2016 World Series: Who Do You Root For?
If our team isn't in it, and we're not assholes, we tend to root for underdogs. The world is so unfair we want to add a little bit of balance to it, a little justice. We want something to come out right for once.
This year's World Series is an embarrassment of riches in this regard. The two teams, Cubs and Indians, aren't just underdogs, they're the underdoggiest teams in baseball history: the two franchises that have waited the longest for a championship.
So who to root for? Let's count it out:
- Last World Series championship: The Cleveland Indians have the longest championship drought in the A.L. and the second-longest in the Majors: When they last won the World Series, in 1948, Harry S. Truman was president. The Chicago Cubs, meanwhile, have the longest championship drought not only in the Majors but probably the known universe: When they last won the World Series, Roosevelt was president. No, not Franklin; Teddy. It was 1908. That's 108 years ago for those scoring at home. Advantage: Cubs.
- Last previous pennant: For the Indians, relatively recent: 1997. For the Cubs, infamously not: 1945. Advantage: Cubs.
- Total pennants: If the Cubs haven't won one since 1945, they must be at a big disadvantage, right? Nope. They actually sweep the Indians in this category, 11-6. Cubbies won flags in: 1906, 1907, 1908, 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, 1945 and 2016. That one in '45? At that time, they had the third-most pennants in baseball history—after the Yankees and Giants. Indians aren't even close: 1920, 1948, 1954, 1995, 1997 and 2016. They have the second-fewest pennants among original-16 teams, after the Chicago White Sox. Advantage: Indians.
- Total championships: It's a wash, 2-2. The Cubs lost their first Series in '06 against the crosstown “hitless wonders” ChiSox, but then won the next two in '07 and '08. In fact, they became the first team in MLB to win two World Series. And there they stopped. The Indians also won their first two, 1920 and 1948, and then stopped. No advantage.
- Opening Day payroll: Cubs: $186 million, fifth-most in baseball. Indians: $114 million, 22nd-most in baseball. No other team in the bottom half even made it to the postseason, let alone the World Series. Advantage: Indians.
- Injuries: The Indians made it this far despite injuries to half of their starting rotation. The Cubs lost Kyle Schwarber two games into the season and haven't missed a beat. The biggest injury for the Cubs, in a way, has been to Jason Heyward, he of the $180 million contract, who isn't injured; he just can't hit anymore. Advantage: Indians.
- The 2004 Red Sox factor: The 2004 Red Sox helped change the world. It was a franchise with its own blighted history—no championship since 1918; oh so painfully close in 1946, 1967, 1975, 1978, 1986 and 2003—and in the ALCS they were playing the biggest bastards in all of professional sports, the New York Yankees, who, at the time, had been to 39 World Series and won 26 of them. They'd been to six of the last eight Series and won four of them. They were massively efficient, corporate tyrants. And they were about to do it again: up 3 games to 0 in a best-of-seven series. No team in baseball history had ever come back from those odds—let alone against the winningest team in all of professional sports. But the 2004 Red Sox did. And it changed everything. And two of the architects of that team were manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein. Francona now manages the Indians, Epstein is now Grand Poobah of the Cubs. Whose magic will continue? Who knows? Either way, it's a wash.
- The Ex-Yankees closer factor: If you'd told Yankees fan at the start of the year that both Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman would be in the Series, they would've been ecstatic, since both pitched for the Yanks in April. If you'd told them that they'd be pitching for opposite teams, they'd think, “Well, at least one of the teams is the Yankees.” Then you go for the kill. Fun! Advantage: us.
- Movies about each team: The Indians' “Major League” trumps the Cubs in “Rookie of the Year” any day of the week. Do the Indians get dinged for all of those sequels? And for Charlie Sheen? Maybe. But not enough. Advantage: Indians.
- The logo factor: This one isn't even close. One team has a cute cuddly animal as its logo, the other uses a caricature of a member of a wide swath of people who were systematically slaughtered by our country in its constant, manifest push west. In many ways I'm a traditionalist, but it's beyond time for the Cleveland organization to lose that logo and possible its nickname. Big advantage: Cubs.
The tally comes out 4-3 in favor of the Indians, but they win some squeakers, while the Cubs, well, the Cubs have 1908 and 1945. Hard to top that. Let alone the logo battle. I get the feeling I'll be rooting for the Cubs.
But sometimes you never know until the game actually begins. That's Tuesday night, 5:08 Pacific time, on Fox.