Cubs

Holy cow: Cubs advance to World Series for first time since 1945

Holy cow: Cubs advance to World Series for first time since 1945

The Cubs are going to the World Series.

Yes, you read that right.

The Cubs are going to the World Series.

The Curse of the Billy Goat is broken. 

The 71-year drought is over. 

The truly once-in-a-lifetime moment has finally come to Chicago.

Holy cow.

The Cubs punched their ticket to the promised land with a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Best Pitcher on the Planet in front of 42,386 fans in the most euphoric moment in Wrigley Field's history.

"Being from Illinois, there's so many people - my family members included, friends that I grew up with - that right now are just glued to this, getting a chance to experience something that hasn't happened in their lifetime," said Ben Zobrist, a native of Eureka, Ill. "I couldn't be happier to be a part of it."

Theo Epstein's vision is one step closer to coming to fruition.

"History doesn't really weigh on this club," Epstein said before Saturday's Game 6. "Just trying to win tonight's game. 

"These guys - a lot of them are in their early 20s and they're not burdened by that stuff. The organization isn't. It's just about trying to win and keeping it simple."

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

The Cubs drew first blood off Clayton Kershaw, keeping with the tradition of the team that scores first winning the game in this National League Championship Series.

After waiting until two outs in the fifth of Kershaw's Game 2 start to get their first baserunner, the Cubs jumped on him early as Dexter Fowler laced the third pitch down the right field line for a leadoff double.

Kris Bryant followed with an RBI single and then Andrew Toles dropped Anthony Rizzo's fly ball in left field and just like that, the Cubs were up 1-0 and had runners on second and third with nobody out.

Ben Zobrist drilled a sac fly to center field and the Cubs moved to the second with a critical two-run lead.

From there, they added on with a Fowler RBI single in the second, a Willson Contreras homer in the fourth and then a Rizzo solo blast in the fifth.

Kershaw allowed only two singles to the Cubs in seven shutout innings in Game 2, but lasted just five innings in the NLCS clincher, surrendering five runs (four earned) on seven hits.

The Cubs felt they let too many good pitches go by in the early count in the previous Kershaw start, so they vowed to be more aggressive this time around and it paid off.

Kyle Hendricks was brilliant on the mound, allowing only two hits in 7.1 shutout innings. He struck out six, didn't walk a batter and was so dominant, the Wrigley crowd actually booed Joe Maddon when the manager came out to make a pitching change and call for closer Aroldis Chapman.

After getting shut out in back-to-back games and going down 2-1 in the series, the Cubs battled back and scored 23 runs over the final three games to punch a ticket to the World Series.

The Cubs will head to Cleveland to take on the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday night.

Games 3, 4 and 5 (if needed) will be back at Wrigley next Friday, Saturday and Sunday for what would figure to be the craziest Halloween weekend Chicago has ever seen.

"Listen, there's another trophy we want," Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said. "There's another step along the road, but to take a little time and appreciate something that hasn't been done in 71 years. You look at the way these people are celebrating, it's awesome.

"A couple times, they showed pictures outside [Wrigley]. I remember when I got here, they showed clips of '03 and what it was like outside and you think to yourself, 'Now they can actually celebrate.'"

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

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USA TODAY

Cubs executive Jason McLeod reportedly linked to Giants' GM opening

Is this the offseason that Cubs executive Jason McLeod finally becomes an MLB general manager?

According to Bruce Levine, the Giants are reportedly interested in McLeod, the Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development, for their vacant general manager position.

McLeod joined the Cubs' front office in 2011 alongside Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Before the Cubs, he spent six years in the Red Sox front office and two in the Padres' (with Hoyer, who was San Diego's general manager from 2010-2011). 

Of course, the Giants' reported interest in McLeod doesn't necessarily mean that he will interview for the job. However, it's worth noting that McLeod interviewed for the Twins' general manager job in 2016; he also withdrew his name from consideration for the Padres' general manager job in 2014. 

In addition to the Giants, McLeod's name has been linked to the Mets' general manager vacancy. This is more speculation, but the point is that it seems to be only a matter of time before McLeod is hired as general manager elsewhere.

For what it's worth, though, McLeod is under contract through 2021 and has previously said that he is grateful to be with the Cubs. 

“I’m exceptionally grateful,” McLeod said. “All of us are. Look at where we are at this moment in time with this team," McLeod said in 2016. "I can’t imagine a better environment, a better culture to work at in baseball.

"We’ve been together a long time. We’re friends. We’re good. We embrace the fact that we are good. And we challenge ourselves to be even better.”

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

The Cubs are heading into a new season with a different hitting coach for the second straight winter, but the most recent choice is a familiar face.

Anthony Iapoce is set to join Joe Maddon's coaching staff this week after serving in the same capacity with the Texas Rangers for the last three seasons. The Cubs confirmed the move Monday afternoon shortly after the news broke out of the Rangers camp.

The Cubs fired Chili Davis last week after just one season as the team's hitting coach.

Entering the final week of the season, the Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister, leaving Iapoce and the rest of the Texas coaching staff in limbo.

As such, Iapoce is rejoining the Cubs, where he served as a special assistant to the General Manager from 2013-15 focusing on player development, particularly in the hitting department throughout the minor leagues.

Iapoce has familiarity with a bunch of the current star offensive players on the Cubs, from Willson Contreras to Kris Bryant. 

Both Bryant and Contreras endured tough 2018 seasons at the plate, which was a huge reason for the Cubs' underperforming lineup. Bryant's issue was more related to a left shoulder injured suffered in mid-May while Contreras' offensive woes remain a major question mark after the young catcher looked to be emerging as a legitimate superstar entering the campaign.

Getting Contreras back to the hitter that put up 21 homers and 74 RBI in only 117 games in 2017 will be one of the main goals for Iapoce, so the history between the two could be a key.

With the Rangers, Iapoce oversaw an offense that ranked 7th, 9th and 14th in MLB in runs scored over the last three seasons. The decline in offensive production is obviously not a great sign, but the Rangers as a team have fallen off greatly since notching the top seed in the AL playoffs in 2016 with 95 wins only to lose 95 games in 2018, resulting in the change at manager.

Iapoce has worked with an offense backed by Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo the last few seasons.

Under Iapoce's tutelage, former top prospect Jurickson Profar shed any notion of a "bust" label and emerged as a budding star at age 25, collecting 61 extra-base hits with a .793 OPS in 2018.

When the Cubs let Davis go last week, they provided no update on assistant hitting coach Andy Haines, who just finished his first season in that role and is expected to remain with the team for 2019. The same offseason Iapoce left for the Rangers, Haines took over as the Cubs' minor league hitting instructor.