Imrem: Dodgers show Cubs how many holes they need to fill before 2018

Cubs manager Joe Maddon refers to being knocked out of the playoffs as abrupt.

Sometimes ... sometimes not.

Thursday night ... not.

The Dodgers led 9-0 by the fourth inning and the wait for the Cubs' season to expire was agonizingly long.

The 11-1 loss eliminated the Cubs from the best-of-seven NLCS in five games, giving fans plenty of time to sort out their feelings about the season.

What's awkward is that the players who disappointed this week are mostly the same ones that last year won the Cubs' first World Series title since 1908.

So, is it OK to criticize the men who provided so many thrills of a lifetime in 2016?

At times like this, it's wise to recall what a veteran sports columnist said during the 1984 baseball playoffs.

The Cubs were celebrated for winning the division title, so what now if they blow their playoff series against the Padres?

“That was that day's column,” he said of clinching the division. “This is this day's column,” he said of the playoff collapse.

The updated version is the 2016 championship “was last year's column” and the NLCS bomb-out “is this year's column.”

In other words, hurrah again for then, but boo for now.

Cubs fans were chanting “Let's go Cubbies” in the ninth inning of the rout, so they were forgiving of this series defeat.

Qualifying for three straight NLCS and winning a World Series has been fabulous.

“I hope that's something that nobody ever takes for granted here or anywhere else,” Maddon said.

But is it enough? Are fans supposed to settle for less this year when the Cubs were title favorites at the beginning of the season? Is falling short of a championship repeat acceptable?

All sorts of reasons, or excuses, exist for the retreat one step from the goal.

Like, only one National League team has won consecutive World Series in nearly a century; the Dodgers are really good; the Cubs were tired from playing so many games over three seasons; the playoffs are a crap shoot ...

Regardless, the issue now is whether the Cubs have slipped as much as it appeared or were the Dodgers simply too good?

Probably a combination but this NLCS drubbing is a good time for the Cubs to take a personal inventory of themselves.

As usual, Maddon looked on the bright side: “I looked out at the field and I looked at the birth certificates that are playing different positions (for the Cubs). I loved it. So my point is, heads up, we're going to keep getting better.”

But to get better enough, the Cubs better add on to their young core of players that Maddon referred to.

The playoffs exposed how badly the Cubs need a leadoff man, an elite starting pitcher, a rebuilt bullpen and more.

Still, the Cubs might have to grudgingly exchange talented youngsters for help at positions of need.

The way Dodgers pitching baffled the Cubs, hitting coaches John Mallee and Eric Hinske should be re-evaluated.

The future remains promising for the Cubs, who have the financial resources to fix what ails them.

But the future is promised to no one, as the '85 Bears learned.

Feel free to feel what you want about the Cubs' no-so-abrupt exit Thursday night.

Especially feel free to wonder how much help the Cubs need for 2018.

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