Cubs & Indians

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Who breaks their World Series curse first: Cubs or Indians?

It will be, no matter the outcome, a historic World Series, because whichever team wins, there will be black-and-white footage shown before the champagne has dried.

The Chicago Cubs, as we all know, haven’t won the World Series since 1908, a season in which they hit 19 home runs all season. That team has a seemingly mythical characters, such as Three Finger Brown, Orval Overall and Tinker to Evers to Chance.

Finally! The Cubs’ six darkest days leads to their brightest

Can you believe it? The Cubs are headed to the World Series. Let’s examine just how much almost-clinching heartache led Chicago to this moment.

Is this the Cubs’ year? Will the Indians’ run continue in the Fall Classic? We’ve got you covered for every pitch of the 2016 postseason.

And then there are the Cleveland Indians, who haven’t won the World Series since 1948, the second-longest current championship drought in baseball. That team had Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and Gene Bearden in the rotation, and — this seems impossible today — those Indians had Lou Boudreau as a player/manager, a role he had for 10 years, winning the American League MVP as a shortstop in 1948.

It’s 1908 versus 1948. It’s about ending a drought. It’s about two teams with great stories to tell. This will be fabulous.

Here are five questions.

(1) How good is the Indians’ bullpen?

It is terrific and, more importantly, it is different than any other bullpen. Tribe relievers posted a 1.64 ERA in eight postseason games. In Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, the Indians became the only team in history to win a postseason game in which no pitcher went as many as two innings. In the clinching Game 5, the Indians became the only team in postseason history to throw a shutout in a game in which the starter didn’t pitch five innings.

The incredible Andrew Miller starred again in Game 5, as he did through the whole postseason, posting this line: 11⅔ innings pitched, 5 hits, 0 runs, 21 strikeouts, 2 walks. No pitcher — starter or reliever — struck out more batters in his first nine innings of any postseason than Miller’s 20 this year. He was the first reliever ever to strike out five batters in back-to-back appearances in the postseason. In the ALCS against Toronto, Miller struck out 56 percent of the batters he faced; no one in postseason history has had a strikeout rate like that. But what makes him so great — and the Indians so dangerous — is the way he is used. In Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the Red Sox, he was summoned in the fifth inning and pitched in three different innings. In the crucial Game 3 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, instead of handing the ball to closer Cody Allen, Miller pitched the final 1⅓ innings for the save. In the clinching Game 5 of the ALCS, he pitched 2⅔ scoreless innings and brought the game to Allen, who also has been brilliant in this postseason.

The record for most innings by a reliever in one postseason is 18⅔ by Frankie Rodriguez with the 2002 Angels and Tug McGraw with the 1973 Mets. Miller is going to break that record — and a few others — in the World Series.

(2) How set up is the Cubs’ rotation?

Jon Lester and Javier Baez of the Cubs were co-MVPs in the National League Championship Series. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It is in good shape. By winning the final three games of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers, the Cubs not only get some rest before the World Series, but they have their starters aligned relatively well. Most important, Jon Lester will start Game 1. He has a 0.86 ERA in this postseason, including a marvelous performance in the crucial Game 5 of the NLCS in Los Angeles, going seven innings and allowing just one run. He now has a 2.50 career ERA in 17 postseason starts.

Since 1969, the only pitchers (10 or more starts) with a lower ERA are Madison Bumgarner and Curt Schilling.

Jake Arrieta likely will start Game 2, but he labored in September (4.40 ERA) and in two starts in this postseason (4.91 ERA). But Arrieta in Game 2 will allow the Cubs to push Kyle Hendricks back to Game 3 at home, where he posted a 1.32 ERA this season. Hendricks, who led the NL in ERA in 2016, was sensational in the clinching Game 6 at Wrigley, allowing two hits and no runs in 7⅓ innings.

(3) What is the status of the Indians’ rotation?

Somehow, the Indians made it this far without any contribution in the postseason from Carlos Carrasco (broken pinky) or Danny Salazar (tightness in his forearm), making them the first team since the 1970 Reds to go to the World Series with zero playoff appearances from two pitchers who started at least 25 games with an ERA under 4.00 during the regular season. But now, there’s a chance Salazar will be ready for the World Series. He hasn’t pitched since Sept. 9, so there will be rust, but he still will be a boost to the rotation. His stuff, when right, is spectacular. Closer Allen said Salazar “is the most gifted pitcher I’ve ever been around.”

Trevor Bauer, who sliced his right pinky in a drone accident on Oct. 14 and bled all over the mound in his start in Game 3 of the ALCS, said he will be able to pitch as often as possible in the World Series. We’ll see about that. It’s possible we’ll see Ryan Merritt, whose 4⅓ scoreless innings in Game 5 — the second start and fifth appearance of his major league career — were stunning. There are uncertainties in the Cleveland rotation, but it’s certain that Corey Kluber will start Game 1, and surely he will be ready to try going on short rest again in this series. In 18⅓ innings in this postseason, Kluber has a 0.98 ERA. His breaking ball is from hell. Josh Tomlin likely will start Game 2. After that, it’s up in the air, but it has been for the whole postseason — and here are the Indians, in the World Series.

(4) What are we to make of the Cubs’ offense?

No worries now. Still, like every other team in the major leagues in this all-or-nothing era of baseball, the Cubs’ lineup can be pitched to, if a really good pitcher locates well. In the NLCS against the Dodgers, the Cubs averaged 7.75 runs and had 21 extra-base hits in the four victories, including pounding Clayton Kershaw in the clinching Game 6, a 5-0 shutout.

But the Cubs were shut out (with only one extra base hit) in their two losses, the first time they had been shut out in back-to-back games since May 2014. It took a bunt single by cleanup hitter Ben Zobrist leading off the fourth inning of Game 4 to get the Cubs going, and it took a couple of cheap hits in Game 5 to keep it going.

But now, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell are out of their funks, NLCS co-MVP Javier Baez (13 hits in this postseason) has arrived and Willson Contreras is swinging so well that the Cubs look like the team that scored the second-most runs in the NL this year. Ten different Cubs, including all three catchers (the first time ever to have three catchers hit home runs in one postseason), have hit home runs in this postseason. And only hours before Game 6 of the NLCS, Cubs president Theo Epstein said there is at least a chance that Kyle Schwarber, who tore ligaments in left knee in the third game of the season and hasn’t played since, might be ready to play in the World Series. If so, it would be as a designated hitter or a bat off the bench. It is intriguing.

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(5) What about the managers?

Indians manager Terry “Tito” Francona is looking for his third World Series title. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The Indians’ Terry “Tito” Francona has been masterful in this postseason. He has known exactly when to take his starter out, what reliever to bring in and when to take that reliever out. He did a great job this season of getting run production, despite not having his best outfielder, Michael Brantley, for most of the season and having to mix and match at several positions. Should Francona win the World Series, it would be his third ring, and it would mean a spot in the Hall of Fame — because he would have ended an 86-year drought in Boston and a 67-year drought in Cleveland.

But Francona might be on his way to the Hall anyway, with his three pennants, 1,381 wins and a .533 winning percentage, plus an 8-0 record in the World Series. Francona’s secret is his communication skills — his touch and feel with people, especially his players. Every player has a button, and Francona always knows where it is and when to push it. In spring training every year, he calls his players into his office, one by one, to talk. In the case of Bauer, who has had some communication issues, he called him in all the time, just to talk. Apparently, it worked. Francona will jump on a player privately if he gets out of line, but he also is one of the best at making players comfortable and relaxed so they can play their best.

The Cubs’ Joe Maddon is an expert at that, as well. He once pulled a bunch of his Rays players out of the batting cage and took them in the clubhouse to watch a magician work, another case of Maddon valuing time away from the game as good, not bad. His calm hand and great communication skills are two reasons the Cubs have been able to handle the pressures that comes with extraordinarily high expectations from the first day of spring training.

And no one is going to outfox Maddon in the running of a game. He and Francona have managed against each other 133 times in their careers; Maddon has a 69-64 advantage, including 5-3 in the postseason. Now they’ll get four, five, six or seven more shots at it.

The pick: Cubs in seven.  Read more


The 2016 World Series is set, and no matter who wins, it will be a celebration a long time in the making.

The Chicago Cubs are considered the team of destiny as they try to win their first championship since 1908. On the other hand, the Cleveland Indians haven’t won a title since 1948, and their fans will be just as excited about the possibility of a win.

Both teams will come out with a lot of energy to provide fans with the best possible matchup on the sport’s biggest stage. Here is what you need to know about the upcoming battle.


When it comes to the Cubs, it’s hard not to talk about history. Not only has it been more than 100 years since the last World Series win, but the organization hadn’t even won the pennant since 1945.

After the Cubs clinched the National League Championship Series, that was just about all anyone could talk about.

“To stand on that platform afterwards,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, “and you’re looking at the ballpark and the fans and the ‘W’ flags everywhere. I think about the fans, and their parents, and their grandparents, and great-grandparents, and everything else that’s been going on here for a while.”

However, it’s important to remember that the current squad stands on its own as an elite team. The players aren’t necessarily carrying history with them; they won 103 games with a lot of talent in just about every part of the roster.

The starting pitching has been great all year, especially Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. The duo has allowed just five earned runs in 37.1 innings this postseason, including just total three runs in four starts in the NLCS.  Read more


 

Click here to watch video of Game 1

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World Series Game 7: For Cubs and Indians, It All Comes Down to This

In baseball’s 37th winner-take-all World Series game, the Cleveland Indians will host the Chicago Cubs, a team that had the best record in baseball this season and is now trying to be the first team since 1985 to win a championship after trailing in the series three games to one.

A master of understatement, Indians manager Terry Francona summed up Game 7 in an interview before the game by saying “I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s a really important game, and we’ll be really excited to play.” Read more


 

World Series: Seven thoughts on Game 7 between the Cubs and the Indians

Cleveland has Corey Kluber and a rested bullpen. Chicago’s bats have finally broken out. Both teams will hope to end a lengthy championship drought. Here’s what to expect in the last baseball game of 2016.

After winning a 3–2 squeaker at Wrigley Field in Game 5 on Sunday, the Cubs took Game 6 with a 9–3 rout, setting up the 38th World Series Game 7 in baseball history and the third in the past six years. Here are some thoughts on the last game of the 2016 season.

(1) History class

Chicago is not only trying to win its first championship since 1908 and the third in franchise history but also trying to become the sixth team to win a best-of-seven World Series by overcoming a 3–1 deficit, after the 1925 Pirates (over the Senators), the ’58 Yankees (over the Braves), the ’68 Tigers (over the Cardinals), the ’79 Pirates (over the Orioles) and the ’85 Royals (over the Cardinals).

(2) The Kluber Plan

Corey Kluber has already put together a postseason for the ages, striking out 35 batters and allowing just three runs in 30 1/3 innings over five starts. His 0.89 ERA is the eighth-lowest mark among pitchers with at least 25 postseason innings dating back to the inception of the World Series in 1903, and he ranks third in the 48 years of the division play era.

(3) The book on the Professor

Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks matriculated at Dartmouth, and he’s as gifted on the mound as he is smart off it. After winning the NL ERA title during the regular season (2.13), he has pitched to a 1.31 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings over four postseason starts. That said, Chicago manager Joe Maddon has used a quick hook with Hendricks, letting him go past 5 1/3 innings only in the NLCS clincher, when he threw 7 1/3 innings against the Dodgers with a 5–0 lead. Despite having yet to allow a run, Hendricks lasted just 4 1/3 innings in Game 3 because he had yielded six hits and two walks and left the bases loaded for reliever Justin Grimm, who escaped the jam by inducing a ground-ball double play from Francisco Lindor.

(4) The curious case of Aroldis Chapman

The big question for the Cubs’ bullpen is the state of Aroldis Chapman’s arm and ankle. Maddon called upon his closer in Game 6 with two outs and two on in the seventh inning and a five-run lead, because he apparently no longer trusts any of his other options. Chapman needed just two pitches to get Lindor on a replay-aided groundout to first, but he had to sprint to the bag on the play and subsequently rolled his right ankle, prompting a visit from the training staff. He returned for the eighth and, even after Chicago stretched its lead to 9–2, was on the mound for the start of the ninth, running his pitch count to 20 before departing after he walked Brandon Guyer.

(5) Cleveland’s ‘pen is mighty rested

There was some good news for the Indians in the wake of Tuesday night’s defeat: None of Cleveland’s top three relievers—Cody Allen, Andrew Miller or Bryan Shaw—even warmed up, let alone got into the game. Miller and Allen should be able to combine for four innings of work in Game 7 if manager Terry Francona so desires. Kluber, Miller and Allen have combined for 59 of the team’s 124 postseason innings (47.5%) and will likely push that figure back above 50%, win or lose. So far, they’ve yielded just four runs among them for a 0.61 ERA, striking out 86 (13.1 per nine, or 26% of all batters faced).

(6) Chicago hit parade

The Cubs’ cold bats have heated up, to say the least. After starting the series 1-for-15, Kris Bryant is now 5-for-7 with a pair of homers since then. Addison Russell, who began the postseason 1-for-24, is 12-for-37 with three homers and two doubles starting with Game 4 of the NLCS. Anthony Rizzo, who opened October with a 1-for-23 skid, is 16-for-39 with three homers (including one late in Game 6) and five doubles since NLCS Game 3. Meanwhile, Kyle Schwarber, who was back in the lineup with the DH back in play, went 1-for-3 with a walk in Game 6 and has now reached base in seven of his 14 plate appearances.

(7) Davis on defense

Cleveland’s outfield defense has been a rough spot at times in this series, as was particularly evident in Game 6. In the first inning, Russell hit a catchable fly ball that fell between rightfielder Lonnie Chisenhall and centerfielder Tyler Naquin because of miscommunication, allowing two runs to score and giving Chicago a 3–0 lead. During the season, the Indians’ outfielders tied for 20th in the majors with -11 Defensive Runs Saved, and three players who combined for +8 DRS—Michael Brantley, Abe Almonte and Marlon Byrd—aren’t on the World Series roster.  Read more

Heat of the Moment

Orioles shortstop Manny Machado and Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura were both ejected Tuesday night following a bench-clearing melee that was precipitated by Ventura throwing at Machado (read more).

With one out in the bottom of the fifth inning and the Orioles leading 5-1, Ventura’s first pitch to Machado — a 99 mph fastball — hit the Baltimore slugger in the back. Machado charged the mound as Ventura prepared for the confrontation by taking off his hat and glove. Machado threw a punch at the Kansas City starter and slammed him to the ground.

robinson_fieldingWith the crowd at Camden Yards chanting, “Man-ny, Man-ny,” both benches and bullpens flooded the field. Machado was restrained by teammate Chris Tillman after the initial contact.

I was thinking about this as it relates to how I might react today?  What should I tell my kids?

All I can think of is the following: Filter comments and actions according to:

  1. Is it truthful
  2. Helpful
  3. Necessary
  4. Critical
  5. God’s will

Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?

I love reading about Brooks Robinson.  However, most pictures of him show him posing for the camera.  I’m coaching young 9-10 year old players and it is VERY important the kids get into the proper fielding position on every pitch.  This is something I’ve been trying to explain for years to my son (read more).

Bobby DickersonAlso, found a funny video of Brooks and his self-deprecating personality (click here).  It’s interesting what Buck Showalter said about the situation.  Also, notice at the end who is standing next to him.  It’s Bobby Dickerson, another favorite coach of mind.

Nevertheless, I like how Manny turned and took the ball on the back.  I would argue, as big as he is, it probably did not hurt that much.  It stung for about 5 minutes, tops.  Notice how out of breath he after the brawl.

Here’s is what Buck had to say (click here).

 

All for one and one for all

Today at our 1st little league “playoff game”, I told the players afterwards that I was very impressed with our Team Chemistry and Cohesiveness.  My wife reminds me of the positive vibes she feels from the parents as well watching the kids interact with one another so seamlessly.

The World Champs are a testament to great chemistry.
The World Champs are a testament to great chemistry. (USATSI)

Team chemistry is a complicated issue, but it’s also the key to getting the most out of a team’s talent. Task cohesion, refers to a team’s ability to function as a collective unit and perform effectively on the field. “United we Stand”.

To compile a list of the best Major League Baseball teams of all time, there’s more than a century of data to mine and parameters to set. For one thing, a team can’t be great if they lose in the playoffs. For the Ruth and Gehrig Yankees (and every other team before 1969), the postseason simply meant the World Series. The best of the American League played the best of the National League for a winner-take-all best of seven.  Based on Baseball Almanac’s calculations and other tales of epic clubs of yore, here are the eight best MLB teams of all time.

8. 1970 Baltimore Orioles

1970 Baltimore Orioles

In the modern era, 100-win seasons are special achievements. The 1970 Baltimore Orioles posted 108 wins and went 115-55 with their playoff run included. They beat the Reds in five games to cap off a season for the ages that was defined by the Birds’ pitching staff.

Hall of Famer Jim Palmer led the staff that featured three 20-game winners in the rotation and a team ERA of 3.15. Big Frank Robinson and Boog Powell supplied the power while Paul Blair and Brooks Robinson worked their magic on the field and at the plate. This was Earl Weaver’s best team, one of five 100-win squads skippered by the late Hall of Fame manager but the only one to win the World Series.

7. 1961 New York Yankees

Yankee Stadium

The 1954 New York Giants could have claimed this spot, but the 1961 Yankees’ dominance (109 wins) was simply too much for for teams in their era to handle. Mickey Mantle had a monster season but Roger Maris ended up stealing the headlines by slugging 61 home runs to claim the record from Ruth. Mantle cracked 54 dingers and hit .317 with a .448 on base percentage while three other players hit at least 20 homers for this new version of Murderers’ Row.

On the mound, the Chair of the Board ran the show. Whitey Ford went 25-4 in the regular season before pitching 14 scoreless innings in two World Series wins to nab MVP honors. The Yankees beat the Reds in five games, but the outcome was never really in question. Maris’ 61 in ’61 seemed predetermined for this all time great club.

6. 1929 Philadelphia Athletics

Back in the day, Philly was a two-team town and the A’s were a dominant force in the American League with Connie Mack as their manager and Shibe Park as their home field. Whether the 1910 club was better than the 1929 squad is debatable, but the latter had to take the AL title from Ruth and Gehrig’s Yankees, so they win the race here. Jimmie Foxx (or, “Double X”) led the charge in ’29, hitting .354 with 33 home runs and a gaudy .463 on-base percentage, but Al Simmons was the team’s beast with 34 dingers and 157 RBI to go along with a .356 batting average. Yeah, they were that good.

The A’s went 104-46 in the regular season, blowing out the second-place Yankees by 18 games (the Red Sox ended up 48 games behind in the standings). On the mound, Lefty Grove (20-6) and George Earnshaw (24-8) combined for 32 complete games. They beat the Cubs in five games to win the World Series as Jimmy Dykes hit .421 and Foxx drove in five for the A’s.

5. 1939 York Yankees

New York Yankees

Based on the 1939 Yankees’ 411 run differential, you could rank them at the top of the list for best team of all time, but they’ll get their due. Bill Dickey, Joe Gordon, and Red Rolfe did plenty of damage that year, but it was Joe DiMaggio’s team. Joltin’ Joe hit .381 with 30 home runs in a Yankee Stadium where fly balls to left field went to die (490 feet to left-center, 415 to left.) The Yankee Clipper had an on-base percentage of .448 and somehow struck out only 20 times in 524 plate appearances.

Red Ruffing paced the pitching staff with 21 wins and 22 complete games. The 1939 World Series against Cincinnati wasn’t even fair. Charlie Keller hit .438 with 3 home runs as the Yankees outscored the Reds 20-8 in a four-game sweep. With the playoffs added in, the 1939 Yankees went 110-45.

4. 1907 Chicago Cubs

While there are several stats that make the 1907 Cubs special, the one that catapults off the page is the team’s mind-boggling 1.73 ERA. Even in the Dead Ball Era, this pitching staff defined stingy. They outscored opponents by nearly 200 runs on their way to a record of 107-45.

In the World Series, the 1906 Cubs team that won 116 games got to redeem itself and enter the pantheon of best clubs ever. The pitching staff allowed a total of six runs in five games. How do you manage a four-games-to-none sweep when playing five games? Game One was called off after 12 innings with the teams deadlocked in a 3-3 tie. Yes, baseball was like soccer back then.

3. 1976 Cincinnati Reds

1976 Cincinnati Reds

Though one could argue the “Big Red Machine” of 1975 was one of the best ever, that club needed all seven games to win the World Series. That was not the case for the 1976 Reds who swept the Phillies in three games in the NLCS and then manhandled the Yankees in a four-game sweep of the World Series.

Johnny Bench hit .533 in the World Series with 6 RBI to take home MVP honors while George Foster and Dave Concepcion added to the onslaught. In the regular season, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, and Ken Griffey led the offensive juggernaut to 102 wins. Scrappy and scruffy in the way only a 1970s ballclub could be, the Reds of 1976 were fun to watch and one of the game’s greatest.

2. 1998 New York Yankees

Take David Wells, David Cone, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera in their prime. In mid-season, add Cuban sensation Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. Start the batting order with Chuck Knoblauch and Derek Jeter, then mix in Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, and Tino Martinez in high-production years. Round it out with Jorge Posada, Scott Brosius, and Chili Davis. Call in Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton, Graeme Lloyd, and Ramiro Mendoza from the bullpen and DH or pinch-hit Darryl Strawberry when you want to intimidate a pitcher. That’s how the 1998 Yankees went 125-50.

Manager Joe Torre had access to the most talented pool of players in the modern era during the 114-48 regular season. The only vague threat that year came in the playoffs when Cleveland took Game Two of the ALCS at old Yankee Stadium, then roughed up Andy Pettitte to take game three in Cleveland. These were the only two losses the Yankees had in the postseason. El Duque righted the ship with an epic performance in game four before Cone and Wells sealed the deal. The World Series was more like a vacation to San Diego for this team, which took home the trophy in a four-game sweep.

With all this talent, who was the MVP of the World Series? Scott Brosius, whose brutal treatment of Trevor Hoffman in Game Three ended the best closer argument and signifies just how deep the ’98 Yankees were. Joe Torre insisted “Best Ever” go on the World Series ring along with the club’s impossible record. His assessment holds up to objective scrutiny.

1. 1927 New York Yankees

 1927 New York Yankees

In a time when the baseball season lasted 154 games, the 1927 Yankees went 110-44. Babe Ruth mashed a record 60 home runs (more than 12 whole teams hit that year) and Lou Gehrig hit .373 with 47 home runs and 52 doubles. Outfielders Earl Combes (.356 BA) and Bob Meusel (.337 BA) combined for 83 doubles. They were called “Murderers’ Row” for a reason.

The 1927 Yankees could also pitch with the best of them. Ace Waite Hoyt went 22-7 with a 2.63 ERA while closer Wilcy Moore chalked up 19 wins out of the bullpen with an ERA of 2.28. Their run differential (number of runs they outscored opponents) was a staggering 376. In the World Series, the Babe hit .400 with seven RBI as the Yankees swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in four games. It’s what happens when the best player ever leads the best squad ever against any opponent.

To put Babe Ruth’s achievement in perspective, the World Series opponent Pirates hit 54 home runs as a team in 1927 — six fewer than the Sultan of Swat. No wonder they wanted to put an asterisk next to Maris’ 61.  Reference | Other resource

 

ESPN Highlights

Our Roland Baseball – National League playoffs… GO BLAZE.

IMG_2119Not every picture is “Sports Illustrated” quality.  However, one of our parents captured some FABULOUS candid photos that clearly differentiate the average “smart phone”.  Click here  Here is the latest reel (click here).

Above from left to right (clockwise), Coach Craig, Coach Carl, Coach Dave, Amiela, Wyatt, Luke, Mason, Krrish.