Future is bright for Indians, Cubs regardless of Game 7 outcome

CLEVELAND — One saw its lengthy championship drought come to an end in Game 7, while the other was left clinging to the all-too-familiar “Wait ’til next year” refrain.

But for the Indians and Cubs, the future looks bright regardless of how Game 7 turned out Wednesday night — and in spite of their respective tortured histories.

“I think it’s kind of lived up to the billing,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the series. “I love the fact that there are a lot of good young players on both teams. It’s great for the industry. It’s great for baseball.”

The Cubs’ lineup includes six regulars age 26 or younger, including four no older than 24. Not only are they young; they’re good, too.

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Kris Bryant (24) is the frontrunner for the National League’s MVP award, while Addison Russell (22), Willson Contreras (24) and Javier Baez (23) have come into their own during this postseason run.

Throw in Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward — both considered wily veterans at the ripe-old age of 26 — and returning slugger Kyle Schwarber (23), and you have a formula for extended success.

Oh, and none is eligible for free agency until at least 2021.

“These guys getting this experience right now absolutely bodes well for the future,” Maddon said. “I think when you demonstrate the confidence in these kids and they succeed, obviously they come back the next year and they’re a little bit better just for the experience itself.”

Indians manager Terry Francona had bizarre night on eve of Game 7

Maddon knows all about this. He took over a woeful Tampa Bay team in 2006, losing 101 and 96 games with a young roster before turning things around with a run to the World Series in 2008.

The Rays missed the playoffs the following year, though they managed to win 84 games, only the second time in their history they had finished above .500.

Tampa Bay rode most of that nucleus — Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, David Price and James Shields — to three more postseason appearances between 2010-13, becoming a model for small-market teams around the league.

No more than 7 images from any single MLB game, workout, activity or event may be used (including online and on apps) while that game, activity or event is in progress.

Kris Bryant (l.), Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez have given the Cubs plenty of optimism for the future.

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

“It’s about the cultural flip; it’s about the stretching of the mind,” Maddon said. “It’s about we have the expectation on an annual basis to be here now. Once you’ve been able to do it, you really don’t want to settle for anything less than that. You just don’t.

Looking back on classic World Series Game 7s

“But you have to do it the first time to really understand it and feel what it’s like. We never got back to the Series. We got in the playoffs often. But (the Cubs’) young guys or I think even younger, there is a better chance of keeping them together just based on finances, whereas back down there we didn’t have the same opportunity to keep that group together. I’ve often lamented that had you been able to keep that group together, what it would eventually look like; I thought it could have rivaled the Yankees’ run with that kind of group that had come up in the mid-’90s.

“There are a lot of ancillary benefits to be derived right now. I’m really proud of how they’ve dealt with this moment. But looking down the road, I want to believe with their ability to do other things, to be able to keep this core group together and then augment it, I think could be pretty special.”

The Indians are also front-loaded with young stars. Francisco Lindor (22) already holds the title of the team’s best player, while fellow infielder Jose Ramirez (23) proved to be one of Cleveland’s most impactful players this season.

“I do think we feel good that our organization is pretty healthy, just because of the guys that are under contract and where they are in their careers,” manager Terry Francona said.

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Unlike the Cubs, who rely on an older pitching staff (Game 7 starter Kyle Hendricks, 26, is their lone starter under 30), the Indians have three members of their rotation in their twenties: Danny Salazar (26), Carlos Carrasco (29) and Trevor Bauer (25), while ace Corey Kluber is only 30. Relievers Bryan Shaw (28) and Cody Allen (27) are also in the under-30 demographic.

“As long as you have pitching, you seem like you always have a chance,” Francona said.

The grind of October has taught players on both teams how to handle the most pressure-packed moments the game has to offer, not to mention pacing themselves through an extra month of action following the grueling 162-game schedule.

“I think we can take a lot from the way we approached it, and not treating it more than just each game is another game and trying to go out and win that day,” Kluber said. “Not trying to look too far ahead or things like that. I think there’s value to taking that approach throughout the course of a season, too.”

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mlb playoffs
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cleveland indians
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