The performance of the Cubs’ youthful core of players and its veteran leadership has Wrigleyville in a state of euphoria.
“Pretty impressive,” said manager Joe Maddon during a postgame interview after the Cubs blasted six home runs in Game 3—including three by rookies Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler—in the 8-6 victory. “You know, I know the wind was blowing out. We’ll concede that. But most of them were properly struck. We are definitely capable of that.”
Catcher Miguel Montero, 32, is the grandfather bear of this young Cubs lineup, Center fielder Dexter Fowler is next in line of seniority at age 29 followed by first baseman Anthony Rizzo, 26; second baseman Starlin Castro, 25; third baseman Kris Bryant, 23; shortstops Addison Russell, 21 and Javier Baez, 22; left fielder Kyle Schwarber, 22; and right fielder Jorge Soler, 23.
The play by these men is inspiring and certainly paints a bright future for ability to compete for the World Series title now and in years to come.
There have been moments, with a few defensive miscues by Chicago that have shown their greenness in the pressures of postseason play. But Maddon doesn’t worry about his player’s errors or the stress of playoff baseball as long as his players work hard and win.
“Only because we’ve been doing well,” Maddon said after asked it it’s an advantage to have young guys in their first playoff round so they don’t realize, get stressed out or worry about postseason pressure. “If we had not been doing well then this lack of experience would be working against us. That’s pretty much what’s happening right now. Whatever is happening right now, that’s going to read their impact or their reaction to the moment. I think obviously to this point our young guys; they’ve reacted to the whole season pretty well. Middle of the year we called up Kyle Schwarber, and he’s been like you saw in this series, he’s been like that all year.”
During his rookie campaign, Schwarber played 69 games and scored 52 runs with 16 homers and 43 RBI. He became 10th player in major league history to hit as many as 15 home runs in his first 51 big league games. In the postseason, he crushed a clutch home run to seal the Wild Card game and in the NLDS, he hit .500 (5-for-10) with two home runs that were instrumental in both Chicago victories at Wrigley Field. His homer in Game 3 gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the second inning. The blast he hit in the series clincher was moon shot that got lost over the right field scoreboard.
“It’s not how far the ball goes,” Schwarber said as he smiled in recalling his home run, “I’m just up there trying to make things happen, get a pitch and drive it. I got a pitch and put a good swing on it. It’s great to contribute; I mean we have so many guys on this club that can do so many things to help us win. This is a great team and we have so many good players who get along that it’s fun to come to the park every game to play baseball.”
The excitement the Cubs display during the game and in the dugout is refreshing. Young men showing how to play the game and have so much fun with the success they are having. Hats off to the many veteran players—pitchers Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, utilityman Chris Coghlan, catchers Montero and David Ross—who have guided Rizzo into a leadership role and have helped the focus of rookies Schwarber, Bryant, Russell, Baez and Soler to flourish in the light of big expectations and have fun doing it.
The winning atmosphere that has been created by president Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer and Maddon and his coaching staff has taken its second step—advancing to the N.L. Championship Series. Now the opportunity to win a pennant is next and with the leadership of Maddon and the use of a deep roster, the Cubs are certainly up to the task.
The unity on this team is tremendous and the desire to win is evident—the Cubs are a force to be reckoned with now and in the future.