October 25, 2016
For the first time in my entire life, the Chicago Cubs are in the World Series. The words in that sentence seem so outlandish and exotic to me that it's hard to believe that it is really true. On an emotional level, I am filled with joy mixed with sadness that my father, a lifelong Cubs fan, could not live long enough to see his team become world champions. (See the obituary blog post I wrote for him in April and the blog post from August 2009 when he, my sister Connie, and I saw a Cubs-Rockies game in Denver.)
The Dodgers won NLCS Game 3 by a score of 6-0, as veteran pitcher Rich Hill outperformed the Cubs' ace Jake Arrieta. Yasmani Grandal and Justin Turner both homered, and presumptive NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager went 3 for 5 at the plate. The Cubs' sluggers could only muster four hits, two of which were hit by Kris Bryant. Cubs fans started getting nervous after that one.
But in Game 4, the Cubs took back the momentum in a decisive way. They scored first with a four-run rally in the fourth inning, capped by a two-run homer by Addison Russell. That knocked the Dodgers' young starting pitcher Julio Urias out of the game, but the Cubs just kept piling on more runs. They had a 10-2 lead by the middle of the sixth inning, and that turned out to be the final score. That evened the NLCS, 2-2.
In Game 5, the Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI double by Anthony Rizzo. The Dodgers tied it two innings later, and in the sixth inning, the Cubs' shortstop Addison Russell hit a two-run homer (his second in two days) to take a 3-1 lead. The Cubs added five more runs in the eighth inning, putting the game out of reach, so it didn't really matter that the Dodgers scored in the bottom of the ninth. Final score: Cubs 8, Dodgers 4. Taking two out of three games in Dodger Stadium provided a huge psychological boost to Chicago. Nonetheless, it is of some concern to the Cubs that Aroldis Chapman has not been his usual dominant self in this postseason, with an ERA of nearly 4.
Back in Chicago for Game 6 after a day of travel and rest, the daunting Clayton Kershaw again pitched for the Dodgers, but this time his human weaknesses finally caught up with him. The Cubs jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, and added another run in the second. Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo hit solo homers, while Kyle Hendricks pitched the game of his life, allowing only two hits in 7-plus innings. The Cubs got the final out on a double play, a fitting punctuation to a flawless game that sent Chicago fans into euphoria. Final score: Cubs 5, Dodgers 0.
So how would I have coped with a Cubs vs. Nationals NLCS, if that matchup had occurred? I suppose I would have been happy either way, but obviously with mixed emotions.
Go Cubs, Go!
By the way, I learned that song "Go Cubs, Go" on the guitar today, after discovering to my astonishment that it was written by Steve Goodman, the very same guy who wrote "City of New Orleans." Goodman died of leukemia in 1984, mere days before the Cubs advanced to postseason play for the first time since 1945. What a tragedy. (The Cubs lost to the Padres in the 1984 NLCS.)
When the Cleveland Indians beat the Blue Jays 4-2 in ALCS Game 3 in Toronto, the series was just about decided. (Hardly any team -- other than the 2004 Boston Red Sox, of course -- has won a seven-game series after losing the first three games.) The Blue Jays staged a brave comeback attempt in Game 4, sparked by a solo homer by Josh Donaldson, eventually winning 5-1. So at least there was no sweep. But in Game 5 the Indians scored single runs in the first, third, and fourth innings, putting the Blue Jays in a terrible bind. The unexpected hero of that game was 24-year old Indians pitcher Ryan Merritt, who did not allow any runs and only two hits during 4 1/3 innings. With Andrew Miller on the mound for two innings, there wasn't much hope for the Blue Jays, and the final score was Indians 3, Blue Jays 0. And that is how the Indians won the American League pennant for the first time since 1997.
Much has been said about the long "droughts" suffered by the Cubs and Indians since the last time they were in a World Series (1945 and 1997, respectively) and since the last time they won a World Series (1908 and 1948, respectively). No doubt about it, this is definitely a "feel good" year for baseball fans everywhere, as one of those cities is going to experience once-in-a-lifetime jubilation over the next week or so. But since professional sports are tied to cities, it is worth pointing out (as the Washington Post did yesterday) that the city of Washington has suffered a longer drought than any of the other MLB cities: the Washington Senators were last in the World Series in 1933, and the last time they won it was 1925. The Chicago White Sox won the 2005 World Series. Likewise, it is worth mentioning that the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship in June. (Tonight was the first game of the 2016-2017 NBA season, with baseball and basketball games being played simultaneously in Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena, right next door.)
Just like last year, and several years before that, I present the home ballparks of the two World Series teams, for easy comparison. Just roll over the thumbnail images to switch between the respective full-size diagrams. Fortunately, my diagrams for both those stadiums are fully up to standard, requiring no updates.
Wrigley Field has about 107,800 square feet of fair territory, and about 18,600 square feet of foul territory, according to my best estimates. Progressive Field has about 105,400 square feet of fair territory, and about 21,900 square feet of foul territory. But the high left field wall in Progressive Field makes it less hitter-friendly than those area data might suggest. (See the Stadium statistics page.)