After six long months, the final chapter of the 2016 MLB season is set. The Chicago Cubs will face the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. The World Series will feature two franchises that were starved of success for most of their existences.
For Cleveland, this is their first World Series appearance since 1997 and they have not won a World Series since 1948. The Cubs have not seen a World Series since 1945 and the last time they won was in 1908. However, these two clubs made it to this World Series in different ways.
For the Cubs, their success so far was the result of a substantial rebuild, originating with the hire of general manager Theo Epstein after the 2011 season. It is thanks to Epstein’s management that the Cubs are in the Series. Every contributor on the Cubs roster was brought in by Epstein, from talented, young infielders Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to recently acquired closing pitcher, Aroldis Chapman. Chicago entered the season as favorites to win the World Series — they looked the part for the majority of the regular season —, leading the majors with 103 wins.
For Cleveland, their World Series appearance comes as more of a surprise. After finishing 81-80 in 2015, the Indians were a trendy pick to make the playoffs this year. The Indians out-played the expectations of most people, going 94-67 despite suffering key season-ending injuries to pitcher Carlos Carrasco and outfielder Michael Brantley. The Indians dominated the American League playoffs, sweeping the heavily favored Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series and comfortably beating the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 in the American League Championship Series.
The Indians must credit much of their success to relief pitcher Andrew Miller, who they acquired in a trade with the New York Yankees in July. Miller has played lights out in the postseason, completely shutting down talented hitting lineups from Boston and Toronto.
For the Cubs to have success in this Series, they must get through Cleveland’s starting pitchers early in games and force them to play Miller sooner rather than later. The same could be said for Cleveland’s key to success. The Cubs have an excellent rotation of starting pitchers between Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta. However, they have also experienced frustrations in their bullpen and have had to over rely on Chapman.
When this Series is over, one franchise will have its curse broken, the other will feel the
burden of their curse ten times more. While Cleveland has played with tremendous heart
throughout the entirety of the playoffs, the Cubs are simply the better team.
Chicago has looked like the best team in the majors all year and I believe that this is finally the year that the Cubs will shake their reputation as the most abysmal franchise in all of North American professional sports. Expect the Cubs to win in six.