Steve Bartman, wherever you are, you can come home now. The Curse of the Billy Goat is over. The ghosts of 1969, 1984 and 2003 are expunged. The Cubs are world champs after prevailing in what will go down as one of the most dramatic World Series’ ever.
It’s hard for this old Cub fan to put what we have witnessed into words after 53 years of heartbreak and futility. I had given up after the Cubs were down 3-1 to the Indians. After all, one learns to be a pessimist when you are a Cub fan especially after having lived through the aforementioned three years when the Cubs collapsed when it appeared they were going to win the pennant. In the 8th inning last night, visions of 2003 were dancing through my mind when the Indians came back to tie it. The only thing missing in that inning was Mr Bartman although Joe Madden seemed to be filling in his shoes quite nicely (more on that later). But this edition of the Cubs, young as they are, showed they had a ton of character as they fought it off and won the game in dramatic fashion after a short rain delay.
As much as I respect Madden and the way he leads this team, I was cursing him to the heavens last night. Had the Cubs lost, it would have been squarely on his shoulders. Taking out Kyle Hendricks in the 5th inning while he was in control was a terrible mistake. The result was two quick Cleveland runs, which put them back in the game. Then, after Jon Lester had settled down, he took him out and brought in a clearly tired Aroldis Chapman-who had inexplicably been issued in game 6 when they were comfortably ahead. Before you could say Steve Bartman, the game was tied.
The Cubs almost took the lead again in the 9th when Jason Heyward wound up on third with Javier Baez hitting and one out. Then, with the count 3-2, Madden had Baez attempt a safety squeeze. He fouled it off for strike three, and the Cubs failed to score. Chapman was sent back out in the 9th and fortunately managed to get the side out. That set the stage for the 10 inning heroics.
Make no mistake: Madden is a great leader, but he would have been the goat had Cleveland won this game.
Ultimately, I think the reason the Cubs won was because they were able to use 4 starting pitchers while Terry Francona used a three man rotation due to the injuries to starters Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco. It caught up with all three of the Indians’ starting pitchers having to pitch on 3 days rest.
But no mind. The Cubs are champs.
Give credit to a fine Cleveland team. They exposed a Cub weakness-the tendency of young hitters to swing at pitches out of the strike zone. (With age and experience that problem will be taken care of.) Francona showed a lot of class in his post game interviews. I certainly feel for the fans of Cleveland, who have experienced their own drought of 60 years without a World Series title. They can take solace in the fact that their team is set to contend again next year. They can also take solace in realizing that there is no such thing as a curse-something I had begun to believe in until last night’s final out.