LOS ANGELES — Nothing against the Dodgers and their All-World ace, who deserves the chance to pitch on the biggest stage, but thank goodness the Cubs’ bats awakened from the dead here on Wednesday night.
If you want a captivating World Series, now that the Indians have claimed the American League spot, you need the Cubs and all of their cursed history in it, trying to convince the baseball gods it’s finally their time again, 108 years later.
The Indians are a nice story, and they’re trying to end their own long championship drought, but 1948 feels practically like yesterday compared to the city of Chicago’s plight.
More to the point, since LeBron’s Cavs just won Cleveland’s first title in any sport since 1964, does anybody outside of Ohio care?
And with apologies to Francisco Lindor, their brilliant young shortstop who is still largely undiscovered nationally, the Indians aren’t exactly oozing star power for a prime time audience either.
Clayton Kershaw aside, this Dodgers’ team doesn’t move the needle either, outside of La-La Land.
Meanwhile, the Cubs, who tied this NLCS 2-2 with a 10-2 rout on Wednesday night, gives everyone a reason to watch.
You either feel for those long-suffering fans and would enjoy seeing such history being made, or you’re already tired of hearing about the Billygoat and Bartman, and you’d be rooting for the misery to continue in the Windy City.
After all, Michael Jordan inflicted what felt like 100 years of it on the Knicks and their fans, didn’t he?
And, yes, speaking of New York, Cubs-Indians would offer some local intrigue, matching Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller in the battle to see which team benefited most from the first Yankee fire sale in nearly 30 years.
As I wrote last Sunday, Brian Cashman himself is rooting for this matchup, explaining that he wants to see the teams that “stepped up” and won the bidding for his bullpen studs “be rewarded for doing so.”
Well, why not? I know some fans are insisting now, after Miller earned MVP honors in the ALCS for his series-changing brilliance out of the bullpen, that the Yankees could have made the playoffs had Cashman not dealt the lefthander at the deadline, but let’s not lose sight of the big picture.
First, the Yankees were going nowhere at the deadline, and the trades of Miller, Chapman, and Beltran created a pressure-free environment in which the Yankees, playing their Baby Bombers, found a spark.
More importantly, to ever get back to winning championships, they need the depth of young talent Cashman acquired in those trades to add to the likes of Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and perhaps Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, etc.
Andrew Miller has come over from the Yankees to give the Indians a shot to end their own World Series drought.
Of course, at this point I’d have to say that Miller sure has upped the ante on that trade with the Indians.
He was the X-factor in the series with the Blue Jays, changing the complexion of games with his dominance, in part because Terry Francona used him boldly and creatively anywhere from the sixth to the ninth inning.
And so, although the Indians had an injury-depleted rotation that basically featured Corey Kluber and some emergency starters, they held the often-explosive Blue Jays to eight runs in the five-game series _ and just three in the four games won by Cleveland.
A scout covering the series for one of the two remaining National League teams found it stunning.
“Never would have believed it if I didn’t see it,” the scout texted after the Indians won the series on Wednesday. “Looked like Jays got tight. Knew they had to score early to keep (Andrew) Miller out of the game. I think that got in their heads.”
He appeared in all four of the Indians’ win, pitching a total of 7 2/3 scoreless innings, racking up 14 strikeouts while giving up three hits and no walks.
Again, that doesn’t mean the Yankees made a mistake trading Miller. It just means they better be right about Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, the two must-have players they received as part of the four-prospect package in the trade.
Same goes for Gleyber Torres, the shortstop Cashman wanted as the key piece in the Chapman trade.
The Cubs’ closer hasn’t been as blemish-free as Miller, with a couple of hiccups in this post-season, but he could be just as important, maybe more so, before all is said and done in this post-season.
On Wednesday he wasn’t needed as the Cubs erupted offensively, finally looking like the team that won 103 games this season, as Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo broke big slumps with home runs to help break the game open in the middle innings.
It felt like a watershed moment for a team that may well have been starting to feel the pressure of trying to break through all of that Chicago history.
If so, it’s a good thing for everybody but the Dodgers and their fans. Then again, it was an absolutely gorgeous summer day in October here on Wednesday in LA, so what the heck, let them suffer a little.
Bring on the Cubs and Indians.
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News