With Game 1 of the 2016 World Series set to begin tonight in Cleveland as the Chicago Cubs are set to face the Cleveland Indians, fans may in for an instant classic between two long-suffering franchises.
The 94-win American League Indians, who have not won the World Series since 1948, are in pursuit of their third overall championship after failing to win in 1995 and 1997. Led by perhaps the best manager in the business in Terry Francona and a dominant bullpen, Cleveland has a legitimate chance to bring the city of Cleveland it’s second major sports championship in four months, after the Cleveland Cavaliers won the city’s first sports championship since 1964.
By now, you have heard the collective sob story of the 103-win National League champion Cubs of billy goats, curses, black cats and just bad luck. 1969, 1984, Steve Bartman, I get it, but in the words of Stephen King—a noted Red Sox fan—it’s time to give the Indians some love too.
In case you haven’t read a newspaper, blog or social media post, you would think that the proverbial media darling Cubs have ALREADY WON the Fall Classic, which in the spirit of their civic neighbors in the Cavs, plays perfectly to the Cleveland Against The World’ underdog mentality for the Indians.
That being said, here are my five reasons why the Indians will win the World Series.
Confidence and Momentum: Name me the last 94-win team that went 7-1 in the postseason, beat two of MLB’s top run-scoring offenses in Toronto and Boston and committed only one error throughout the entire postseason that has flown practically under the radar.
Did I fail to mention that their manager in Terry Francona is 8-0 in the World Series?
Despite what many outside of Cleveland may think of the Indians, due to the over-the-top love affair and fawning over the Cubs, it is the Indians that have all the confidence and momentum as they have a pretty decent pitching staff in Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer. With the Cubs making the curious decision to bench $184-million-dollar man, Jason Heyward for Kyle Schwarber, it is the Cubs with all of the pressure in the world on them despite the Indians having home-field advantage.
The Bullpen Mafia and Stolen Bases: It’s no secret that Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendericks have issues holding runners on, with that being said, Cleveland leads the post-season in stolen bases and if base-runners such as Raja Davis, Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis manage to wreak havoc on the Cubs and their pitchers, it could be a long series for Chicago.
While the Cubs MAY have the better-starting rotation, scoring runs may be at a premium this series with Cleveland’s starters posting a 1.23 ERA with 23 K’s in 22 IP. And if that is the case, this plays into the hands of the seemingly dominant Indians bullpen who has an ERA of 1.64, 27 strikeouts in 22 IP.
Ryan Meritt and Danny Salazar as Possible Wildcards: In channeling his inner Jared Wright, Cleveland’s lefty-handed rookie Ryan Merrit went from Goodyear to The World Series in a blink of an eye.
After being added to the roster due to starter Trevor Bauer injuring his pinkie repairing a drone, Merritt pitched 4 1/3 shutout innings in Cleveland series-clinching 3-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 5 of the ALCS.
Buoyed by Merritt, the Indians may be getting a major boost in the return of starter Danny Salazar from a forearm injury suffered in September. While their roles are still a mystery right now, don’t be shocked to see Francona use them tactically in key situations.
Home-Field Advantage: This goes without saying, but having home-field advantage is the underdog Indians ace in the hole. Under the 2-3-2 format, the Indians have the luxury of holding serve at home and winning one in Chicago to force the scenario of clinching the World Series at home.
Considering all of the positive mojo in Cleveland these days, and how much more dominant the Indians are at home, such a likelihood of this happening is not out of the realm of possibility.
Cleveland Relishes Underdog Role: As stated above earlier, name me the last 94-win team with a dominant bullpen that have been bigger underdogs than Cleveland?
It’s no secret that the national media wants to have their happy ending for the “Lovable Losers” from the North Side, and that Cleveland is battling against the recent trend of the last six teams to win pennant first and wait losing, but this is Cleveland, and it is THEIR year.
If the Indians need any additional motivation to win, they need to only look no further than next door over to Quicken Loans Arena where the defending NBA champion Cavs reside. The fact that they were also counted out by said media against another media darling and pre-ordained “champion” in the Golden State Warriors.
They were down 3-1, and yet The King and his men did the impossible.
So why not for the Indians, as they will rally together and draw upon all the positive championship mojo and extend Chicago’s 108-year wait another year, as the 216 earns another title in 2016.
Prediction: Indians in 6