You may have heard that the World Series starts tonight. It will feature the Chicago Cubs – a team that has not won the World Series since Teddy Roosevelt was in office, and has not been in the World Series since Hitler was alive – and the Cleveland Indians – a team that has not won the World Series since trains were the only method of team transportation.
Combined, they make up the largest championship drought in Fall Classic history: 174 years. I’m sure many baseball fans, both die-hard and casual, are rooting for the Cubs to break their high-profile curse, but here is why you should root for the Indians to break their own lengthy drought.
There are obvious Yankees storylines in this World Series, notably the two most dominant relievers for either team – Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. Rarely do you see trades work out so well for the acquiring team, but the Indians and Cubs have received big dividends for their investments thus far. Of the two, though, rooting for Miller over Chapman is an easy choice.
Meet Andrew Miller, your new favorite player. pic.twitter.com/fGlZMWrLBR
As a Yankees fan, I should not have to list reasons to love Andrew Miller, but I’ll do it anyways. He checks all the boxes: he’s good (326 strike outs in his last 200 innings pitched), he wins (ALCS MVP Award), and he puts the team first (didn’t bitch about not being the closer in New York and welcomed an unconventional role in Cleveland).
He has been a one-man wrecking crew in October and continues to be a nightmare for hitters. When the bullpen door swings open and Miller trots out, it’s lights-out for the opposition.
Terry Francona got a bad rap when he was booted out of Boston following the 2011 season. The Red Sox collapsed that September, going 7-20, and missed the playoffs despite leading the division on September 1. The Boston media, which many think was tipped off by Red Sox ownership, brutalized Francona on his way out, publishing stories that he was abusing pain killers which caused him to lose grip of his clubhouse and marriage.
Baseball managers often deserve criticism, and Francona certainly did for the way his team collapsed, but nobody deserved the treatment he received on his way out the door. Fast-forward five years and Francona’s Indians are in the World Series, having beat his former employer on the way. It must be sweet redemption for Francona, who has been a star for Cleveland during the post season.
The problem here with rooting for Francona is that many love Joe Maddon’s escapades as well. I’ve said many times that Maddon is an innovative manager; we saw it in Tampa when he was one of the first managers to employ the shift on batters, and we’re seeing it again in Chicago when he pushes his players into different defensive positons to maximize roster flexibility.
I fear that all the praise Maddon gets is starting to go to his head because he’s giving off a “zen master” vibe. His glasses, gray/blond beard and hair, and all the farm animals are starting to get on my nerves.
It’s coming too easy for the Cubs
Last season the Cubs came out of nowhere to win 97 games and advance to the NLCS. Everything they won was gravy because they weren’t supposed to be there… yet.
Coming off an NLCS sweeping, after adding John Lackey and Jason Heyward, the Cubs were the favorites entering 2016. All the predictions proved correct and the Cubs cruised to 103 victories by having a top-tier offense (845 runs, second in baseball), an elite pitching staff (3.15 team ERA, first in baseball by nearly a half-run), and exceptional defense (118 total fielding runs above average, +45 over the next best team, who just so happens to be Cleveland).
The point is they’re good. Really, really good. The Cubs are going to be hanging around for years because their core is young and extremely talented. Similar to how the Royals had a heartbreaking loss in 2014 which fueled their championship run in 2015, I would like to see these Cubs go through a bit more adversity before reaching the top of the mountain.
Cleveland has been close before
The Indians’ high-powered offense won the AL pennant in 1995 only to go up against the best starting rotation of the 1990’s. Then they were an inning away in 1997 when a group of misfit toys better known as the Florida Marlins stole victory from the city of Cleveland. Do you remember how it felt losing to the Marlins, that second-rate expansion franchise with zero fanbase, in 2003? I’m guessing that’s how Cleveland fans felt as well, and I wish that only upon my worst enemies. As it turns out, Cleveland isn’t one of them.
The Indians had a nice run in the 1990’s with their juggernaut offense powered by Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome. They never fully recovered from ’97 though, and by the mid-2000’s was irrelevant. CC Sabathia led the 2007 Indians to the brink again, but fell to Boston in the ALCS.
Cleveland has tasted victory before only to have it ripped away. The Cubs haven’t been close since WWII, when half of the league was fighting overseas, so they can wait another year. 2016 is Cleveland’s year, as if the Cavs didn’t already prove that. Plus, it’s fun rooting for the underdog. You gotta believe.