Sunday, October 23, 2016

176 Years and Counting

Just fantastic: two old franchises (the Cubs formed in 1876, the Indians in 1894); two great sports towns; two terrific managers; two solid, well-balanced teams (though one teeters slightly more than the other); two great ballparks (well, one great one, the other good). Plus, the weather's getting nippy.

The 2016 World Series will likely, and unsurprisingly, come down to stout defense and sturdy pitching, especially in the late innings. The Cubs are ridiculously talented, 1 to 9, and very well-managed; the hungry, relatively-anonymous Indians are led by the superb Terry Francona. Both squads will be well-prepared, balancing discipline and routine with the youthful energy coursing through them. I'm quite certain that we'll witness plays up the middle turned by the ebullient, irresistible duo of the Indians' 22-year old shortstop Fransisco Lindor and the Cubs' 23-year old second-baseman Javier Báez that we'll talk about for a long time (and that Fox will beat to death). There will be epic at-bats in front of roaring crowds in both towns. I'm really excited about this one.

I semi-rooted for the Cubs in the playoffs, if only as a magnanimous gesture toward the city and my students (and my former students, whose ashen faces in the classroom the day after Game Six in 2003 I still vividly recall). But that high road has proven too steep. I'm an American League guy through and through, not to mention a White Sox fan, and though the Indians have long been Sox-killers, I'm pulling for the Tribe. The Cubs are young and so gifted that their window of opportunity will stay open for a few more seasons.

That said, I predict the Cubs in six, given their balance of starting pitching, defense, and slugging, though I don't with utter confidence. I want a competitive series, and I think we'll get it. Play Ball!

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