By Joseph SanFilippo
The 2016 World Series will interestingly consist of the two teams in the MLB who have the longest droughts without a World Series title (that have won World Series’ in the past)
It has been 108 years since the Chicago Cubs last won in 1908, and 71 years since the organization has even appeared in a World Series. The Cleveland Indians last title was in 1948, and their last appearance was in 1997. In order to get to this point, the Indians had to defeat the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Division Series and the American League Championship series, respectively The Cubs had to storm past the San Francisco Giants, who had previously won the World Series in three of the last six seasons, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cubs finished the regular season with an MLB best 103-58 record. Although some National League (NL) Central Division teams had a disappointing season based on expectations, the Cubs definitely did not disappoint the many who selected them as the heavy favorite in their pre-season projections. They finished third in the MLB in runs scored with 808, and first in ERA (earned run average) for pitchers with a 3.15 mark.
This is a strong team in every aspect of the game. If there were one quantifiable weakness for this team, it would have to be their bullpen. But by adding mid-season acquisitions Mike Montgomery and Aroldis Chapman to the fold during the July trade deadline, the Cubs relievers have been flying high as a collective unit ever since.
The Indians have surprised people, especially those with high expectations for the Kansas City Royals, who won the past two American League pennants, bringing World Series trophy back to Kansas City just last year in the thirtieth anniversary of their last title.
Therefore, the Indians had their backs against the wall coming into this season. Not even on most sportswriters and analysts’ “playoff pictures,” the Indians road the backs of seasoned veteran and World Series winning manager Terry Francona.
The Indians’ offense is not o be overlooked either. They were 5th in runs scored with 777. Their pitching also did an outstanding job, finishing with a 3.84 ERA, which was good for 7th in the MLB.
However, the strength of this team, unlike the Cubs, is undoubtedly their bullpen. Yet they added coveted super reliever Andrew Miller by picking him up just this July at the trade deadline. Miller has not disappointed, cruising to a tune of 14 strikeouts in 7.1 Innings pitched of scoreless ball, securing ALCS MVP honors, and a pennant for his new club.
The Indians will be in good shape if they can continue to get the ball to their bullpen with a lead. The AL Central has now had a team in the World Series the last three seasons, and four out of the last five seasons (Detroit, 2012, Kansas City, 2014-2015).
This is a matchup where one team will end their entire city’s agony. If the Cubs can continue to hit and pitch like they have done all season, they will be smooth sailing. Most of the pressure is presumed to be on the few starting pitchers of the Indians who are actually healthy.
The Cubs had the best ERA in the league for a reason, and as such, are not likely to give up many runs. The Indians’ starters have been very good this postseason, but with the absence of Carlos Carrasco and the uncertainty of whether or not Danny Salazar will be healthy or activated, that leaves Ace Corey Kluber, long-men Steve Clevenger and Ryan Merritt, and the infamously bloody finger of Trevor Bauer as the only starting options Francona can turn to in the series. While the Cubs have aligned for a star-studded rotation that shall include: the reigning CY Young Award-Winner (Jake Arrieta), the two favorites for the award this year (2-time WS champion John Lester and Kyle Hendricks) and 2-time world champion John Lackey.
There is no telling how quick this series will go if either team fulfills their utmost potential. Since the American League won the All-Star game this year, Game 1 will be Tuesday, Oct. 25 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. The first pitch is scheduled for 8:08 p.m. ET, and will air on FOX.