The Chicago Cubs finally made it to the World Series, something that hasn’t happened since 1945. But with the way the Cubs have been playing recently, they will most likely leave their fans disappointed once more.
By Cameron Jajonie (‘20)
History- The Cubs’ Drought
October 17, 1908 was a special day for the city of Chicago; it was the date the Cubs won their second consecutive World Series after defeating the Detroit Tigers, the same team they beat the year prior. Fast forward to 2016, and the Cubs haven’t won a title since. Just over a week ago, the Cubs beat the LA Dodgers in the NLCS to advance to the big stage for the first time in 71 years. But since then, things haven’t been going so favorably for the team from Chicago’s south side.
Chicago’s Opponents- The Cleveland Indians
The Indians have shown no mercy on the Cubs, as they too have been chasing a ring since 1948. Surprisingly, this long layoff has had no effect on the American League champs, something that can usually work against a team. Cleveland proved that they won’t be as as easy to beat as the Los Angeles Dodgers, whom Chicago overcame in six games.
The Indians have silenced all their doubters by dominating the World Series thus far, capped off by their pounding of the Cubs Saturday night by a score of 7-2. In Game 1, the Indians crushed their counterparts from Chicago, beating them 6-0. The Cubs then responded with a win in Game 2, 5-1. On Friday, Cleveland again defeated the Cubs 1-0 after they scored the game’s lone run in the top of the 7th inning, quite different from their five run triumph the next day. Finally, the Cubs’ 3-2 victory last night cut the Indians’ series lead to 3-2. The two teams face off tonight (Tuesday) to play Game 6 at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The first team to win four games wins the series, so if “The Tribe” comes out victorious, this could be the final game of baseball played until next spring.
“They’re good, I mean, we have had a hard time with Cleveland in general since I’ve been here,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose unique strategies have made him one of baseball’s best managers, and is one of the major reasons for Chicago’s turnaround into one of baseball’s best young teams. For example, he is an expert at making his players comfortable, keeping them relaxed so that they can play their best. During his managerial tenure with the Tampa Bay Rays, he pulled several of his players out of the batting cage and took them to watch a magician act. Though this method may seem odd, Maddon’s “calm hand and great communication skills are two reasons the cubs have been able to handle the pressure that comes with extraordinarily high expectations” (Tim Kurkjian, ESPN Senior Writer). That is why, despite Cleveland’s’ domination throughout the last five games, Joe Maddon and his Chicago Cubs aren’t out yet.
The Cubs’ Rotation
For the Cubs, it is their starting rotation that has made them such a tremendous team over the past six months and could be the difference between ending their quest for a title or leaving empty-handed. After winning the final three games of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers, the Cubs got to rest before the World Series, and they had their starters aligned relatively well. Jon Lester, the starter of Game 1, has posted a 0.86 ERA throughout the postseason, including an incredible performance in Game 5 of the NLCS in LA. He tossed seven innings, allowing just one run. Although Lester also pitched Game 1 of the World Series, the Cubs still lost 6-0, though he did counter on a positive note as he led his team’s 3-2 win in Game 5. Lester is followed in the rotation by the likes of NL ERA leader Kyle Hendricks, 2015 NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, veteran John Lackey, and Jason Hammel. While Chicago has a great bullpen along with a lineup some compare to the ‘27 Yankees, it is their rotation that sets them apart from the opposition, a rotation that has to step up in the coming days if the Cubs hope to end their long championship drought.
The Indians’ Bullpen
The Indians’ bullpen is different, but more importantly, it is strong, and has been Cleveland’s biggest weapon during the playoffs and the World Series. In Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, the Indians became the only team in MLB history to win a postseason game in which each pitcher pitched no more than two innings. Additionally, “In the clinching Game 5, the Indians became the only team in postseason history to throw a shutout in a game in which the starter didn’t pitch five innings” (Kurkjian).
“You’ve got to get a lead,” Cubs catcher David Ross explained. “[Cleveland’s] got a pretty good bullpen. Their record in the playoffs is pretty dominant, and we understand how good they are. Everybody may take them a little lightly, but we don’t.”
Although the Cubs have been blessed with the best starting rotation in baseball, and have been labeled Major League Baseball’s best overall team since Spring Training began in March, it is Andrew Miller and the Indians’ relief corps that have taken away the October spotlight and stand as a roadblock between Chicago and their championship aspirations.
World Series Predictions
Fortunately for the Cubs, they have a 52 percent chance to win Game 6, according to fivethirtyeight.com.
However, even if Chicago does force a Game 7, the Indians have a 55 percent chance to bring home the win (according to fivethirtyeight.com) and spoil the Cubs’ hopes at ending the longest title drought in all of professional sports.
*Update: After a surprising turn of events, the Cubs and Indians are tied. Game 7 will take place Wednesday, November 2.