Doesn’t Get Much Better Than This
I don’t care who your baseball team is, that was a pretty amazing scene at Wrigley Saturday night. Most of you are Jays fans, and obviously those of us who are wanted to see them win the World Series. But even before the playoffs began I was saying to buddies, as a Jays fan, that if the Cubs played the Indians in the World Series that would be a heck of a consolation prize!
You have the hard luck Cubs against hard luck Cleveland, and someone HAS to win.
As I sure as hell hope you know by now, this is the Cubs first World Series since 1945, and they haven’t won the Series since 1908. Yet the first season the Cubs really endured heart break post 1945 wasn’t until 1969. Leading the NL East by 8.5 games over the Cards, 9.5 over the eventual champion Mets. On September 2nd they were 84-52 and even though the Mets were coming hard they still had a 5 game lead on them. It was all downhill from there though as they would lose 17 of 25 games, finishing 2nd in the NL East to the Mets…who went on to win the World Series.
There wasn’t really anything more that went on until the 1984 season. This was the first season the Cubs had made the playoffs since their World Series appearance in 1945 (and you think the Oilers streak of missing the playoffs is bad!) They won the first two games of the best of five at home, then went out to San Diego for three. After getting blown out in game 3, the Cubs and Padres were tied at 5 going to the bottom of the 9th in game 4. Closer Lee Smith couldn’t keep it tied as Steve Garvey hit a two run walk off. Then in game 5 the Cubs jumped out to a 3-0 lead. It was still 3-2 going to the bottom of the 7th. That’s when disaster struck.
That error opened the flood gates and the Padres went on to score three more that inning and take the NLCS with a 6-3 win.
After that there were a few postseason appearances, but nothing too threatening. Lost 4-1 to the Giants in the 89 NLCS and got swept by the Braves in the 98 NLDS. But 2003, that looked a lot different.
They won the NL Central, and even though the win total wasn’t too impressive (88), the Cubs were built to be a playoff team. A great starting staff lead by Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, a good mix of youth and experience, and after the defending National League champion Giants were upset by the Marlins, the NL seemed there for the taking. Kerry Wood was dominant in a game 5 victory in Atlanta to put away the Braves, and then all that was left was the Marlins and the Cubs would jump out to a 3-1 lead in the series.
They lost game 5 in what seemed like a nothing game at the time. But now in hindsight you could say the legend of Josh Beckett was born. Beckett was expected to be a hall of fame pitcher, and of course he wasn’t, but did he ever come up big for the Marlins in 03 and the Red Sox in 07. A two hitter for Beckett in game 5, but that was ok because the Cubs would win it at home. And EVERYONE was saying with the series going back to Chicago “they can’t beat Prior and Wood” who were the starters for games 6 and 7.
They weren’t going to beat Prior in game 6. Score was 3-0, the Cubs were cruising. And you likely know what happened next.
8 runs followed, and an 8-3 final. All of a sudden after believing the Marlins couldn’t possibly beat Prior and Wood in back to back games, it seemed like the Cubs couldn’t possibly win. And they didn’t. They relinquished a 5-3 lead in the top of the 5th inning and trailed 6-5, which was big trouble with Beckett set to come in and close the door, and he did just that.
I would say that was the Cubs best team. Prior and Wood were so dominate that season, they would have shut down the Yankees in the World Series. It wasn’t just those two. Carlos Zambrano was emerging as a star (although he only ever showed flashes of being one, never consistent), and Matt Clement was a real dependable starter.
They did have another shot at things in 2008 though. Lou Piniella was in his second season as manager, and they were fresh off a surprising NL Central title in 2007 (although were expectedly swept in the playoffs by the Diamondbacks). 2008, 100 years after the last title, top team in the National League which of course meant home field throughout the playoffs (thanks to the NL winning the all-star game of course), it was all setting up perfectly.
ANNNNNNND then it was done.
It has been the longest and roughest road ever seen in sports, at least in North America. There hasn’t been much heartache in the last 108 years, because they hardly are ever good. But as I just laid out, when they’re good, something bad always seems to happen.
On the other side of the fence, you have a documentary called “Believeland” that is getting dated in a hurry!!! First the Cavs comeback from 3-1 down to the 73-9 Golden State Warriors to win the NBA crown, and now you have the Indians just four wins away from winning the World Series.
Indians fans didn’t have much going for them after their last World Series win in 1948. But then in 1989 it all seemed to come together after their owner looked to tank so she could move the team to Miami. The group of misfits rallied in the 2nd half of the season and their one game playoff against the Yankees for the 89 AL East crown was one for the ages. The broadcast of this game was unlike any other, filled with dramatic music, amazing close up’s of all the players, and incredible audio from some of the mic’d up players.
Ok you got me, that was a movie. Thought I could slip one past you but you’re just too smart!
From 1955-1994 the Cubs were actually the more successful franchise of the two! But in 95 the Indians looked like what the Cubs do this season, a total powerhouse. They won 100 games in a 144 game season. Their starting pitching was great, but their offense was so amazing that the staff was good enough, and the back end of the bullpen was lights out with Jose Mesa (in 95, we’ll get to 97 shortly).
But they ran into the one team who had the pitching to shutdown that amazing lineup in the World Series, and it culminated with a Tom Glavine masterpiece in game 6. One of the best lineups in MLB history was held to one hit.
They were back in the playoffs in 96, and although they weren’t as dominant, they won 99 games and were the top seed in the American League heading into the playoffs. However, they were bounced in four games by the underdog Baltimore Orioles.
Then you had 1997. Albert Belle was gone, Kenny Lofton was gone (for that season only in this entire seven year run, weird I know), and the Tribe were really flying under the radar heading into the playoffs posting the worst record of all the AL playoff teams (86-75). But they caught fire heading into the playoffs and rode that wave once they got there.
Game 4 of the ALDS against the Yankees that season is one of the best baseball games you’d ever see. They came back to win that one, and then closed the Yankees out the next night in the 5th and deciding game. Then they took out the Orioles in 6 which was viewed as a pretty massive upset at the time. Onto the World Series to play the Marlins in a series that was “built vs bought” or as 14 year old me thought of it “good vs evil”.
For six games the two teams alternated wins. Marlins would win, Indians would counter. But in game 7 the Tribe would send the rookie phenom Jaret Wright to the mound, and while you likely don’t remember or have never heard of Jaret Wright, he was expected to be the Indians ace for the next 10-15 years. Only 21 years old that postseason. Wright was terrific and the Indians had a 2-1 lead going to the 9th, with Jose Mesa coming into the game. But, this was not the Jose Mesa of old.
The Indians did rebound to get the game to the 11th, but watching it, you just KNEW it was inevitable.
With all that relatively recent heartbreak it’s easy to forget about another time. 2007, and the Tribe were back in the playoffs for the first time since their great run of six playoff appearances in seven seasons from 95-01. After knocking off the Yankees, they took a 3-1 lead on the heavily favoured Red Sox, with their ace C.C. Sabathia on the mound at home for game 5. But, remember the legend of Josh Beckett? Well, that legend showed up in game 5 to take the series back to Boston, where the Red Sox took over.
All that heart break is for the Indians, I didn’t even get into how brutal of a road it’s been for the city of Cleveland between 1965 and June of this year.
So it’s the Cubs vs the Indians and someone has to win. The Cubs are coming in as the heavy favourite, as they should be. But the Indians are riding an incredible wave right now. They won the ALCS because of Terry Francona and their bullpen. They had to be running on fumes by the end of that series, but with the 6 days off they’ll be well rested heading into game 1. It looks as though they’ll have starter Danny Salazar back, and Francona said yesterday that he believes Trevor Bauer’s fingered will have heeled up enough to give it another go. So Cleveland has the pitching to shutdown the Cubs offense.
The problem is that the Cubs have the pitching to shutdown the Indians offense. But that wasn’t a problem for the Tribe in the ALCS. They hardly hit against the Jays, but every opportunity they had, they capitalized on. They’re as clutch of a team as you’ll see.
Both teams have elite managers so I don’t see an advantage there. Probably two of the top three managers in the majors. Both are well known for keeping their teams incredibly loose, and both are known for trusting their gut over conventional thinking. Neither care about what the fans or media will say if they make a wrong move, and because of that they rarely do.
I definitely don’t see this to be as lopsided of a series as most do. But I don’t want to pick a winner in this series, because all I want to do is see an amazing World Series. I like both teams, I normally pull for both cities, I just want to enjoy the baseball. But that’s no fun. So I’m going to say, as long as both Salazar and Bauer can go, that it’ll be the Indians pulling the upset in 7 games.
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