By putting away the Cardinals, Cubs earn the right to keep their party going

Cubs having fun but not playing with house money (1:44)

ESPN MLB analyst Curt Schilling explains that while the Cubs will enjoy getting into the NLCS, it's just the next step and should remain focused on the World Series. (1:44)

CHICAGO -- There aren't a lot of links to the past in the Chicago Cubs' clubhouse, where ancient history consists of the 12 days before Kris Bryant was called up in April. Closing the book on the club's tortured history is a necessary step to write the future.

But walking along the field Tuesday night as the Cubs soaked themselves in celebratory booze after clinching a berth in the National League Championship Series with a 6-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the NLDS, I ran into one of the holdovers from the old days, the great Tim Buss.

He's not a household name like Rizzo or Bryant, but "Bussy" has been the Cubs' strength-and-conditioning coach since 2001. He was here for the Sammy Sosa circus, the wild 2003 season and all the highs and lows that followed until the new regime took over without tearing everything down and building it up better than ever.

A lifelong Cubs fan living his dream, Bussy is, in many ways, the heart and soul of the organization. He's the guy the old players come back to visit and he's the guy the new players befriend.

So while chairman Tom Ricketts soaks in the cheers and president Theo Epstein gives the money quotes, take a few moments to have a couple pops in honor of Bussy, just a normal guy behind the scenes helping make it all happen.

"I cried about three different times today just thinking about this moment," he said. "It's my soul, baby. This is what's it about."

Buss was going crazy in the weight room stretching out the reserve players when rookie slugger Kyle Schwarber jacked a solo homer on top of the "Schwarboard" in right field in the seventh inning. It was the 12th home run the Cubs hit this postseason, almost all by the youth movement that was billed, correctly, as the future. Who knew they'd be this good this soon?

You don't have to remember the past to enjoy this present, but a little context doesn't hurt, either.

Watching the young Cubs smack homers into the breeze reminds some of the 12 total runs scored by their forebears in the six division-series games in 2007 and '08. But no one has to obsess over the past anymore. You're not dreaming. The Cubs are this good.

On Tuesday, with a packed house expecting the best and trying not to think of the worst as Cubs starter Jason Hammel allowed two runs in the first inning, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Schwarber all homered: a go-ahead shot, a tiebreaker and an insurance blast. The night before, in an 8-6 victory, the first six hitters in the Cubs order wound up smacking balls all over the bleachers in a record-setting night.

"They're relentless," Buss said. "Just a bunch of crazy kids."

Nothing was crazier than Baez hitting a three-run homer in his first at-bat of his first playoff start Tuesday. It came in the second after Hammel, who was almost pulled for a pinch hitter in what was always going to be a short start, hit an RBI single with two out.

"That was very 2015 Cubs," said Epstein, who called it a "Javy bomb."

There is no question the upstart Cubs, who went from tanking to interesting to dominant in the span of a year, deserve to be playing in the NLCS, just four wins from that elusive World Series berth. They beat 98-win Pittsburgh at PNC Park and disposed of the 100-win Cardinals in four games to get here.

They won with their Cy Young candidate Jake Arrieta pitching a complete game in Pittsburgh that was somehow beneath his standards, and they won with Arrieta scuffling at Wrigley on Monday night.

They did things that Cubs teams of the past would never do. This team will be the standard that other Cubs teams will measure themselves against. Pretty soon, no one is going to be talking about 2003 or 2007 or 2008. This could be the postseason that redefines a franchise that famous for poetic heartbreak.

"I think it validates what we're about," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I think it gives our fan base hope for the future regarding, they're not waiting for something bad to happen all of the time. Something good is on the horizon, not something bad. Hopefully that's going to be the takeaway from all of this."

After getting blanked 4-0 to open this series, bringing back bad memories of postseasons past, the Cubs won three straight over the franchise's most bitter rivals. Forget the historical importance for a second, the Cubs beat two really good teams to get here.

"To go through the Pirates in the wild-card game and now the Cardinals, we feel like we can beat anybody," Arrieta said. "We're a tough team to play no matter who it is."

While young guys such as Bryant don't dwell in the almighty narrative of beating the Cardinals, those who have been around a little more can find some meaning behind it.

Epstein referred to the Cardinals as "the older brothers who have been kicking sand in our face for 100 years." As the guy who led the Red Sox over their big brothers in the Bronx, this is a story he knows how to tell.

"I had to pinch myself," Epstein said. "It's not enough that you're watching guys who were in instructional league last year hitting balls over the scoreboard in the NLDS, but it has to be the first time we played the freaking Cardinals in the playoffs."

Yes, he said "freaking."

Whether it was the Cardinals or not, the Cubs were going to celebrate.

For the third time this month, the Cubs taped up the plastic in the clubhouse, turned on the lasers and smoke machine, and emptied cases of alcohol on each other before taking the party onto the field for an hour. You haven't lived until you've watched John Cusack and Fernando Rodney pose for a picture doing the reliever's famous bow-and-arrow pose.

These Cubs, who love to refer to themselves as "young and dumb," know how to live it up. But that's part of their charm. They celebrate every win with a dance party, and they won 97 games this season.

Don't think they're satisfied. When the final out was made, Maddon said his first thoughts were, "Who we playing, L.A. or the Mets? That's exactly what I thought, where are we going next?"

Game 5 of the Dodgers and Mets series is Thursday in Los Angeles, and then the Cubs will know where the next step of their journey begins.

"This isn't why I signed here," said pitcher Jon Lester, who inked a $155 million deal in the offseason. "I signed here for the World Series, so we've got a long way to go."

So celebrate another night or two, Cubs fans, but make sure to get your rest. This party is just beginning.