Rozner: Dauntless Dodgers dominate Cubs in every facet
It's never easy to say good night to a season, never easy to say so long to an opportunity this big — knowing that it takes so long to get back.
That makes perspective particularly difficult to locate for a fan base abruptly accustomed to success, especially after decades of abject misery.
But the truth is the best team in baseball in 2017 has been the Dodgers from start to finish, and they took it to the Cubs from start to finish in the NLCS.
They pitched better, caught the ball better and hit better.
They were relentless, dauntless and merciless.
And, well, that's Cub.
The Dodgers have been the 2016 Cubs for much of 2017, and so this result, a five-game victory over the defending champs, culminating in a serious beating in Game 5 Thursday night at Wrigley Field, was not a surprise, not coming after a debilitating five-game series in Washington that — for all intents and purposes — ended the Cubs' championship series before it began.
“The series in Washington was tough,” said shortstop Addison Russell. “One day off was just not enough.”
The Dodgers were Cub-like in so many ways, not the least of which was the intimidating way in which they answered every opposition score with one — or more — of their own.
There was the arrogant fashion in which they took apart the Cubs' lineup with a perfectly-executed game plan, with perfectly-executed pitches.
The Dodgers are so deep that nearly every player they plugged into the lineup or onto the mound got the job done.
And the way they dismissed the Cubs, entirely lacking respect for the world champs, was impressive and scary.
And that's Cub. It's precisely how they treated baseball last year.
“That's a great ballclub,” Russell said of the Dodgers. “They executed their game plan very well.”
It had to feel a bit for the Cubs like they were looking in a 2016 mirror.
And that has to hurt. It's supposed to hurt.
But this is when it's appropriate to zoom out and look at the big picture, the one that displays three straight NLCS appearances for the first time in the history of a franchise that before 2016 had never been to consecutive league championships, and before this October had not been to three straight postseasons since 1908.
“The players have gotten us to the NLCS for the third year in a row, and I hope that's something that nobody ever takes for granted here — or anywhere else,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “I think any fan base throughout Major League Baseball would be very appreciative of a group of players that gets this deep into the season three consecutive years.”
It's a franchise with a future Hall of Fame president who is consumed by winning and already has a plan in place to make certain the flaws that took down this team don't reappear next October, when the Cubs make the playoffs for a fourth straight year.
There is, however, no cure for the World Series hangover, one that is undefeated for nearly two decades and shows no signs of letting up.
But the Cubs will have a longer winter — longer than they would prefer — to regroup, without the six-month celebration that lasted into April this year and robbed this group of energy and desperation.
“I would say,” Russell admitted, “there were times when we showed fatigue.”
But losing can have a strong effect on a strong group and you can expect the Cubs to get to spring training hungry — and angry.
The Cubs are really good. The mere fact that they got this far speaks to the obvious. And they will be good for the rest of this decade and well into the next.
Not every November will include a parade, though there will be more confetti and parties that have Guinness scouring the planet to find larger gathering of humans in one place at one time.
Yes, the championship window remains wide open even after the Dodgers shut the door on the Cubs' chances to repeat.
While the future remains quite bright, there will be dark fall days ahead as Chicago watches the World Series on TV.
The champs are no more. Long live the champs.
• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.