The Agony and the Ecstasy
Going into the 2016 World Series, you knew two things had to happen. One was that one long suffering team was going to win its first championship in many, many decades, and the other was that the other long suffering team’s fan base would have to lose. There was going to be agony for somebody. But there was also going to be ecstasy.
The two cities of Chicago and Cleveland had the highest expectations of any cities in sports history. The Cubs had not won a World Series since 1908. The Indians had not won one since 1948.
It’s mind boggling really. The Cubs have long been the greatest example of “lovable losers” in sports history. They won their last World Series six years before the start of World War ONE. Their drought has been OVER a hundred years. There are probably only a handful of people in the entire country who were even alive back then. The Model T Ford was just starting out. This was still the horse and buggy era. The Indians won their World Series just a few years after the close of World War TWO, a good 68 years ago.
Any other year, and the nation jumps on the bandwagon of the sentimental favorites and the opposing team is considered “the bad guys.”. This is a year when both teams are the sentimental darlings and SOMEONE will break their long time curse and the other will, unfortunately, have theirs continue.
And so it was that the Cubs and the Indians went head to head in a World Series that guaranteed that one of them would finally reverse their curse and win a championship. Little did we know, that besides there being two sentimental favorites competing, we would also get a great World Series that would turn out to be one for the ages.
In the first four games of this series, the Indians quickly seized control and went up three games to one over the Cubs, which in about 95% of the cases in baseball history would likely mean that they were going to win the thing. Cubs fans, having had their hearts broken many times before, still held out hope, as they knew they were still alive and they perhaps truly felt that this was “their year.” Indians fans could only feel the anxiety as they were only one win away from a World Series triumph.
The Cubs came back to win the fifth and sixth games to tie up the series at three games apiece. In that sixth game, Cubs manager Joe Maddon showed the desperation of a team down in a series 3 to 2 by pulling his starter way to early and going to his closer Aroldis Chapman with two outs to go in the seventh inning, even though his team led the game 7 to 2 and was in no real imminent danger of losing that lead. This move would come back to haunt him the next night.
So the Cubs and Indians went into a deciding seventh game of the World Series with two totally different mindsets. The Indians were home, but they were not nearly as confident as they were when they were up 3 to 1 and were probably thinking they had to “steal” this game by getting an early lead and hoping their great bullpen could preserve the win. The Cubs had momentum on their side and had finally solved much of the Cleveland pitching staff and were feeling more and more like this was their year.
The Cubs struck first and scored the game’s first run with a top of the first inning home run. The Indians tied it at one in the second inning and a tense game was on. Then, the Cubs struck for two runs in the fourth and two more in the fifth inning to up their lead to 5 to 1. The Cubs seemed to be in control. Their starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks was rolling through the Cleveland lineup until he walked a batter with two outs in the fifth inning. Cubs manager Joe Maddon did the first of his micro-managing panic moves this game (remember, he did the same thing in Game Six) when he pulled the National League’s ERA leader Hendricks with two outs in the fifth, bringing in starter Jon Lester (who was supposed to NOT come in in relief with runners on base).
Lester proceeded to allow a hit and then wild pitched home TWO runs on the same pitch to narrow the score to 5 to 3. Lester got out of that inning and the Cubs were immediately able to add a run in the top of the sixth on a solo shot home run by Lester’s personal catcher David Ross. At 6 – 3, and with their best starter Lester pitching well, the Cubs again seemed to have the game in hand. The Indians were starting to console themselves that they were about to lose the game.
Then, with two outs in the eighth inning, Lester walked an Indian hitter and Maddon went out and replaced Lester with his hard throwing closer Chapman, who had just been used so intensely the previous game. Closers usually don’t go more than an inning per game for consecutive games, but Maddon was making his pitcher throw about three times as much (all in pressure situations) as normal. With four outs to go, it still should have been a relatively easy close situation for Chapman (his arm was probably very tired), but this was not an ordinary World Series.
The Indians proceeded to get a hit to drive in one run, and then, in one of the great moments in World Series history, non power hitting Rajai Davis smacked a 100 MPH Chapman fastball over the left field fence to tie the game 6 to 6. The Cleveland fans were going delirious. Shall we call them ecstatic? The Cub fans were now fearing that they were probably going to come oh so close only to blow another one and that their 108 year curse was going to smite them again. Agony.
Somehow, Chapman got the Indians out to end that inning. Then, each team could do nothing in the ninth and they were going to go to extra innings to settle the game. And then, something really strange happened. It started raining. The tarp covered the field and both teams went to their clubhouses to wait out the rain. The series tied at 3 to 3. The score tied at 6 to 6. It was incredibly dramatic.
Then, the rains finally stopped.
In the 10th inning, the Cubs proceeded to get a few hits and they were able to drive in two dramatic runs to up their lead to 8 to 6. The Indians, in the bottom of the 10th and down again, roared back. They got a hit, stole second, and then saw another dramatic hit by Rajai Davis as he drove in a run to narrow the score to 8 – 7. Cub fans were again in agony. Indian fans, still seeing their team trailing by one with two outs in the ninth, were also in agony.
Then, with Maddon going to left hander Mike Montgomery (a pitcher he probably should have used earlier), the Cubs were able to get a weak ground out to third base to close out the game and win this memorable Game Seven 8 to 7.
The Cubs had WON the World Series for the first time in 108 years! Cub fans, with all of their years and years of pent up emotions now being able to be released, simply went batty. They were delirious. They were ecstatic. They had gone their entire lives as being the team that could never win the big one. They could only HOPE that somehow, someday, they could MAYBE have that day in the sun where their team could be winners.
Only this year’s Cubs team turned out to be the team that had the right components to reward those great, loyal Cub Fans. This team was the answer to all of those Cubs fans’ prayers. They had the pitching, the hitting and the mental toughness that was needed to triumph in that biggest of big games.
Indians fans have a young team to rally behind for the upcoming years. They gave it their best. They were up 3 – 1 but lost this World Series. The Agony.
For many Cubs fans, they just experienced the “greatest day of their lives.” The Ecstasy. Think about it. Coming back after trailing 3 – 1. Winning a Game Seven. In extra innings. By one run. The Cubs finally winning a World Series. Wow, this was one hell of a night for the world of sports.