By Brad Kallet
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On Saturday night, after Yasiel Puig rolled into a double play to end the Dodgers’ season and propel the Cubbies into the Fall Classic, Wrigley Field went into a frenzy. It was an unforgettable scene — players mobbing each other, strangers hugging strangers, fans partying on Addison Street, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder drinking beers and looking as emotional as he ever has during or after a show.
Cubs fans, many of them into their 60s and even 70s, had been waiting their entire lives for this moment. The celebration was appropriate.
But make no mistake: The Cubs have to win four more games. There is tremendous pressure on them to finish the job. In fact, all of the pressure is on them. They deserve tons of credit for ending the 71-year pennant curse, but finally ending the 108-year World Series drought is in an entirely different stratosphere. That would be historic, and if manager Joe Maddon’s team loses to the Indians, it will all be for naught. It won’t have meant a thing.
I don’t mean to be harsh here. The Cubs have had a sensational season, and the players — along with Maddon, general manager Jed Hoyer and President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein (who may go down as the best MLB executive of all time when it’s all said and done) — deserve a world of credit to this point. But if they lose four of the next seven?
Same ‘ol Cubs. Great, but just not good enough. Wait until next year. This was our chance! Will it be another 108 seasons?
Kris Bryant and crew need to end that perception and mindset and set the franchise in an entirely different direction, here and now.
Mets fans were reminded in 2015 that losing in the World Series doesn’t make the failed endeavor sweeter. On the contrary, coming so close and just missing out makes it that much more painful. And that feeling would be exacerbated considering the Cubs’ lifetime-and-a-half’s worth of unthinkable misery and almost improbable disappointment.
History aside — and no, I don’t believe in the Curse of the Billy Goat — there’s no reason to doubt Chicago in what should be a memorable World Series against the Tribe, who have their own drought to snap. (The Indians haven’t won a title since 1948, but that’s amateur hour if you’re a Cubs fan.) In spring training, most experts picked the Cubs to be the best team in baseball. They lived up to, and perhaps exceeded, expectations, winning 103 games to lead the majors — no other team won more than 95 — and capturing the National League Central title by a whopping 17½ games over the second-place Cardinals.
They took care of the battle-tested Giants in their NLDS, defeating Bruce Bochy’s team in four games to snap San Francisco’s eerily disconcerting every-other-year streak. (The Giants won it all in 2010, 2012 and 2014.) Chicago fell behind 2-1 to Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers in the NLCS, but took the next three to win in six.
And here we are.
I don’t think anyone would argue that the Indians have more talent than the Cubs, but manager Terry Francona’s team is full of gritty, pesky players, and they give off the impression that they’re on a mission and nothing is going to stand in their way. Many of the position players aren’t yet household names — you’ll start to hear a lot about Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, if you haven’t already — and the pitching staff is made up of brilliant arms, both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen. (Can anyone hit Andrew Miller?)
The Indians, who won the AL Central going away, swept the Red Sox in their ALDS and completely shut down the Blue Jays in a masterful five-game ALCS. The Indians punched their ticket to the Series three days before the Cubs, and we’ve seen how that can negatively affect a club. But knowing Francona, who knows a thing or two about ending curses and is one of the best managers in the game, he won’t let his team get complacent and lose its edge.
The Cubs have the star power and a potent mix of young studs — Bryant, Addison Russell and Javier Baez, to name a few — and veterans in Jon Lester, John Lackey, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward. Chicago has an incredibly dangerous lineup, a deep bench, a loaded starting rotation and a dominant closer in Aroldis Chapman.
The Cubs will be favored to win the 2016 World Series, and they should be. They are, in no uncertain terms, the better and more complete team. But as we’ve seen time and time again, and as North Siders know all too well, the better team doesn’t always come out on top. History rarely unfolds as it should, or as it’s expected to.
Enjoy this now, Cubs fans, and know that in the next week or week-and-a-half you might be as happy as you’ve ever been in your lives.
Or you might be as miserable.
Brad Kallet is the managing editor of TENNIS.com and a frequent contributor to WFAN.com. Follow him on Twitter @brad_kallet