For the first time since 1908, the Chicago Cubs are World Series champions, this after overcoming a 3-1 series deficit and beating the Indians, 8-7, in an epic Game 7 on Wednesday.
It was a special moment for Cubs fans near and far, including Bruce Levine.
“It was a culmination of a long career,” the 670 The Score MLB analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I’ve been covering baseball in Chicago for 34 years. I’ve had the good fortune of covering the White Sox in 2005 and now this – what most people consider the greatest Chicago sports story ever, and a lot of people are trying to make an argument for it being one of, if not the, greatest sports story in the last 100 years.”
Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez – all between 23 and 27 – played spectacularly this season and throughout the playoffs, but so did veterans Ben Zobrist, John Lackey and David Ross, who are all between 35 and 39.
“The older element is important, but also because they’ve all been champions elsewhere,” Levine said. “That’s why you tip your hat to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer for bringing in Lackey and Zobrist and Heyward – who are not only top-quality players, but are top-quality individuals with a pedigree. Now the Heyward thing didn’t work out this year because he had an awful year and didn’t help them offensively. But as a teammate, as a player, as a defensive player, as a base runner, he never let his personal problems of not being able to hit this year impact the way he was was as a player doing all those other things very well and being a great teammate.”
Joe Maddon, meanwhile, brought the Cubs their first world championship in more than a century – despite some questionable decision-making late in the series. How exactly did Maddon fare against the Indians?
“Can we leave out leaving Chapman in (for Game 6) and all of today’s game?” Levine joked. “Joe’s been a super manager all year. The Cubs would not be here if he didn’t manage this team. The way he handles people is fabulous. In-game moves are usually great. He had a lousy day-and-a-half – and he still won both games. That’s how good this team was. Joe always said, ‘I can be a good manager because Epstein and Hoyer brought me in here and gave me great talent.’ No truer thing has ever been said by a manager. But he’s a fabulous guy to deal with, he’s wonderful for the players – I just don’t think he had a couple of good games here, but he won.”
Looking ahead to next season, the vast majority of the Cubs roster should be returning.
“You’re probably going to have a new closer,” Levine said. “I don’t think they’re going to pay $17 (million) times four (years) for Aroldis Chapman. I may be wrong, but they’re developing their own guys. We saw some young guys on the mound tonight that are coming along (like Mike Montgomery and Carl Edwards). Maybe they’ll go after a guy like (Kenley) Jansen of the Dodgers, who’s also a free agent, and not Chapman. I think the vibe is Chapman may end up back in New York. But everybody (else) is under contract otherwise. Chapman is really the only major free agent. Dexter Fowler can get out of his contract. Certainly he was impactful with four hits and started the game with a home run. He could probably walk, but I think the Cubs will come up with some type of solution for him. He loves it here. But other than that, the next barrier they have is Jake Arrieta, a free agent after 2017. John Lackey (will probably retire) after 2017. They have to go out and get themselves some young, sustainable starting pitching to go along with what they have.”