieta said of his first impression after arriving in a 2013 trade. “And you knew this was a possibility.
“The growth and development from guys like [Russell] and Javier Baez and [Willson] Contreras – you can’t make this stuff up,” he added. “You don’t expect to see the maturity from guys at such a young age. And you combine that with guys like Jon Lester and [John] Lackey coming in here and bringing some veteran leadership – and Kyle Hendricks. I mean, what more can you say about that guy?”
Hendricks left the game after allowing his first hit since the first batter of the game – a one-out single by Josh Reddick in the eighth – as the public address system played his walkup music (Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion”) instead of incoming closer Aroldis Chapman’s.
Hendricks retired 18 straight before the hit (including a pickoff to end the second).
The greatest pitcher on earth succumbed to the biggest American sports story in a century as the Cubs jumped on the left-hander for two quick runs in the first and never looked back.
“I don’t think they’re oblivious; that would be insulting to them,” Hoyer said. “They know the history. I just don’t think they care.”
Lester, who started the Cubs’ victories in Games 1 and 5 allowed just two hits in 13 innings, earned co-MVP honors for the series with defensive and offensive hero Baez.
“Listen, man, I know that we played a great, great team. And we’re going to have to play another really great team,” said front office special assistant Ryan Dempster, the Game 1 starter for the Cubs’ 2008 playoff favorite. “But this group, they’re special, man. I’ve been around a few. And they’re special.
“I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I don’t know who’s going to end up in jail tonight or whatever happens. But this group deserves every bit of everything they get tonight. These guys are amazing.”