The 2016 World Series

After doing really well predicting the Wild-Card Games (2-0) but not so well with the League Division Series (1-3), I’m back to my undefeated ways in the two League Championship Series! Let’s recap:

 

ALCS Blue Jays-Indians: Got the winning team correct, but not the number of games. I really expected that the potent Toronto offense was going to do more damage on the depleted Cleveland starting rotation, forcing this series to seven games. Didn’t happen. The Indians dismantled the Blue Jays in five games. The reasons for this happening were clear: Cleveland’s monster bullpen, particularly ALCS MVP Andrew Miller—a weapon that can be brought in at any time in the game and pitch two or more innings—and the masterful management of Terry Francona. Every in-game move he made worked.

 

NLCS Dodgers-Cubs: This series I predicted to go six games. It went six games. I predicted the Cubs would win. They did. They had a few hiccups in Games 2 and 3 that I didn’t expect, and manager Joe Maddon may have done a little overmanaging. But the Cubbies came through, with special credit going to the NLCS co-MVPs. Javier Baez, in his first full season in the majors, has been an offensive spark, but Jon Lester pitched two brilliant games, as he’s proven he can do in the postseason. His postseason ERA is only bested by Curt Schilling and Madison Bumgarner. I would like to give congratulations to the Dodgers, particularly first-year manager Dave Roberts, who has a great career ahead of him

 

Now onto the World Series!

Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians

         

How on Earth do you try to discuss a World Series like this in any terms without mentioning the historical significance of it all? I think back to 2003, a year before my beloved Red Sox ended an 86-year championship drought. Each LCS went to a seventh game, but the Yankees and Marlins collectively blocked the possibility of a Cubs-Red Sox World Series. Just let that sink in a moment. In 2003, the World Series might have been between the Cubs (who hadn’t won it since 1908, let alone hadn’t been there since 1945) and the Red Sox (who at the time hadn’t won it since 1918, though came close with fluky things happening in 1946, 1967, 1975, and 1986). It would have been two of the biggest three championship droughts at the time. Yes, what people forget is that the Chicago White Sox had their own drought, not having won it all since 1917 at the time, but they’re often left out of the conversation because their so-called “curse” was associated with the Black Sox scandal of 1919.

Then the world changed, and the Red Sox won it all in 2004 against the Cardinals. That didn’t have the historical mystique of the 2003 never-happened Cubs-Red Sox possibility. Besides, the Cardinals had won nine World Series at the time, which tied them for second overall with the Athletics and behind the Yankees. The Cards have since won two more, but in 2004, the country wanted to see the Red Sox win. And win they did, sweeping the Cardinals.

Then in 2005, the White Sox made it to the World Series against the Houston Astros. The White Sox lost only one postseason game that year, ultimately sweeping the Astros. I won’t say that the country was as unified towards the White Sox as they had been towards the Red Sox a year earlier, but the Astros were an expansion team, not in existence when the Red Sox, White Sox, Indians, and Cubs had last won the series. Though the Astros had never won (and had appeared there for their first time), the White Sox had the ended drought on their side.

So in my lifetime—heck, in the 2000s—I have seen two teams end championship droughts of longer than my age (45 years). No matter what, I’m about to see a third—one of the two current longest in baseball (Cleveland 68 years, Chicago 108 years). Let that sink in. Not only that, but during my lifetime, ALL fourteen of the other original sixteen teams have WON the World Series. Let’s see those teams and their World Series wins in that time span:

AMERICAN LEAGUE: Athletics (1989, 1974, 1973, 1972), Orioles (1983), Red Sox (2013, 2007, 2004—ended an 86-year drought), Tigers (1984), Twins (originally the Washington Senators, 1991, 1987—ended a 63-year drought), White Sox (2005—ended an 88-year drought), Yankees (2009, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1978, 1977)

NATIONAL LEAGUE: Braves (1995), Cardinals (2011, 2006, 1982), Dodgers (1988, 1981), Giants (2014, 2012, 2010—ended a 56-year drought), Phillies (2009, 1980—first win in their history, ended 77-year drought), Pirates (1979, 1971), Reds (1990, 1976, 1975)

The Indians and Cubs are the only ones left in their respective leagues. And one of them—the Cubs—I’ve yet to even see in that Series.

Let’s not forget the six expansion teams to win in that time frame: Angels (2002), Blue Jays (1993, 1992), Diamondbacks (2001), Marlins (2003, 1997), Mets (1986), Royals (2015, 1985).

So which team has the advantage?

When it comes to pitching, I give the Cubs’ starting rotation the edge, but I give the Indians’ bullpen the edge. When it comes to offense, I give the Cubs’ overall offense the edge, but I give the Indians’ timely offense and base stealing the edge. When it comes to defense, I call it a draw. And when it comes to managers—two of the current greatest—again, it’s a draw. This is going to be a tremendous chess game, perhaps the best World Series I’ve ever seen.

And—as if there isn’t already enough—there are several former Red Sox champions among the two teams. The Cubs have pitchers Jon Lester (2007, 2013) and John Lackey (2013), and catcher David Ross (2013). They also have general manager Theo Epstein (2004, 2007), who will be a shoo-in for the Baseball Hall of Fame if he orchestrates TWO teams to come back from long championship droughts. On the Indians, there’s Andrew Miller (2013), Coco Crisp (2007), and Mike Napoli (2013), along with manager Terry Francona (2004, 2007), who is currently undefeated in the World Series and will be a shoo-in for the Baseball Hall of Fame if he leads a second championship-starved team to victory.

So who wins?

Prediction: A World Series for the ages in so many ways. I refuse to predict a winner to avoid jinxing either team, but I think it will go seven games. And it will be phenomenal baseball.

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