Alright folks…the moment we have all been waiting for starts Tuesday night, under the lights at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. The Chicago Cubs will be taking on the Cleveland Indians in a battle for the 112th World Series title. Both squads take in historic World Series droughts. The Indians last won the title in 1948 against the Boston Braves and the North side of Chicago hasn’t seen a World Series championship since 1908. These two title droughts are the longest in any professional sport. Unfortunately for one team that drought will continue, as for the other, they’ll be celebrating in champagne showers.
What else could you ask for? From top to bottom, the Indians and the Cubs are easily the most talented teams in the MLB. Both organizations are very similar. Let’s start from the top.
At the helm for the Tribe we see Terry “Tito” Francona. Francona has been MLB’s most successful coach in the past decade. Tito won World Series titles in 2004 and 2007 as the Manager for the Boston Red Sox. Francona has won Manager of the Year Awards in 2004 and 2013 and is poised to take home the title once again this year. Not only has Francona been recognized through his accolades, but he has also been renowned as one of baseball’s greatest minds. In 2004, Francona led one of sport’s greatest comebacks. Down 3-0 in the ALCS to the daunting New York Yankees, Francona rallied his troops to win four consecutive games on their way to their first World Series in 86 years. Can Francona reverse the curse for a second time or has his magic run out?
Leading the way for the 103 win Cubbies is Manager, Joe Maddon. Maddon got his first head coaching gig in 2006 for the then, Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Maddon struggled his first two years as coach, winning just 61 games in 2006 and 66 in 2007. The struggles were short lived, because in 2008 Maddon headed the Rays to a 97-win season and a trip to the World Series. This was a remarkable accomplishment for Madden. He led an extremely young and inexperienced team to a World Series, after being complete laughing stocks the previous year. Maddon continued his success, racking up 90+-win seasons four more times. The rays were transformed by Maddon’s presence, becoming one of Baseball’s most successful teams from 2010-2013. Maddon was recognized for his success by winning the Manger of the Year Award in 2008, 2011, and most recently in 2015 for the Chicago Cubs. From 2010-2013 Maddon finished in the top 5 for Manger of the Year Award, something that is unheard of in a highly competitive division. Is Joe Maddon poised to lead the Cubs to their first World Series Title since 1908, or is the curse of the Billy Goat going to come and snatch it away once more?
Not only are the coaches similar, but their rosters are constructed alike as well. The Cleveland Indians have young talent all over the field from stud short-stop, Francisco Lindor (age 22) to rising stars, Tyler Naquin (age 25) and Jose Ramirez (age 24). Around those up-and-coming youngsters, the Indians have many valuable veterans. Players like Mike Napoli, Jason Kipnis, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Santana help to show the young players the ropes and what to expect in pressured filled situations like the World Series. Napoli will now be playing in his 3rd World Series with just as many teams. His experience and knowledge will be crucial if the Indians want to capture the title.
Similarly, the Cubs are constructed just like the Indians. Players like Kris Bryant, Addison Russel, and Javier Baez, don’t exceed the age of 24 but are critical for the Cubs to win. Around them, players like Jon Lester, David Ross, John Lackey, and Jake Arrieta bring the veteran presence to the locker-room. The front offices of both organizations should be proud of the teams that they have constructed. Both the Indians and the Cubs are equipped to be good for years to come, in fact, we may see them in the same situation next year.
For now, we need to look at 2016. Picking a team to win the World Series is a tough task, but I believe I am prepared to take the risk. I have the Cubs winning in six games. Throughout the year, they have been the most consistent of all 30 teams and have shown no weaknesses. Their rotation is stacked, headed by Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and last year’s Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta. The Cubs have one of the deepest lineups as well. From 1-9 they have talent to put runs up on any pitcher, just ask Clayton Kershaw. This is not a dig on the Indians either. They have impressed me since day one. I believe that the Cubs roster is deeper and more equipped to take home the title to the North side of Chicago. If this is the case, the MLB will be lucky. Finally, one of the most storied franchises in baseball will have captured their first World Series title since 1908 and break the curse that has been haunting them for over a century.