By Bruce Levine–
(CBS) There was a time when making the playoffs was just a pipe dream for Cubs players and fans alike for 38 straight seasons.
The Cubs were tagged with the “lovable losers” moniker as they failed to make the playoffs in any season between 1945 and 1984 . Losers no longer, the Cubs these days have smart leaders in management and a nearly unlimited revenue stream to support winning baseball at Wrigley Field for years to come.
Today, Cub fans may be getting a bit spoiled on the precipice of going into the postseason in three consecutive seasons. Ernie Banks played 19 seasons with no postseason appearance. Ron Santo logged 14 years with zero playoff games to talk about. Both Hall of Famers would be enjoying this modern group’s success and the cool customers who make up the 25-man roster.
One major reason for the turnaround? A great organization with young, controllable players.
“I am very young in my career and feel very fortunate to have a chance to go to the playoffs in my first three years,” third baseman Kris Bryant told reporters Tuesday in St Louis. “That is not to be taken for granted at all.”
In his first interview after getting hired in November 2014, manager Joe Maddon said that he was fortunate to be getting such a talented group of young players. At the time, he was inheriting a team that went 73-89 in 2014 as the young talent worked its way through the minor leagues.
Bryant explained why Maddon is a big factor in the team’s stretch of playoff runs.
“He has not changed a bit,” Bryant said. “He has been the same guy since day one that I have seen. He is hands-off. He trusts his players. He knows we are all here. He knows we want to win and prepare well for every game. He doesn’t feel he has to go out there and give us a hurrah before every game to get us ready. He already knows it.”
Maddon has three meetings a season: in spring training, before the first game of the regular season and after the All-Star break. The rest of the routine is routine, as only Maddon might put it.
“We have a good group here,” Bryant said. “Me, coming into the league being young, he has been the perfect manager for a young team. That is for sure.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.