Chicago Cubs fans are almost 100 percent willing to believe that the team’s infamous and highly-publicized 107-year World Series drought could finally be coming to an end. When you’re a Cubs fan you love your team because baseball is part of the fabric of your existence. The history of the club is as rich and respected as any franchise that hasn’t won a title in over a century. Cubs Love is par for the course because that’s just the what they do in that part of The Chi.
The City possesses an endearing passion for wholeheartedly accepting the anguish and glory that comes with baseball and recognizing the warts of loss as simply one of the beauties of the game. Understanding that there's honor and prestige and exclusiveness in being cursed by the baseball gods.
The Chicago White Sox just won the World Series a decade ago and the franchise has its share of historical prominence, but the Cubs still shine brighter in the baseball minds of fans outside of Chicago not geographically aligned with a specific Illinois team.
And if it’s true that rising tickets have priced younger Cubs fans out of Wrigley Field and into the stands of U.S. Cellular Field, all of those front-running youngsters are rocking Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell jersey’s and returning for another historical agony of defeat or better yet the thrill of victory. They relate to the fresh Cub faces.
This playoffs -- along with the 2016 departure of President Obama, an unapologetic Chicago White Sox fan -- is just one more hint at the Chicago Cubs explosion that is brewing in MLB.
It’s totally understandable that Chicago fans, while immersing themselves in this run, are still a bit leery of the potential disaster that may lurk. Chicago is a baseball town that can live with the losing, but the emotional fortitude of its dedicated baseball family can’t survive another Steve Bartman episode and have a World Series appearance snatched from their clutches by asinine intervention in this upcoming NLCS; The team’s first since 2003.
The Cubs won back-to-back World Series championships in 1907 and 1908, becoming the first Major League team to play in three consecutive Fall Classics, and the first to win it twice. The team appeared in seven World Series following their 1908 title, most recently in 1945. Since then, the Cubs have been in the longest championship drought of any major North American professional sports franchise.
Cubs All-Star and veteran leader Anthony Rizzo endured his share of losing seasons with the Cubs. Now he basks in the glory of their first National League Championship Series in 12 years. Skipper Joe Maddon's band of young gunners started at the bottom but they are four wins away from shaking the curse, emerging out of a hypnotizing funk that has made the stench of losing as tolerable as it is unfathomable.
"Obviously times weren't easy the last few years, but with all the talent we had and all the talent we were building, everyone knew that the Cubs were coming," a drenched Rizzo said in the club house, as he celebrated Chicago's clinching 6-4 victory over St. Louis in the NL Division Series on Tuesday, "and we're here, and hopefully we can keep this thing going."
The Cubs washed a Cardinals team that led MLB with 100 wins and were considered by many as shoe-ins to reach the NLCS. Chicago can chill for a minute as they await the winner of the The Dodgers and Mets Game 5 tonight in LA. Game 5 is sure to be a classic and will either go down as one of the definitive moments in Mets history or one of the most disappointing. The Mets haven't posted a World Series banner since 1986 and the Dodgers haven't won a crown since NWA dropped (1988).
Mets fans don’t expect to be in this position next season after Cespedes bounces for free agency and NY will probably have to trade one of its young arms to avoid putting themselves back in an offensive funk, so they are as eager to get it done this year as anybody. Besides, there’s no guarantee David Wright will even remain healthy, so we could be looking at a paper thin Mets lineup again next season, unless the Mets find a comparable Plan B for Wright and also add a replacement for Yoenis' .300 average,30 plus homers and, 100 RBI.
The Dodgers and manager Don Mattingly need to make good on that $500 mill Magic and Co. invested in players since acquiring the team. The clock is ticking. Nobody really expected the Mets to flip the script and make a NLCS run, but LA has been casually waiting on the Dodgers to maximize their talents for a few seasons now.
The Mets do however have their No. 1 pitcher on the mound in Jacob deGrom and he’s stingy as hell with the runs. In Game 1 against Clayton Kershaw of Cy Young and 300 K fame, deGrom allowed 0 runs, five hits and a walk in seven innings. He was a beast, fanning 13 Dodgers and making them look like an 8th grade JV team. His victory incited overwhelming optimism in Mets fans.
It won’t take a genius to predict that tonight will be a pitcher’s duel and it could be one for the ages. Tomorrow doesn’t factor into the championship scenario. The loser starts making roster plans for the 2016 season.
The winner hosts the Cubs, who had a string of five consecutive losing seasons before they went 97-65 this year. It’s really a seize the moment situation for Chicago. Let’s see if Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester can be a 1-2 punch for the ages in these final two series.
KC IS NO ONE TIME BAND
As I predicted, KC rose to the occasion and handled Houston in a similar fashion to the way Toronto took down Texas with three straight W’s after falling behind 2-0 in the ALDS. Now with both teams brimming with confidence and playing at full stride, prepare for a seven game baseball bonanza.
After surviving a five-game scare from the young and pesky Astros, the Royals return to the American League Championship series with a 7-2, elimination game win over the baby boomers on Wednesday.
Royals hurler Johnny Cueto pitched like the No. 1 starter they hoped he’d be when they acquired the former Cincinnati Reds ace at the end of July. Cueto hasn’t been at the top of his game yet for KC, but this outing showed that he’s getting closer and at the perfect time. Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush of potential playoff success. Whatever it is KC needs Cueto to build on that and brace for a formidable Toronto squad with a heart of the order that screams “Murder she wrote” to all pitchers.
Cueto was fired up, dreads swinging, unorthodox motion-mixing and talking a lot of smack on the mound, but it produced an 8-inning, 8 K, 91-pitch effort that puts KC in the place they want to be; in the WS again.
Said KC skipper Ned Yost at the postgame press conference: “Cueto was very determined for this opportunity...He knew the magnitude of this game. We all did, and just came out (strong) from the first pitch.
The Royals expected to be here after losing a tough World Series to San Francisco in seven games last season. The Astros were a footnote in a larger story of success they are intent on writing this season.
In the ALCS, The Toronto Blue Jays bandwagoners will favor the high-octane Canadian offense over the steady, old school, multi-faceted and well-managed Royals squad. As I’ve maintained all season, KC is not leaving the month of October without a World Series ring, despite the brashness of a confident Jays clique.
“We have to keep focused, doing the little things and get things going our way,” said Blue Jays infielder Ben Zobrist
Toronto is led by David Price and the lanky, lefty is coming of a three-inning relief appearance in Game 4 of the ALCS, proving that he is all in and ready to do whatever is necessary to bring a title back to Toronto before he departs for the land of free agent riches.
It will be a battle to the baseball death. Two talented squads with contrasting styles fighting for not only their lives, but respect from MLB and fans nationwide. Toronto hasn’t won a World Series since going back-to-back in ‘92 and ‘93 with a star studded mix led by Mr. Clutch Joe Carter. The Royals haven’t won a World Series since that ‘85 live team run led by George Brett (one of my all-time favorite ballers).
To describe all the remaining playoff teams as “hungry” for a title would be an understatement. They are all World Series-famished, so don’t expect any let downs; only get downs for the crown.