It felt like no one wanted to leave Wrigley Field on Tuesday night, “Go Cubs Go” and “Sweet Home Chicago” playing on a loop after this rising team planted a “W” flag in October.
Fans could look up at the huge video board in left field and watch the players in goggles spray each other with champagne — Hey, was that Eddie Vedder? — a cool look behind the curtain at the clubhouse dance party/light show after eliminating the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Friendly Confines are under construction and will get tricked out with more and more modern amenities. But when the Cubs posed for team pictures on the mound, they got the old-school center-field scoreboard as the iconic backdrop.
This could become Major League Baseball’s biggest playoff stage for years to come. Or at least this franchise shouldn’t have to wait another century for the next playoff-series-clinching-win on home turf.
The Cubs have all these young power hitters, big arms at the front of their rotation, the star manager people want to play for and stability in the front office and the owners’ suite.
Wrigley Field is guaranteed only two more games in the National League championship series next week, but understand the Cubs aren’t just happy to be here, knowing they are eight wins away from a parade down Michigan Avenue.
“I feel like we’re the team this year,” chairman Tom Ricketts said. “We’re young. We’re playing well. Everybody’s loose. Joe (Maddon) has got everyone believing. That’s all you need. Every year, there’s that one team that has the momentum.
“This year, why not us?”
The Cubs know two wild-card teams made it to last year’s World Series, with the San Francisco Giants beating the Kansas City Royals in a dramatic Game 7, earning their third title in five seasons.
The Cubs are getting hot at the right time, winning 12 of their last 13 games and taking out the Pittsburgh Pirates and rival Cardinals, the two teams with the best regular-season records in baseball (198 wins combined).
That’s why Jake Arrieta said no one wants to play this team right now. The Cubs won’t be intimidated by the idea of going on the road to face either the Los Angeles Dodgers or New York Mets, whoever wins Thursday’s Game 5 at Chavez Ravine.
“It’s just getting started,” said Arrieta, who might have won a Cy Young Award with his breakthrough season. “We’ve come a long way. We weren’t expected to get this far. So to be where we are right now, it’s such a rewarding thing for everybody involved — the city of Chicago, the fans, the players.
“It’s hard to completely put into words how far we’ve come. But we’ve got a couple stages to go. And we’re ready for it.”
Jon Lester grew up on the arms race between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees and wanted to be a transitional figure for baseball’s next potential superpower.
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The $155 million lefty signed that six-year megadeal last winter knowing the Cubs would have Anthony Rizzo (26), Kris Bryant (23), Jorge Soler (23), Kyle Schwarber (22) and Addison Russell (21) in place as building blocks.
“That’s the big thing,” Lester said. “You look at a lot of the great teams that were good for a long time — the Yankees (recently) and the Red Sox for a little while. They had a core group of guys that came up through the system and believed in what the system believes in.
“You see the Cardinals have done it for (so) long with their guys. It’s a big building point. You have a group of guys (who) figure out how to win together, then that just trickles down to the next guys that come up. They want to do the same thing. And then when the free agents come in, they don’t want to let those guys down.”
Talking World Series in 2015 would have sounded crazy while the Cubs were losing 286 games and writing off three major-league seasons. But any sense of dread has been overwhelmed by the feeling that anything seems possible.
“Obviously, times weren’t easy the last few years,” Rizzo said. “But with all the talent we had – and all the talent we were building – everyone knew that the Cubs were coming.
“We’re here. And hopefully we can keep this thing going.”