By Rob Ficiur
If you are a sports fan, if you know a sports fan, if you read a newspaper or saw a newscast this last week you can’t help but know that those lovable losers the Cubs are World Series champs. After a 106-year drought the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. The following are random reflections on an exciting seven game from a World series no baseball fan will ever forget.
1. In 1985 (in the movie Back to the Future) Marty Mcfly flew thirty years into the future and found out that the Chicago Cubs won the 2015 World series. As it turns out Back to the Future was a year off by one year. Back in 1985 Cubs loyal Cubs fans might have protested believing the Cubbies will win a championship sooner than three decades later. Being off by one year was closer than most predictions.
Predicting when the Cubs’ might break the World Series drought was made more difficult because traditionally the Cubs were not a playoff team. From their last World Series appearance (1945) the Cubs made the playoffs only eight times. In the previous seven post season appearances the Cubs were eliminated in the first round five times. The 2015 Cubs made the final four before being eliminated.
The Cubs previous best chance to win a World Series was thirteen years ago. In 2003 they were one game away from a World Series appearance but let the series slip away. That year Cubs fan Steve Bartman interfered with a foul ball out in the eighth inning of Game 6. The Florida Marlins went on to score eight runs that inning to win that game and tie the series. For some reason fans / folklore blamed Steve Bartman for interfering with one out – what about the rest of the team? The Cubs went on to lose Game 7 the next day – how was that Bartman’s fault? The reality is that until 2015 the Cubs were so far away from winning it was easier to blame one foul ball than 100 years of a mismanaged team.
2. My prediction was wrong as usual. My bold, and never accurate, prediction was that the Cleveland Indians would win the World Series. Since my predictions are so consistent (consistently wrong) I secretly predicted the Indians would win, hoping (knowing) that my predictions would help the other team win.
By the end of Game #4 it looked like I was (accidently) right. The Indians had three games to one lead. The Tribe looked so dominant in winning the first two games in Chicago it was all but over….right? A team leading three games to won the World Series 88% of the time. The Cubs were stymied by the same pitching that eliminated the Toronto Blue Jays.
3. Second guessing the manager – Today John Madden is a World Series champion manager. That can never be taken away from him. However, in the last two games he made managerial decisions that the experts (and non-experts like me) questioned. In Game #6, with the Cubs leading by five runs he brought ace reliever Aroldis Chapman. Logical thinking is to save your closer for Game #7. The Cubs easily won Game #6- but when Madden brought Chapman was brought into Game #7 he was ineffective. In the 8th inning Chapman let up three runs, blowing what should have been an insurmountable lead.
After the Chapman blown save, the Cubs had a chance to take a ninth inning lead. With a runner on third Maddox surprised everyone by having Javier Baez try to bunt with two outs. The surprise backfired as he struck out. The go-ahead runner was eventually stranded on third base.
No one is talking about these two managerial errors because the Cubs won. Had they lost these miscalculations would have lead the rabid Cub fans to cry for the manager to be fired. Sports fans are a fickle. We can ignore the blunder when a team wins. If the team loses these plays which I described would be replayed in a continuous loop for the next 106 years. The manager would be second guessed until the Cubs finally won a World Series. But since the Cubs won the championship, no one is questioning their manager today.
4. Former Blue Jays outfielder Rajai Davis hit the most important home run of his career. With his team down by two runs, Davis was one strike away from being out. With the next pitch he hit his third home run of the season. The Cleveland fans went wild. They had clawed their way back from a four run deficit. Davis would be their new hero for tying the game. After the Cubs came back and won in the tenth inning, fans have forgotten Rajai’s hit. Fans forget the losing team’s heroes.
5. Theo Ebstein will go down in history as the curse-breaking General Manager. In 2002, at the ripe old age of 29 Ebstein was appointed General Manager of the Boston Red Sox. Two years later the team be put together broke the curse of the Bambino. Boston had not won a World series since they traded Babe Ruth (the Bambino) after their 1915 World Series. Epstein’s Red Sox won again in 2007 (and again in 2014 after Theo had moved on.) After the red Sox fired Theo, he moved to the Chicago Cubs. After five seasons in Chicago he has helped put together the team that broke the Cubs 106 year curse. Two curses dissolved in a dozen years.
Now that the Cubs’ 106 year curse has been reversed, which teams (in each league) have gone the longest without a championship? A look at these unlucky losing streaks will be in an upcoming column.