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How Did We End Up Here?

The Road to an Indians Cubs World Series...

October 25, 2016

Why is this World Series historic?

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As the Game 1 of the World Series is set to begin in a few short hours, it is worth a quick look into exactly what makes this World Series so special. 2016 will go down in the history books as the year the two teams with the longest World Series Championship droughts (176 years combined), fought the odds to make it to the top. The Cleveland Indians last won the title in 1948, the same year Israel declared its’ independence. In comparison, the last Cubs Championship was in 1908, the same time Henry Fords’ first Model T rolled off the assembly line.  While those statistics alone seem incredible, the truly impressive part is the journey these two franchises went through to get to this point. Massive overhauls in the way each team approached their lineups led to some of the biggest roster changes in recent years. Not only did players on the field change, key positions within each organization saw new faces. In general, it took each team developing a new approach to baseball to get them here today.

The Cubs and Indians haven’t always been the loveable underdogs they were coming into the 2016 playoffs. There were stints where both teams were absolutely terrible, the Cubs and Indians have had stretches of 16 and 17 years (respectively) without a winning season. We are talking about two historic franchises that have been around for over a hundred years; yet as recent as 2012, both teams were barely able to stay out of last place in their divisions. No amount of nostalgia for “the good ol’ days” could ease the pain of losing year after year for the two teams. The Indians decided to promote Chris Antonetti  to General Manager in 2010, just one year before Theo Epstein was brought on to be the Cubs President. These two leaders knew that the only way to get to the World Series would be too make bold changes.

In Cleveland, Antonetti focused on the bullpen. He started developing pitching talent to restock a depleted Indians pitching roster. Unlike other teams he was facing a limited budget, forcing him to let go of aging free agent pitchers that would cost too much to keep. While position players were moved around as well, Antonetti seemed intent that his pitchers would be the hinge, on which his vision of a World Series Indians franchise would turn. As the roster deepened, the Indians playoff hopes grew.

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At the same time in Chicago, Epstein was rebuilding his own team. He took over a team that was riddled with talent, but many were not young enough to be a part of his vision for a youthful team, and all were tied up in costly contracts. He began shedding veteran players that were too expensive to justify retaining. Younger players were acquired through trades, drafts, and free agency. The Chicago Cubs’ farm system began to mold young players into fully developed Major league caliber athletes. Their pitching roster started to show signs of life. Suddenly the Cubs looked like a playoff worthy team.

Fast forward to the start of the 2016 season, both teams looked good. The Cubs were coming off of a playoff season the year before, and Cleveland had earned a wild card berth in 2013. Still, despite both teams being in excellent form, many still doubted that either one could make it all the way; these were still the Cubs and Indians after all. Sure they looked good on paper and had had a lucky season or two, but you can’t overcome decades of terrible baseball in only a few years.  Can you?

Yes you can! In the face of all of this skepticism both teams defied the critics to stand at the top of their divisions; testaments to the perseverance of the teams, and their cities for believing in them. If two of the worst franchises in Major League Baseball, could turn their teams around in a matter of a few seasons, surely other clubs can as well. That is part of the beauty of baseball; every season is a new beginning. If there is one thing we can learn from this World Series, it’s that you should never underestimate a team with a vision and a young roster bursting with potential.