Cham­pion Cubs have sparkling fu­ture

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By An­drew Seligman AP Sports Writer

CHICAGO >> No more Lov­able Losers. For­get those curses, too.

The Chicago Cubs ended decades of heartache and fu­til­ity by beat­ing the Cleve­land In­di­ans for their first cham­pi­onship since 1908 . And that means for the first time in 108 years, the Cubs can — get this — turn their at­ten­tion to­ward a cham­pi­onship re­peat.

They fi­nally wiped out base­ball’s long­est ti­tle drought early Thurs­day in Cleve­land when third base­man Kris Bryant fielded Michael Martinez’s grounder off Mike Mont­gomery and threw to An­thony Rizzo at first, clos­ing out an epic Game 7 of the World Series against the In­di­ans.

That set off a cel­e­bra­tion more than a cen­tury in the mak­ing in Chicago. It was still go­ing on Thurs­day af­ter­noon. Fans jammed the side­walks out­side the Wrigley Field tak­ing un­der the famed mar­quee, which read “WORLD SERIES CHAM­PI­ONS.”

Across the street at the cor­ner of Clark and Ad­di­son, the line to get into a sports­wear store sell­ing Cubs mer­chan­dise stretched around the cor­ner.

There will be a cham­pi­onship pa­rade start­ing at Wrigley Field fol­lowed by a rally at Grant Park on Fri­day.

“We’re in the books,” Rizzo said. “We’re in his­tory for­ever. This team is brothers for­ever no mat­ter what.”

World Series fa­vorites from the start, the Cubs spent al­most the en­tire sea­son in first place on the way to a 103-58 record — their high­est win to­tal since the 1910 team with 104.

They beat the play­off-tested San Fran­cisco Giants in the NLDS. They shook off back-to­back shutout losses and a 2-1 deficit against the Los An­ge­les Dodgers in the NLCS to cap­ture their first pen­nant in 71 years.

They topped it all off when they be­came the first team since the 1985 Kansas City Roy­als to over­come a 3-1 deficit to win the ti­tle. And now, that World Series W flies.

As the Cubs — the Cubs, of all teams — turn their at­ten­tion to­ward a cham­pi­onship re­peat, here are some things to know.

ON THE MAR­KET

The Cubs will have to pay up if they want to keep their closer. That’s be­cause Chap­man has an ex­pir­ing con­tract and fig­ures to be­come base­ball’s rich­est re­liever.

The flame-throw­ing closer con­verted 16 of 18 save op­por­tu­ni­ties for Chicago dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son after be­ing ac­quired from the New York Yan­kees and was a huge rea­son why they won the World Series.

If Chap­man signs with an­other team, the Cubs could go back to Hec­tor Ron­don as their closer.

MORE DE­CI­SIONS

The Cubs pulled off a sur­prise by re-sign­ing Dex­ter Fowler to a $33 mil­lion, three-year deal dur­ing spring train­ing when he ap­peared headed to Baltimore. He fig­ures to ex­er­cise a $5 mil­lion buy­out rather than a $9 mil­lion mu­tual op­tion. The Cubs’ lead­off hit­ter and cen­ter fielder, Fowler helped his stock with a .276 av­er­age and .393 on-base per­cent­age.

Ja­son Ham­mel, who 15 games, also has an op­tion.

YOUTH SERVED

Don’t ex­pect the Cubs to fade any­time soon. Not with a young core.

MVP can­di­dates Bryant and Rizzo are 24 and 27, re­spec­tively. Short­stop Ad­di­son Rus­sell is 22. Se­cond base­man Javy Baez and catcher Will­son Con­tr­eras are 24. All had big mo­ments in the post­sea­son, and all are un­der team con­trol through at least 2021.

For that mat­ter, ma­jor league ERA cham­pion Kyle Hen­dricks turns 27 in De­cem­ber.

SCH­WAR­BER EF­FECT

The Cubs barely flinched after Kyle Sch­war­ber suf­fered what they thought was a sea­son-end­ing knee in­jury in his se­cond game of the sea­son. Even so, there was no deny­ing the im­pact the 23-year-old slug­ger had in the World Series.

Cleared to hit — but not play the field — Sch­war­ber went 7 for 17. But the Cubs could have a log­jam next sea­son if the team re­turns mostly in­tact.

That’s be­cause Sch­war­ber, Jorge Soler and the ver­sa­tile Ben Zo­brist will all be look­ing for time in left field. Then again, man­ager Joe Mad­don has shown he knows how to jug­gle the lineup and keep every­one in­volved.

MORE HITS

Shut out four times, it was a boom-or-bust post­sea­son for the Cubs’ big bats. Mad­don at­trib­uted that to the team’s youth. And he ex­pects that to be the team’s big­gest area of im­prove­ment.

“If you look at our kids, I think if you put your scout’s cap on, it’s go­ing to be easy to un­der­stand that the area we’re go­ing to get bet­ter at is of­fense,” he said. “Un­der­stand­ing them­selves bet­ter, un­der­stand­ing what the pitcher’s go­ing to try to do against them. Un­der­stand­ing how to make ad­just­ments in the game. Un­der­stand­ing how to uti­lize the en­tire field more con­sis­tently as they gain ex­pe­ri­ence.”

MATT SLOCUM — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Cubs cel­e­brate after their 8-7 win in Game 7 of the World Series in Cleve­land early Thurs­day.

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