Who says this young Cubs team arrived a year ahead of schedule?
A team infused with young talent and four rookies playing almost every day has found itself clinching a playoff spot with more than a week left in the regular season.
There is no clear-cut timeline for when a team is "supposed" to be a contender.
Joe Maddon talked seriously about the playoffs at his opening press conference. He really believed it was possible for a franchise that had recorded five straight fifth-place finishes entering 2015.
"Coming through this baseball thing like I have, from the minor leagues on up, I've had a lot of young, good players," Maddon said. "I've always believed our teams are going to do well. Maybe it's just a positive nature. I don't know.
"But then it's accelerated with the skill level of these young guys. They're an unusually skillful group of young players."
On Saturday, Maddon discussed a lineup he filled out earlier in the week that featured four rookies in Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber and then Javier Baez (who is not technically a rookie despite his lack of major-league experience).
In late September, most teams that play five young players like that are out of the postseason race. The Cubs are right in the thick of it.
"We're in this position and a lot of it is built on them," Maddon said, while also crediting veterans like Jon Lester and David Ross for leading from within the clubhouse.
The Cubs understand the "one-year-too-early" angle, but they're not exactly adopting that as the next T-shirt slogan.
"It would have been impossible to expect this group of young players to play at this level," general manager Jed Hoyer said. "We're not suprised we've done it, but certainly expecting it would have been difficult.
"If it means we exceeded expectations, that made this summer a little bit more improbable. I think that's great. No individual player has done anything we know they can't do. And we think all these guys will do this going forward.
"I understand this narrative that we're one year too early. But I think Joe and this coaching staff really believed in this group all year and they proved him right."
Bryant has been touted as a possible Rookie of the Year candidate since he tore up the minors last year, but Russell wasn't expected to make his big-league debut on April 21 or supplant Starlin Castro as the franchise shortstop in August.
Schwarber wasn't supposed to be able to hold his own as a catcher in the majors, let alone mash the ball at the ridiculous pace he accomplished in his first two months in "The Show."
Baez had his season almost completely derailed by the death of his sister and then a finger injury, but he emerged on Sept. 1 as a factor with his defense all over the infield as well as his speed and more mature approach at the plate.
"It is amazing," Jake Arrieta said. "Being around for a while and knowing how difficult it is to play this game and to play it at a high level consistently and seeing Addy, Schwarbs, Bryant, all these guys do it at such a high level and continue to progress and learn on a daily basis, it's tremendous."
Russell isn't surprised by the production from the Cubs rookies this season.
"I think we're doing what we need to do," Russell said. "Just looking around, it's clear this clubhouse is different. There are a lot of young guys, but we're young guys ready to win, willing to fight.
"Joe's giving them an opportunity and Theo [Epstein] and Jed are giving them an opportunity as well. I think we're all hungry and we're all blessed to be here and to get to this point.
"Now we just need to have fun and come out with some wins."
Even with the playoff berth, Maddon is keeping the Cubs focused on the big picture.
"It's an exciting time for all of us," Bryant said. "But we've got a lot of work to do.
"We kind of had a feeling we were gonna get [a playoff spot]. But it's not over there."