Monday, October 24, 2016

Forgot About Cleveland: TWTW's 2016 World Series Preview

Danville, Kentucky -- This is the World Series they said would never happen. Two underdogs enter, but only one team's Cinderella Story will be consummated with a fairy-tale happy ending. The Cleveland Indians haven't won a World Series in 68 years, whereas the Chicago Cubs haven't won a World Series in 108 years. Two cities, both alike in dignity, both alike in their decades long championship droughts.

On the one hand we have the Chicago Cubs. The 103-win superteam and darlings of major league baseball. An impeccable combination of sparkling young talents -- Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez -- and gritty veterans like Jon Lester, John Lackey, Ben Zobrist and Grandpa David Ross.

On the other hand are the Cleveland Indians: the underdogs of underdogs. The powers that be have bet against the Tribe every step of the way.

Take a look at crooked ESPN's playoff predictions:

The failing USA Today's predictions are no better:

Between the combined brain-trusts of ESPN and USA Today, more than 30 so-called 'experts' made MLB playoff predictions. Only 4 'experts' had Cleveland advancing out of the first round. Folks, I'll admit that even I under-estimated this team, although I did have no doubt they'd get past the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS.

How did everybody get the Indians so wrong?

Maybe they forgot about Mike Napoli, a man with a illustrious history of hitting clutch postseason knocks. Maybe they forgot about Coco Crisp, a veteran with the name of a cereal but the heart of a champion. Maybe they forgot about Josh Tomlin, the secret weapon of the Indians rotation and a more than adequate replacement for Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco. Maybe they forgot about Rajai Davis, the speedy man who runs the basepaths like Crooked Hillary runs from FBI indictments. Maybe they forgot about unlikely contributors such as Ryan Merritt, a spot-starter who became the unexpected hero of ALCS Game 5 by throwing 4 and 1/3 innings of shutout baseball against a scary Blue Jays offense. They certainly forgot about ALCS MVP Andrew Miller, Cleveland's relief ace and throwback to the multi-inning closers of old like Mariano Rivera and Dennis Eckersley.

No matter what their reasons were for counting out Cleveland, the 'experts' don't appear to have learned their lesson. The Cubbies and their shiny UZR ratings and sterling starting rotation FIP are already heavy favorites to hoist the Commissioner's Trophy when all is said and done.
Folks, I'm not sold on the Cubs. Jon Lester can't throw to first; it cost him the AL Wild Card game in 2014, and it will probably cost him against the Indians, an excellent baserunning unit. Aside from Aroldis Chapman, their bullpen lacks saavy veterans. It was a mistake for them to let Joe Nathan go. In addition, the Cubs are still a cursed team, as the Curse of the Billy Goat has yet to be lifted. Meanwhile, LeBron James and the Cavaliers have shown that Cleveland is not cursed and laid to rest any doubts that the city of Cleveland is capable of winning championships. Most importantly, Cleveland has home-field advantage thanks to Johnny Cueto's implosion and Eric Hosmer's heroics in the 2016 All Star Game. Cleveland has some of the best fans in baseball. The Indians and their fans are everything that's right about America: they're politically incorrect (like our next president), they're blue-collar, and they're homegrown. Chicago North Siders, on the other hand, tend to be out-of-touch elitists like this:

Folks, my gut tells me the Indians will win. They've already overcome adversity and numerous injuries to key players like Salazar, Carrasco, and Yan Gomes. Even Trevor Bauer showed more grit than I ever imagined was possible, by attempting to play through a lacerated thumb that was bleeding profusely.

My gut tells me Cleveland's winning formula will continue to win: get some clutch hits, get 4 or 5 solid innings from your starters and then get ready for Miller Time.

It's a shame one of these teams will have to end their season with a historically awful championship drought still alive. In that sense, October baseball is a crueler mistress than the woman I met at a Sonic Drive-In in Smyrna, Tennessee. We were having an affair, and chose to cap off a weekend of infidelity with the fantastic eats a man can only find at America's best drive-in food joint. When I wouldn't share my Chili Cheese Tots with her, chaos ensued.

In a fit of rage, she reached for my phone without me looking and texted my wife, confessing to the tryst. And thus my fourth marriage was ended. The Cubs' magical season could meet a similarly heart-wrenching end if the Indians continue to win against all odds and all sabermetric logic. Just like a man can only legally have one wife, only one team will emerge from the World Series with their depressing drought dispelled. I wouldn't bet against Cleveland, the city that has already proved so many folks wrong.