If you’re a baseball fan, a die hard, a baseball junkie, your favorite sporting event begins tonight in Cleveland Ohio. The Fall Classic features two teams who haven’t been there in a long while. The Cubs and the Indians. Ok, we all know the story about Murphy the goat 71 years ago. It’s is the longest spell for any team in the four major American sports in between trips to the crowning event, and 108 years since a series win. But the Cubs are not the only ones seeking to reward generations of frustrated fans. The Indians haven’t earned a ring since 1948, the year Harry Truman upset Thomas Dewey to win the presidential election.
For me, the most intriguing story line could be the managerial matchup between two-time World Series winner Terry Francona of the Indians and the Cubs’ creative, risk-taking Joe Maddon. Francona won those titles when he was at the helm of the Boston Red Sox. The first one snapped a 86-year championship drought. Maddon took the Tampa Rays to the franchise's first World Series in 2008.They didn’t win. Both are Manager of the year candidates.
While the Cubs are getting the majority of the attention, don’t count out Cleveland, a team that has been winning with spare parts.
The Indians won the AL Central Division, but their appearance in the Fall Classic is a bit of a surprise, as they limped into the playoffs. Cleveland lost its best hitter, Michael Brantley, for the majority of the season. Shortly before the postseason, starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco suffered a broken finger, ending his season. The team also lost starting pitcher Danny Salazar, out with a strained flexor muscle. He hasn’t been available to pitch so far in the postseason but will be available in the World Series.
What the Indians do have is pitching; led by former Yank and bullpen ace Andrew Miller (I’m still mad they traded him). They have strong starting pitching as well with Danny Salazar (11-3, AL-best 2.75 ERA), Corey Kluber (9-8, third in AL in strikeouts), Josh Tomlin (10-2) and Trevor Bauer (7-3). They can hit as well; Carlos Santana (21 homers), Mike Napoli (22 homers, 67 RBI), Jason Kipnis (16 homers), Francisco Lindor (.303 batting average), Jose Ramirez and Rajai Davis have proven consistent as the core of their offense.
And then there is the Cubs, winners of 103 regular season games. They are are loaded, as anyone watching their entire infield (sans catcher) start in the All-Star Game could attest. Third baseman Kris Bryant led the National League in home runs and first baseman Anthony Rizzo led in runs batted in. Rizzo and Bryant ranked fourth and fifth in OPS (on base percentage plus slugging.)
On the mound, Kyle Hendricks is third and Jake Arrieta eighth in the NL in earned run average, with Arrieta returning strong after the All-Star break. Jon Lester is 14th. Arrieta is third and Lester tied for sixth in wins. A formidable starting trio.
The Indians vs Cubs matchup sounds like an old-time baseball showdown, one where you would expect fans to be dressed in suit and tie, posting their Instagram shots in black and white. Normally being a Yankee fan, I would root for the American league representative, but this time I have to pick the Cubs in 6. What do you think?
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