Do not count out the Tribe
In just a few hours, the Chicago Cubs will step out on to a World Series field for the first time in 73 years, looking to end a 108-year championship drought.
The team known as the ‘Lovable Losers’ were anything but its nickname this season. Chicago stormed out of the gate at a record-setting pace with a great young core and experienced pitchers and finished the year 103-58.
Cubs skipper Joe Maddon and his staff bring with them a prolific offense including 2016 National League Most Valuable Player front runner Kris Bryant, while on the mound the team has two NL Cy Young candidates in Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks.
Many experts have said next year is finally here for the northside of Chicago and the city should prepare for a championship parade.
BUT…. in order to make the magic happen, the Cubs still have one more team standing in their way — the Cleveland Indians, a team with a streak of its own to vanquish.
1948 was the last time the Indians claimed dominion over Major League Baseball but unlike the Cubs they have had several close calls since then .. most notably 1995 and 1997 when they made it to the World Series.
Much like the Cubs, the Tribe comes into the game with a very potent offense. Indians’ hitters tallied 777 runs during the regular season, good for second in the league behind the Boston Red Sox, and the scoring has come from everywhere in the lineup.
Managing the team is two-time World Series champion, Terry Francona. The Indians’ skipper already broke one drought in Boston and has shown his managerial skills to be at the top of the game, especially in the playoffs.
Francona managed his squad through two series against two of the better offenses in the league.
First in the division series, he masterfully used his bullpen to shut down a red-hot Red Sox squad and sweep the team in three games. Then, against the Toronto Blue Jays in the championship series, his offense showed up to do some good work while the bullpen continued to be solid.
Starting pitching also has been an unexpected plus for the Cleveland baseball team. After losing two important starting pitchers (Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco) and coming into the postseason with an injured Corey Kluber, many (including myself) counted the Tribe down and out.
Instead, the starters have proven as much a strength as any other area of the team. Kluber along with Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin and rookie Ryan Merritt led the Indians to the World Series in eight games. The team only dropped one contest on its way to the series.
Bullpen talent is one area where the Indians have an advantage over the Cubs in this series. The offenses can both score runs, there is no doubt there, but the team who can close out the game late will be the team who wins the trophy.
Cleveland has a secret weapon in this regard in ALCS Most Valuable Player Andrew Miller. The journeyman reliever has been as close to automatic as you can be this postseason and he isn’t just a one-inning threat either. His roots as a starting pitcher have allowed Francona to throw him multiple innings in a game. Miller has struck out almost every hitter he has faced and has yet to allow a run in the postseason. And if that weren’t enough, Francona can call upon closer Cody Allen for an inning and one or two outs to shorten the game by almost four innings.
As you can see, the Indians will definitely get its say in whether or not the Cubs can make history or wait another year. Personally, I think the Indians will be able to push it to a seventh game but in the end the Cubs can throw out more starting pitching talent in Game 7 to put its name in the record books and bring a century long wait to an end.
The parade is certainly going to be fun.
Contact Joe Albright at email@example.com