By , Dieter Kurtenbach
Published January 30, 2017
The beauty of this World Series was that -- regardless of outcome -- one team was going to win it.
That statement might come off as redundant, but when the longest suffering American League team -- the Indians -- takes on the longest suffering National League team -- the Cubs -- that's a special moment.
Alas, for most, 108 years trumps even the pain of 68 years, and so the focus in the World Series has been on the Cubs.
That's fine -- the Indians are one win away from taking the only prize that matters.
Cleveland established a 3-1 lead in the World Series with an emphatic and comprehensive 7-2 win over the Cubs Saturday at Wrigley Field, capped by Chicago-area native Jason Kipnis' three-run homer in the seventh inning.
The Cubs might have taken a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, but the Indians evened the contest in the top of the second and never looked back.
The Indians sit on the precipice of breaking American League history -- and the second-longest World Series drought in baseball -- and frankly, no one seems to care.
The entire World Series has been a Cubs love fest, but regardless of what LeBron did this past summer, the Indians' accomplishment deserves celebration. The Indians might not have been cursed, but breaking 68 years of futility -- as they are on the precipice of doing -- deserves accolades.
Cleveland was roundly outmanned heading into this series -- Cleveland only had one starting pitcher of perceived worth, while the Cubs had three (and perhaps four) -- and while the Indians might have boasted an exceptional bullpen, would it hold up against one of the best-hitting lineups in baseball? Would Cleveland be able to muster any hits against arguably the best defense in baseball?
The answers to those questions seem obvious at this point, and while the Cubs could re-balance some semblance of sports karma and come back from a 3-1 lead -- they look poised to steal a game Sunday with Jon Lester on the mound against Trevor Bauer in Game 5 -- it looks like next year will not be this year for the Cubs' faithful.
The Indians are built for this moment, and the Cubs can't match Cleveland's fit. The formula for winning the World Series has been established in recent years: don't strike out often and have a killer bullpen. There are other elements, sure, but those are the chief components.
The Cubs are playing like a prototypical American League team -- striking out nearly 10 times per game in the World Series -- while the Indians have the right stuff for the Fall Classic and have seen their bullpen and a count-working, base-stealing lineup be managed to perfection.
Managers don't have many responsibilities, but Indians manager Terry Francona has roundly outmanaged Cubs manager Joe Maddon so far in this series. You have to deal with the clubhouse -- it's hard to say that there's an advantage there -- and pitching substitutions -- perhaps Maddon has run into bad luck, but his substitutions have been tough-scrabble at best.
Meanwhile, Francona's willingness to use the leverage of a situation to dictate his bullpen decisions has been a boon for the Indians. (Having Andrew Miller is an incredible bonus as well.)
The Indians sit on the doorstep of an incredible accomplishment in baseball history, but because they're not the toughest-luck team in baseball -- or this series -- such an accomplishment seems to have fallen flat in the public sphere.
So let this be a reminder -- the Indians are incredibly worthy of both praise and the World Series championship, and heading into Sunday's contest at Wrigley Field, they're one win away from breaking 68 years of futility.
Perhaps this is the opportunity for Chicago -- the pressure is off, the series is all but lost -- but a three-game sweep going forward seems unlikely (though not impossible) at the moment.
Win one of the next three, and the Cleveland Indians are the champions of baseball. It's an incredible sentence, but these Indians are an incredible team.