CLEVELAND - How excited am I for the start of the World Series on Tuesday night at Progressive Field? I couldn’t sleep on Sunday, a full 48 hours before the start of Game 1.
I want this championship for the Indians so badly. This team has captured my heart during this miraculous pennant race. They’ve gone 7-1 so far this postseason, but they are considerable underdogs against the National League Champions, the Chicago Cubs.
On paper, you can see why the Cubbies are so highly touted. They had the best record in baseball this year. Joe Maddon’s team boasts a terrific starting rotation of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, and John Lackey. Plus, a young, powerful lineup featuring Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, and a dominant closer in Aroldis Chapman.
But I think the Indians can beat this team. Honestly. And I’ve come up with five reasons why:
1. The Indians have NOTHING TO LOSE. Seriously, they are playing with house money. How many times did we think that the Tribe would run out of gas because all of the injuries? No Brantley, no Carrasco, no Salazar (to this point in the postseason), has equaled no problem. This team loves being the underdog and they relish in the “us against the world” mentality.
2. History does show that a team built like the Tribe can win against a superior opponent. The best example is in 1990, when the Cincinnati Reds were matched up against the defending world champion Oakland A’s. The A’s had great pitching with Dave Stewart and Bob Welch in the rotation, along with future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley closing. They also had the “Bash Brothers,” Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, leading a powerful offense that also featured Hall of Famer Ricky Henderson leading off.
See if this sounds familiar: The Reds had a dominant starting pitcher in Jose Rijo, an emerging superstar shortstop in Barry Larkin, and a killer back-end of the bullpen in the “Nasty Boys,” Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton, and Randy Myers. Cincinnati parlayed this into a four-game sweep of Oakland.
I’m not suggesting that the Tribe will sweep, I’m just saying that this formula can work.
3. The pressure is all on the Cubs. When you haven’t won a World Series since 1908, and you’re known for the Billy Goat curse, the Black Cat curse, and the Bartman curse, among others, the pressure is all on the north-siders. Yes, I understand it’s been 68 years since the Tribe won the Series. Yes, I understand that there’s pressure to win here, too. But the fact that the Cavs won the NBA title in June pushes the heat over to Chicago. They came back from down 2-1 in the NLCS to beat the Dodgers, can they stand up to further pressure if the Tribe jumps on them early?
4. Home Field Advantage. Normally, I’m not a big believer in home field in baseball versus playoff games in the NFL, NBA, NHL, etc. The only tangible edge is that you get to bat last if you are tied or trailing. However, there’s a special energy in and around Cleveland right now and I expect Progressive Field to be electric for Games 1 and 2. As my colleague Matt Florjancic reminded me, the Indians have NEVER had home field advantage in a World Series. Ask yourself: Where would you rather play Games 6 and 7 if it comes to that…Wrigley Field, or here in Cleveland?
That’s what I thought.
5. Terry Francona. The man is a lifetime 8-0 as a World Series manager. Again, I don’t expect a sweep or anything like that, but Tito knows how to guide a team through the ups and downs of the Fall Classic. I’ve never experienced a manager who has the pulse of his team so down pat as does Francona. He has pushed every right button so far in this postseason. Whether it’s when to put Andrew Miller in, what lineups to bring out, when to take out the starter, etc, Tito has been spot-on. Best of all, Francona does not allow his team to get caught up “in the noise” of what people outside of Progressive Field think about the Tribe. He and his staff just put the team in the best position to win, and then let the players do their jobs.
No matter what happens starting Tuesday night, just sit back and enjoy the show. There’s nothing quite like the intensity of the World Series, where we will all hang on every pitch. Don’t let the fact that the Tribe are the underdogs, or the announcers seem to be rooting for the Cubs, the umpires aren't calling it our way, or anything like that bother you.
Always remember, we need to #RallyTogether, and remember that it’s #ClevelandAgainstTheWorld
**After reading this, what do you think? You can vote on our twitter poll below:
Also, Matt Florjancic and I discussed this topic in a Facebook Live show on Monday: