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BASN’s World Series Preview: Something’s Gotta Give
By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN (BASN) — Okay, y’all know the long and over told stories about the endless championship droughts of the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians heading into this year’s Fall Classic.
Chicago hasn’t won the World Series since Reconstruction (it was 1908, but you know what I mean!!) and the Indians haven’t won the World Series since a pair of former Negro Leaguers (Satchel Paige and Larry Doby) came to town and gave Cleveland a true championship pedigree.
As we preview the Series, we’re gonna pull a Mark McGwire and not focus on the past.
Instead, we’ll take a decidedly different take on what on the surface appears to be a decent matchup. This isn’t gonna be a position-by-position look mind you. We’re gonna focus on five things you should keep your eyes on while trying to endure Joe Buck’s commentary, Ken Rosenthal’s latest bowtie, and seemingly endless ads for “Empire” and or any other shitty show on FOX.
Here we go.
Yes, I know veteran outfielder Rajai Davis has been platooning with rookie Tyler Naquin in center field for Cleveland. However, I get the feeling that manager Terry Francona will go with the veteran a little bit more in the Fall Classic. While Davis’ overall numbers may not jump out at you, his league-leading 43 stolen bases were part of his role as an offensive catalyst for the Indians. Especially after the team lost All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley again for most of the season. The expected cat and mouse game between Davis and Cubs starter Jon Lester when he reaches base should be very intriguing. As for the Cubbies, Dexter Fowler has been right in the middle of every meaningful rally over the last two seasons. While adding utilityman Ben Zobrist and outfielder Jason Heyward during the off-season were big splashes, re-upping Fowler during spring training may have proven to be the biggest move going into the season. In my mind, both Davis and Fowler will have key roles in this series.
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK: THE SEQUEL
For those who think MLB’s yearly trade deadline is just a bunch of hype, allow me to introduce Exhibit A in Andrew Miller and Exhibit B in Aroldis Chapman. While both of these men were doing an adequate job in the pen for that team in the Bronx, the future league champions were struggling a bit regarding their overall bullpens. Truth be told, Cleveland’s actual closer — Cody Allen — has been one of the game’s most underrated closer the last two seasons. The biggest problem was getting to him. Enter the talented Mr. Miller whose role as a super setup man has taken on epic proportions. His lights out performances in this year’s postseason not only gained him an ALCS MVP award but has made some Yankee fans say “Hey, we need to get that guy back here!!!” As for the fireballing Chapman, his presence ended Joe Maddon’s closer by committee days and freed up hurlers like Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop to be true setup men. While both starting staffs are excellent, the game really starts when either manager decides to go to their pen.
THE NEW WAVE
Back in the day, we saw the new edition of shortstops hit the major leagues. Whether it was Barry Larkin, Nomar Garciaparra, ARod, Derek Jeter, or Edgar Renteria, all of these players not only took the position to another level, they also became postseason fixtures as well. The same appears to be holding true for Chicago’s Addison Russell and Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor (12). Both are 22 years old and can already pick it with the best in the majors. They’ve both shown that they can hit for power, especially during this postseason. No matter who wins this series, we’re looking at MLB’s next generation of star power at the shortstop position. They’ll definitely become household names outside of their respective cities over the next few seasons and beyond.
With the first two games slated to be played in Cleveland, the designated hitter role becomes a key factor. Given the overall depth of both rosters, this should prove to be another major layer to the matchup. Maddon can throw utilityman Jorge Soler, catcher Miguel Montero, or outfielder Chris Coghlan into the mix. The rumor of outfielder Kyle Schwarber possibly being activated for the series could also give Chicago an extra added bat as well. There are similar options for Francona as well. Whoever doesn’t play first base between Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana could be a fine fit as well as veteran outfielder Coco Crisp. These moves will factor in even greater if the series goes the distance.
JOE VS. TITO
It’s a battle of the anointed genius against the proven championship commodity in this series. Even though Francona has the championship rings, it’s Maddon that’s been dubbed as baseball’s next genius by many in the baseball community. Taking the Cubs to the World Series as given him rock star status, but is “Average Joe” really all that? We’ve seen his quirkiness last from Tampa to the Second City for a few years now. But this will only be his second appearance in the Fall Classic while Tito is working on his third ring for another team. Now clearly both men have proven to be excellent managers during their tenures. However, the spotlight of the World Series can bring out the good, bad, and ugly in any manager. Especially when you’ve got two loyal fan bases that are just starving for a World Championship.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at email@example.com.