Lester thinks Cubs’ youth helps chance for repeating

By Mike Tulumello 
Associated Press

MESA, Ariz. — No baseball team has repeated as World Series champions since the New York Yankees reigned from 1998 through 2000.

There are reasons, starting with the fact that a title-winning team’s offseason is so short.

Jon Lester, a three-time World Series champion, thinks the Chicago Cubs have a few legs up on the situation. Young legs.

“The biggest positive on our side is we have so many young guys who aren’t banged up, who don’t have a lot of innings or at-bats,” said Lester, who helped Boston to titles in 2007 and 2013, as well as helping to anchor the Cubs’ rotation last year. “I think it makes it easier on them to rebound and come back and be ready to go.”

In addition, the younger players might not be aware, or care much about the perceived difficulties in repeating.

“With our young guys, I think they’re cocky enough and naïve enough at the same time to just go out and play again and not really worry about anything,” Lester said.

The Cubs return their main weapons, both in the field and in the starting rotation. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and manager Joe Maddon are back to headline the youth-infused roster.

“That’s a huge, huge difference compared to years past,” Lester said. “Most of the time when you have a World Series, you have a lot of turnover the next year.free agents or trades in the offseason. With the Cubs’ situation, that puts us in a really good position to compete again.”

Lester was witness to two teams coming short when trying to repeat. The 2008 Red Sox lost to the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALCS. The 2014 Boston team collapsed and finished 71-91.

After the 2007 title season, “we went to Japan the next year. Everybody was just beat. It was hard to catch up to that season. In ’14, we had lost a lot of the key players who had helped us win a championship,” Lester said. ” Every year is just so different. I don’t think you can really put a blueprint out there and say, ‘This is how you repeat.’ I hope everybody has the same year they did last year. That would be really, really awesome. But that’s not baseball.

Maddon acknowledged there is always the threat of a World Series hangover, one where younger players could get too full of themselves.

“That’s what you’ve got to talk about,” Maddon said, but he added, “That’s something that needs to be handled a lot by veteran players who have been there and done that. I think we have enough folks who have been through it before who are able to keep an eye it. But I absolutely have to be concerned about it. Everybody does.”

Maddon, agreeing with Lester, noted the length of the last season. The Cubs won the Series in Game 7 on Nov. 2, in extra innings, no less.

“We will be aware of rest when the season begins,” Maddon said. “If you want guys to be better hitters, rest them. If you want your pitchers to be sharper, rest them. If you want defenders not to mistakes on routine plays, rest them. It’s a tough schedule. There are a lot of games. If we consider all those things well, we have a pretty good shot again.”

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