Out of the four teams remaining in the 2016 MLB playoffs, two of them haven’t won a World Series in the past 60-plus years and one of those teams hasn’t made an appearance in the series for the past 70 years. This is why the battle for the MLB crown must conclude with a matchup between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians.
The 2016 American League and National Championship Series’ are taking place right now with four deserving teams battling for a World Series bid. The majority of attention is focused on the Chicago Cubs since they haven’t played in the series since 1945. Additionally, the last time that the Cubs were crowned as MLB champions was 1908. It’s a drought so long that there are many non-Cub fans rooting for them to end their slump. However, this doesn’t mean that the other three teams still alive in the playoffs haven’t suffered postseason slumps of their own.
The Cubs’ opponent, the Los Angeles Dodgers, haven’t played in the World Series since 1988. They won the series that year, but going 28 years without an NL pennant isn’t a drought to take lightly. At least Dodger fans have experienced some recent excitement due to their team playing in the NLCS three times since 2008.
As for the American League, the Toronto Blue Jays haven’t been to the World Series since 1993. They won the series that year and successfully repeated as world champions after that. Prior to that, Toronto played in the ALCS three times in 1985, 1989 and 1991. Additionally, they played in it last year where they lost to the Kansas City Royals. Blue Jays fans have waited patiently for their next ring, but not as long as their opponent.
The last time that the Cleveland Indians were crowned as world champions, it was 1948 and the Braves still played in Boston. The Tribe returned to the World Series in 1954 where they lost to the New York Giants and wouldn’t return again until 1995 against the Atlanta Braves. Cleveland lost to the Braves that year and lost in the 1997 World Series to the Florida Marlins. The last time that they were close to playing for the world title, it was 2007 when they lost in the ALCS to the Boston Red Sox.
After going through the championship backstories of each team, it seems fairly obvious that the Indians and Cubs have suffered the worst droughts. This is why it would be good for their organizations and for the sport itself for them to meet at the end.
CLEVELAND, OH – OCTOBER 15: Terry Francona #17 of the Cleveland Indians looks on from the dugout against the Toronto Blue Jays during game two of the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field on October 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
5. An epic showdown between two great managers
This is not meant as a slight towards John Gibbons and Dave Roberts, since they’ve both done excellent jobs with their teams. However, in terms of career accomplishments, they pale in comparison to Terry Francona and Joe Maddon.
Francona’s name is already legendary especially with his success in Boston. He was the Red Sox’s manager in 2004 when they made history by defeating the New York Yankees in the ALCS. For those who don’t remember, the Yankees led the series 3-0 and Boston won four straight to stamp their World Series ticket. It was the first time in MLB history that a team came back from an 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series. Boston went on to win the world title that year and Francona led them to another championship in 2007. Additionally, he won the AL Manager of the Year award in 2013 during his first year with the Indians.
As for Maddon, he has a World Series ring from being one of the coaches on the 2002 Anaheim Angels team. However, his resume as a manager is still very impressive. As the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays from 2006-2014, Maddon brought the franchise to new and unimaginable heights. He guided them to their first World Series appearance in 2008 and multiple playoff appearances after that. He was crowned as AL Manager of the Year in 2008 and 2011 with the Rays. Maddon would then win his third Manager of the Year award as the skipper of the Chicago Cubs in 2015.
The World Series isn’t only about the players. It’s also about the managers, especially if they’re considered to be among the best. If the Cubs face the Indians in the Fall Classic, then it will be an epic battle between two of the best managers alive.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – OCTOBER 11: Aroldis Chapman #54 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the ninth inning of Game Four of their National League Division Series at AT&T Park on October 11, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
4. Miller vs. Chapman
At the beginning of the regular season, the New York Yankees boasted the best bullpen in the league. It featured Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in a filthy 1-2-3 punch that no team wanted to face. However, due to the Yankees deciding to trade some of their best players for rebuilding efforts, only Betances remained in pinstripes. Luckily for Chapman and Miller, they ended up on championship-caliber teams.
Chapman, a true flamethrower who consistently throws over 100 MPH, ended up on the Chicago Cubs. He already had 20 saves and a 2.01 ERA before moving from the Bronx to the Windy City. As a Cub, Chapman continued his dominance as a closer by registering 16 saves with a 1.01 ERA. Many consider him as the final piece to the puzzle for Chicago and his arrival made them an even stronger World Series contender. The Yankees clearly gave the Cubs an early Christmas gift with Chapman. They also gave a great gift to the Indians.
Despite Chapman’s electric abilities, many experts consider Miller to be the best reliever in baseball. Before being traded to Cleveland, he had a 1.39 ERA with nine saves. As an Indian, the former North Carolina Tar Heel registered a 1.55 ERA with three saves. The only reason that Miller doesn’t have more saves is due to his role as an 8th inning setup man. However, this doesn’t diminish his effectiveness nor dominance. If anyone wants to question how good Miller is, then they should take note of how he’s handled the Blue Jays so far in the ALCS.
With 27 world titles on their resume, the Yankees have come nowhere close to suffering the types of postseason slumps suffered by Cleveland and Chicago. Therefore, it will be interesting to see which gift of theirs proves to be the best drought buster if those two clubs face in the Fall Classic.
17 June 2015: Chicago Cubs Second base Addison Russell (22)  belts a 2-run home run during the second inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
3. A rare Central division battle
Fans of teams that play in the East and West divisions may not care much about this, but a World Series between two teams from the Central division is rare. The last time that it happened was in 2006 when the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers squared off in the Fall Classic. In comparison, the last time that a World Series was played between two West division teams was in 2010 between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers. As for an all-East division Fall Classic, it happened in 2009 between the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies.
Previous same-division World Series matchups happened for the East and West in 2008 and 2002 respectively. However, the last World Series between Central division teams prior to 2006 took place in 1987 between the Minnesota Twins and the Cardinals. Since 1987, the World Series featured an East vs. East matchup eight times and a West vs. West matchup four times. Therefore, the AL and NL Central divisions are due for another World Series clash.
In a year where the Cubs utterly dominated their division with a 103-58 record and the Indians did as well with a 94-67 record, it would be fitting for them to face each other in the World Series. It would be a very exciting time for fans and residents in the central United States, especially those that live in Chicago and Cleveland. As for fans of other Central division teams, there’s always next year.
TORONTO, ON – OCTOBER, 17 – Francisco Lindor #12 of the Cleveland Indians and teammate Rajai Davis #20 celebrate after defeating the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 3 of the ALCS baseball series at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, October 17, 2016. (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
2. The rise of Believeland
Earlier in this calendar year, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers ended a 52-year drought where the city didn’t have a champion in a major sport. Prior to the Cavs, the last champion was the 1964 Cleveland Browns in the pre-Super Bowl era. Therefore, the Forest City was due for some happiness and they may experience it again if the Indians can go all the way.
As stated earlier, the Indians haven’t been to the World Series since 1997 and they last won a world title in 1948. The last time that they were in the ALCS prior to this year was in 2007 where they lost to their current manager, Terry Francona. They now have Francona on their side and a more balanced attack than Indians teams in the past. Cleveland also has the support of LeBron and the Cavaliers who have been seen in attendance at ALCS games in Progressive Field. Not only has their presence between supportive, but it’s also been inspirational.
With the city still buzzing after the Cavaliers’ historic championship season, the buzz is growing even more due to the Indians’ success this year. They had a franchise-best 14 game winning streak which coincidentally took place right after the Cavs captured the NBA championship. Additionally, many of the Indians’ players experienced career highs in one category or another.
Cleveland has been known as a city of disappointment for many years until LeBron, Kyrie Iriving and company brought them to the promised land. The Indians are on the verge of bringing them to the baseball version of it. The rise of “Believeland” is real and its growth will continue if the Tribe can stamp their ticket to the Fall Classic. They would have a chance to make Cleveland the first city since Boston to represent the NBA and MLB champions in the same season.
CHICAGO, IL – OCTOBER 15: The Chicago Cubs celebrate after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 in game one of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 15, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
1. End of the Curse
The city of Chicago hasn’t suffered as much as Cleveland when it comes to having champions. Everyone remembers the greatness of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls with their six NBA championships in the 90s. Additionally, the Chicago Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cup championships since 2010. As a result, no one should really feel bad for the city unless you’re talking about Cubs fans and the infamous curse of the billy goat.
For those who don’t know about the curse, here is a brief rundown. In 1945, during the Cubs’ last appearance in the World Series, a gentleman by the name of Bill Sianis showed up to Game 4 with his pet goat. This clearly bothered other fans in attendance due to the odor of the animal. As a result, Sianis was asked to leave Wrigley Field and it didn’t make him happy. An outraged Sianis would declare that the Cubs would not win anymore. Many have interpreted this as Bill saying that the Cubs would never win another World Series. Regardless of what he actually meant, the results speak for themselves and Chicago has suffered ever since.
Whether it was getting swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS last year or the infamous Steve Bartman incident in the 2003 NLCS, the Cubs have experienced painful disappointment over and over. Nothing would be a better “feel good” story than to see them not only make it to the World Series, but to also win it. It would be even more exciting if they could do it against another drought-ridden franchise in the Cleveland Indians. It simply wouldn’t be the same if it was against the Blue Jays.