With just two weeks remaining in one of the bitterest presidential elections of all time, the Baseball Gods have provided a much needed national distraction that has been a combined 176 years in the making.
While many Americans likely cannot name the last five World Series Champions, even casual sports fans are already aware that the Cubs and Indians will be playing in a World Series for all ages.
After all, these are not just any two Major League teams, these are two teams with epic histories of finding new ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. There have been movies, songs, poems and books chronicling the failures and collapses of these two storied franchises.
What we do know, is that within the next 10 days either the 68 year streak of futility for the Indians or the 108 year streak for the Cubs will be over.
How we get from here to that moment is a compelling story that seems likely to shift at least some of the Facebook and Twitter focus from the Trump-Clinton election to America’s pastime.
The Cubs are not only making their first World Series appearance since 1945, but they finished the regular season with the best record in baseball for the first time since they lost that dramatic seven game series to the Detroit Tigers 71 years ago. Their 103 victories is the most in a season for the Cubs since winning 100 games in 1935 (they lost that series in six games to the Tigers).
Though the Indians have made three World Series appearances since last winning a championship in 1948, until the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship earlier this year to end the 52-year championship drought for the city of Cleveland, their burden seemed just as daunting as that of the Cubs.
However, now that the pressure of a city has been lifted from their shoulders, it almost seems like the Indians are playing with house money. While their 68 year World Series drought is certainly significant, it pales in comparison to that of the Cubs and the national fan base that watched much of their misery over the last several decades thanks to the WGN super-cable network.
Who Will Win the 2016 World Series?
- Chicago Cubs (78%, 7 Votes)
- Cleveland Indians (22%, 2 Votes)
Total Voters: 9
One interesting storyline for this improbable World Series is the connection that both teams have with the Boston Red Sox and their 86 year drought that ended 12 years ago.
The architect of the new-look Chicago Cubs is Theo Epstein, who was the “boy wonder” General Manager of the 2004 Red Sox. He won a second World Series with the Red Sox in 2007 before leaving Boston following the 2011 season. He joined the Cubs in 2012 and after posting losing records in his first three seasons has now led them to consecutive playoff appearances and their first World Series appearance since 28 years before his birth.
Ironically, the 2011 season was also the final season in Boston for Terry Francona, who was the manager of the Red Sox for both their 2004 and 2007 championships. He joined the Indians in 2013 and has led them to four straight winning seasons. They lost the Wild Card game in 2013 and failed to reach the postseason in 2014 and 2015 before winning seven of eight playoff games to reach the World Series this year.
Whether it is Epstein’s Cubs or Francona’s Indians that prevails will be an interesting sidebar. However, the determining factor will be which set of players is better able to ignore the potential distractions and channel the success they had during the regular season.
The Indians were second in the American League with 777 runs scored during the regular season and also finished second with a 3.84 ERA on their way to 93 victories. Chicago scored 808 runs and led baseball with a team ERA of 3.15.
Regardless of which team ultimately wins, it is fair to say that the real winners are Major League Baseball and American Baseball fans.
Now, let’s hope the series lives up to the hype!