For the first time since 1908. And the sun came up this morning, even here in St Louis. Yes, the Cleveland Indians blew a 3-1 series lead, with the final two games taking place at their home stadium, but the Chicago Cubs were clearly the best team in 2016. They led the majors with 103 regular-season wins. Rarely does the best team win the World Series — largely due to the randomness that is the MLB playoffs — but the best team won this year.
After years of rebuilding under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, the Cubs finally became relevant again in 2015, and they successfully took it two steps further this year. They absolutely ran away with the division (our beloved Cardinals finished 17.5 games back). They vanquished the San Francisco Giants’ “even year magic” three games to one in the NLDS. They roared back from being down two games to one in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They one-upped their NLCS comeback by rising from the aforementioned 3-1 deficit in the World Series.
To be fair, the Indians certainly didn’t lie down in game seven. After falling behind 5-1 through four and a half innings, with Cy Young-candidate Kyle Hendricks seemingly rolling, the Tribe’s prognosis was bleak at best. Yet, after a questionable decision to remove Hendricks with two outs in the bottom of the fourth and a lone runner on first base, they managed to claw two runs across home plate — cutting the deficit to only two. As so often happens, the Cubs tacked on a valuable insurance run in the sixth on a home run by none other than the now-retired David Ross.
Yet, the Indians still didn’t give up, even with the Cubs’ prized trade deadline acquisition on the mound in the eighth. In fact, due to another head-scratching managerial decision during game six, they faced a more-tired-than-necessary Aroldis Chapman. They fought back against Chapman as Brandon Guyer doubled in Jose Ramirez, and Rajai Davis knotted the game at six, following Justin Verlander’s scouting report perfectly.
After a scoreless ninth, followed by a brief 17-minute rain delay, the Cubs, led by Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero, slashed their way to a two-run lead against Bryan Shaw of all pitchers (Andrew Miller and Cody Allen had already been used in innings prior). The Indians once again made it interesting in their half of the tenth, scoring a run on a Davis single against Carl Edwards Jr. Any hope associated with having the tying run on first base and the winning run at the plate soon vanished as a career 51 wRC+ hitter (Michael Martinez) walked to the plate, with no remaining bench players available to pinch hit. Not surprisingly, a 70 MPH nubber to Kris Bryant ended the game, and the Cubs won, 8-7.
And now, for potentially an entire calendar year (November baseball is silly, by the way), the Cubs will officially be known as World Series champions. The Cardinals have a handful of holes to fill (center field, the bullpen, etc.), and if a Cubs’ World Series title, combined with the fact that they are built around a young and talented core, doesn’t lead to some urgency within the ownership and front office, I don’t know what will. As a fan of the Cardinals, the following feels so incredibly weird to say, but I will say it anyway: “Just wait ‘til next year.”