2016 World Series: Should Red Sox fans root for the Cubs?
The Chicago Cubs have been baseball’s lovable losers for a long, long time. They haven’t won a World Series since 1908. But with a win in game six of the NLCS on Saturday night, the Cubs advanced to the World Series, finally winning their first National League Pennant since 1945.
The Cubbies retired the minimum number of batters (27) in a playoff game. The last team to accomplish this feat? The 1956 New York Yankees, when Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in Game 5 against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
It appears, for the moment, that the Cubs have the stars aligned to finally win their first World Series in 108 years.
Opposing them are the Cleveland Indians, who themselves are seeking a World Series title for the first time since 1948.
With injuries to their starting pitching, there were numerous question marks about the Indians’ chances in the postseason. They shut down the mighty Boston Red Sox and their juggernaut offense, sweeping them in the ALDS. They were projected to then get throttled by the Toronto Blue Jays, whom they beat handily in five games. Much of this is thanks to the managerial decisions of Terry Francona, who has been able to mix and match his bullpen in order to shut down opposing lineups.
At this World Series, one of the two franchises will end a streak of despair that has been decades in the making.
But, looking at this from the perspective of a Boston sports fan, what are those of us who seek a rooting interest left to do, now that the Red Sox have been eliminated?
Instinct says we should cheer for the Cubs, as their championship drought is the longest. They’re also sufferers of a dreaded “curse,” something Red Sox fans should be all too familiar with. Also, the Indians defeated the Sox in the ALDS with former players from their championship teams of years past.
What more could we ask for as Boston sports fans than to have a hapless franchise suffering for a long period of time beat the team that knocked us out?
Hot take alert: Boston sports fans should be rooting against the Cubs. You read that right.
Let’s put this in perspective and look at the two franchises who suffered for all those years.
Before 2004, there were 5 teams with championship droughts of 55 years or more. San Francisco hadn’t won since 1954, going 58 years before finally winning in 2010. The Chicago White Sox went 88 years before winning in 2005, their first since 1917. The Red Sox ended their 88 year drought in 2004 by winning their first championship since 1918 (the latter two have each won 2 more titles after their initial title win- the Giants in 2012 and 2014; the Red Sox in 2007 and 2013).
As of 2016, we’ve got two clubs left to break their droughts. They happen to be playing each other in the World Series.
The Cubs haven’t raised a banner since 1908, 108 years ago. The Indians, of course, haven’t won since 1948, 68 years ago.
But this all ties back to the Red Sox. They are the original curse breakers. We did it first.
We’re also extremely territorial of our “original curse breaker” status.
We suffered more over a long period of time. We had to overcome more notoriously successful and more talented rival teams.
We suffered more devastating losses and bizarre endings that crushed our dreams.
And most importantly- we earned it because we deserved it more than anyone.
The Cubs may not have won for 108 years, but they also have sucked for a lot longer than we have. There are underdogs, and there are losers. The discrepancy between the two clubs is more than apparent.
For Boston fans, the Cubs do not deserve a World Series title because they haven’t earned it like we did.
Our misery is more miserable than your misery, Chicago.
Let’s start with the curses themselves: the battle of Bambinos and Billy Goats.
The Curse of the Bambino is far more well known than that Curse of the Billy Goat. It is, for the most part, the (very) long term effects of what can happen when one player alters the futures of a franchise. The Curse of the Billy Goat is more like what happens when the rapper Lil B curses James Harden before the Rockets face the Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Are we taking Chicago’s “curse” too seriously?
Since the Red Sox won the 1918 World Series (where they beat the Cubs), they’ve had 17 postseason appearances, which includes eight division titles and seven wild card births. The other two appearances came in 1946 and 1967, (there was no LCS at until 1969), when the Sox had the best record in the American League and went to the World Series.
In those 17 playoff appearances, the Sox captured seven American League Pennants and three World Series titles. They were swept out of the playoffs only five times, while participating in 12 playoff series (ALDS, LCS, or World Series) that went all the way to winner-take-all elimination games.
The Cubs have made the playoffs only eight times since 1945, winning six division titles and two wild card births. In four of their eight appearances, they were swept out of the playoffs. Their only playoff series wins came in 2003 (NLDS), 2015 (NLDS), and 2016 (NLDS, NLCS).
The Red Sox were the lovable losers who were always just one rung short.
In 1984, the Cubs faced the San Diego Padres in the then-best of five NLCS. They went up two games to none in the series, only to drop the next three straight. San Diego went on to the World Series.
The closest they got (before this year) was by beating the Braves three games to two in the 2003 NLDS, then going up three games to one on the Florida Marlins in the NLCS. We all know what happened next.
Other than that, the Cubs have never made a sound in the playoffs before this year.
The comparison is not close on the stats sheet.
Let’s take a trip through the history of the Red Sox suffering, shall we?
1946- The Red Sox win the American League by 12 games and are heavy favorites to win the World Series. In game seven, a base hit turns into a game-winner for St. Louis, as the “mad dash,” as it is now known by Enos Slaughter, paired with the delayed, highly controversial throw from Red Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky, seals the World Series for the Cardinals.
1967- The “Impossible Dream” year. After finishing a half game above last place in 1966, the Red Sox miraculously rebounded to win the American League on the final game of the season in 1967, thanks to the Cy Young-winning season by ace Jim Lonborg, and the MVP season of Carl Yastrzemski. The Red Sox rallied from down 3-1 in the series to force a game seven at Fenway Park, with Lonborg pitching on two day’s rest against the Cardinals ace Bob Gibson, but were ultimately defeated 7-2.
1975- Game six at Fenway Park. The Red Sox, having already battled back from being down three games to one at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds, found themselves in a 6-3 hole in the bottom of the 8th. Bernie Carbo came off the bench and crushed a 2-2 pitch to dead centerfield for a three-run home run, tying the game at 6, and sending it to extra innings. In the bottom of the 12th, Carlton Fisk hit one of the most dramatic home runs in baseball history, sending one down the left field line and off the foul pole. Fisk, hopping down the first base line, waved his arms, attempting to direct the ball to stay fair. It worked, and the Sox won the game and tied the series. With three prior days of rain delay, the Red Sox had both ace pitchers Luis Tiant and Bill Lee available to try to close out the series. The Red Sox began game seven in the lead, 3-0, but ended up losing 4-3.
1986- Game 6 at Shea Stadium, Red Sox vs. Mets. The Sox made it to the World Series on the back of a dramatic late-inning home run by Dave Henderson, which ultimately sunk the California Angels. The Red Sox were one strike away from winning the World Series, which would be their first in 68 years. In a back and forth game, the Red Sox, after blowing a save in the bottom of the 9th, scored two more runs of their own in the top of the 10th, seemingly putting the game and the series away, up 5-3. The Mets were down to their last strike on two separate occasions, but managed three consecutive hits with two outs in the bottom of the 10th, cutting the Boston lead to 5-4. After pulling Calvin Schiraldi, Red Sox manager John McNamara went with former closer Bob Stanley to face Mookie Wilson. After a back-and-forth battle that kept the count at 2-2 for seven pitches, Stanley lost control of his next pitch, allowing the speedy Kevin Mitchell to score and tie the game at 5. Two pitches later, Wilson hit a slow roller down the first base line, which went through the legs of the first baseman Bill Buckner, allowing Ray Knight to score the winning run. The Mets would go on to win game seven at home the following night.
Why should the Cubs receive any kind of sympathy from Boston fans? The suffering the Red Sox have endured has been far worse.
But hey, at least we can blame the players on the field for our prior misfortune and not absurd happenings away from the game, right?
Take the selling of Babe Ruth, for instance. It is a prime example of the long term effects of giving a way a star player to a rival team. This is far less of a blatant “plague on both your houses” and more of an “oh shit, this has negatively impacted our franchise for an excrutiatingly long amount of time.”
Things originated differently on the North Side. Chicago tavern owner Billy Sianis brought a goat to the 1945 World Series and was kicked out because the smell of the animal was disturbing other fans, giving a verbal warning on his way out of Wrigley Field.
“Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more,” he allegedly declared.
Give me a break. Oakland Raiders fans can blame the Tuck Rule game for them not winning the Super Bowl in 2001. They can’t use it as an excuse for sucking for the next 14 years.
Red Sox fans can blame poor managerial decisions and individual on-field events for each heartbreaking defeat. Cubs fans have to find scapegoats in the years they got relatively close.
We can talk about the decision to start Jim Lonborg in 1967 on two-days rest, where he clearly struggled. We can talk about the decision by John McNamara to take Roger Clemens out of game six in 1986, and his decision to leave Bill Buckner in the game.
Or, we can talk about some poor guy who was doing what any fan would during a baseball game.
During game six of the 2003 NLCS, the fan that comes to mind is Steve Bartman, who interfered with a charging Moises Alou, who didn’t really have much of a chance of catching the foul ball in the first place. The player that is forgotten is Alex Gonzalez, who botched a potential double-play ground ball that would have closed out the inning, all but sending the Cubs to the World Series. Instead, the Marlins scored eight runs in the 8th and won the game.
Thirteen years later, Bartman still receives threats from fans who are completely oblivious to the fact that he is not responsible for losing the game. The players on the field are.
To rub even more salt in the would, the Cubs’ crosstown counterparts, the White Sox, won their first World Series in 88 years only two seasons later. But that’s less sad and more just unfortunate.
And, let’s be real, here. There is nothing romantic about this Cubs team we see before us in 2016. And it’s very easy to be romantic about baseball.
The Cubs had the best record in baseball in 2016, winning 103 games. The 2004 Red Sox were 10.5 games back of the Yankees in August 2004, but managed to close the gap to as few as 2.5 in almost three weeks, finishing only three games back, clinching a Wild Card spot. They won 98 games, which would be the third most in 2004 and the second most in 2016, but the New York Yankees were simply better.
The Cubs have no one in their division that is good on a consistent basis. I mean, sure, the Cardinals have traditionally been very good. But it’s nothing like the Red Sox have suffered at the hands of the Yankees. Just about every year, it has been the Yankees leading the division, and the Red Sox hanging on for dear life in the American League East.
The construction of the two teams could not be more different.
The 2004 Red Sox tearfully traded away one of their icons, shortstop Nomar Garciappara, in order to piece together a World Series team. Talk about romantic. The team was full of holes that ultimately found a way to cover each other’s weaknesses and win. They even called themselves “the Idiots.”
What have the Cubs done? They’ve essentially created a super-team, with four Cy-Young quality pitchers, an infield that started at all four positions in the All-Star Game, and an outfield bursting with talent. And they’ve done this with the same General Manager that helped the Red Sox break their curse in 2004- Theo Epstein- Another reason for Sox fans to be salty toward the Cubs. There’s a reason why many of the best players on the Cubs look familiar- they all used to play in Boston. Talk about a kick in the teeth.
If Epstein and the Cubs win this World Series, he will have punched his ticked into Cooperstown at the age of 42. He was 28 when the Red Sox won in 2004. Leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, doesn’t it, Boston fans?
But if you look up the word “magical” in the dictionary, you wouldn’t see a picture of this year’s Cubs, that’s for damn sure.
The Cubs advanced in the NLDS because the Giants bullpen completely fell apart. They beat the Dodgers because of Clayton Kershaw not being able to keep his cool during the playoffs. That’s not suffering.
And to top it off, the Cubs are actually favored to win the World Series. They’ve been the favorite ever since the season started? That’s never fun, to see the favored team win like everyone’s expecting them to.
If you want to be romantic about baseball, look no further than the 2004 American League Championship Series. Having been eliminated the year before by the Yankees on a game seven walk-off home run by Aaron Boone, the Red Sox returned to the ALCS against their rival squad, and quickly fell in a three-games-to-none hole.
With postseason heroics from the likes of Dave Roberts, David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, and a host of others, the Red Sox became the first team ever to win a best of seven series when down three games to none, rattling off four consecutive wins against their bitter rivals. And to finish off the victory in Yankee Stadium where they were crushed yet again in 2003 was the icing on the cake.
One could even argue that Sox fans should stay out of watching this World Series altogether- because the Cleveland Indians are pretty much the same thing; a host of former Red Sox players (and one former manager) who have somehow captured that “lightning in a bottle” essence and ridden it all the way to the Fall Classic.
But, to be fair, the Indians are the better story in all of this. To be plagued by injury, and then essentially slaughter two teams that are offensive juggernauts and were projected to beat you is a remarkable achievement by itself, especially for a city that has traditionally sucked at everything, and is now competing for its second major sports championship in six months. It’s NC State-esque, circa 1983. It’s playoff magic.
When it comes right down to it, both teams playing in the World Series are the Ghosts of Red Sox past.
So, Cleveland and Chicago, you’re welcome.
The bitterness between the Boston fan and the Chicago should absolutely exist. There’s a sense of vitriol that exists in Boston fans toward their teams, even in moments of elation.
Chicago fans could care less if their team wins- they’ve been doing it for the last 108 years. They don’t call Wrigley Field the “Friendly Confines” for nothing. Hell, people are already saying that the curse of the Billy Goat has been lifted even though the team hasn’t won the World Series yet. I mean, we were pumped when we pulled out that comeback against the Yankees in 2004, but at least we knew we had a job to finish.
When the Cubs and Indians take the field on Tuesday night in Cleveland, Boston fans have an interesting decision to make. History’s going to be made either way, it’s just a matter of which one you want to see win- or lose- most.
One franchise will undoubtedly earn a well-fought a World Series title for their city. For those of us on the outside looking it, it’s just a matter of who the members of Red Sox Nation want to accept as their equals.
The World Series begins Tuesday, October 25th at 8pm on FOX.
Disclaimer: I would like to state my need to watch history happen. So I’ll be rooting against this hot take. Prediction: Chicago wins this series, 4-1.
I enjoy making lists, countdowns, and making sense of the world that I see around me.