The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians are hours away from Game 1 of the World Series. The world, to my knowledge, has not yet ended. Hell has not frozen over; a deadly plague has not befallen the human race; Andre 3000 has not released a solo album.

Which means one of these teams will actually win a championship.

The Indians haven’t hoisted a World Series trophy since 1948. The Cubs haven’t even played for one since 1945. Tack on another four decades if you want to know how long it’s been since the franchise has actually won the whole thing.

A Cubs-Indians World Series feels about as likely as a Taylor Swift-Kanye West collaboration album. And, if the last few weeks are any indication, it might be about halfway as dope. Cleveland has gotten to the Fall Classic on the guile of a makeshift pitching staff, surviving drone accidents, spot starts and a heavy lean on the bullpen.

The Cubs were a regular-season freight train that looked to be going off the rails in back-to-back shutout losses against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then they put up 23 runs across three straight wins and flexed their muscles to reach the World Series.

Here is a look at what each manager and starting pitcher is saying ahead of the historic Game 1.


What They’re Saying

Cubs Manager Joe Maddon

Maddon discussed his relationship with Terry Francona. Unfortunately, it appears, they have never played cribbage together:

Well, Tito and I got to be friends just through managing against. When he was with Boston, I was with Tampa Bay, we did a lot of talking. There were different times when they were attracted to some of our free agents and we talked about that. But, I mean, I’ve gotten the same impression that everybody else has, he’s gregarious, easy to get to know, a good friend, and a very good manager.

So we got to know each other on that level. It’s not a social kind of a thing. We’ve never gone out. I’ve never had a chance to play cribbage with him. I guess he likes to play cribbage. But he’s a wonderful man, and he’s done a great job in a couple different places, so I’m very happy for his success.

Much of the city of Chicago—and the nation—has focused on what winning a championship would mean for the Cubs. Maddon said his team is fully focused and not looking ahead:

I promise you, our guys are going to be in the present tense. I think we all have a tremendous amount of respect for history and what’s happened before us or not happened before us. But, you know, you go in that room right now, they’re very young. Really not impacted by a lot of the lure, I don’t think, other than the fact that we are impacted by our city and our fans and the people that attend our games and the conversations that we have, absolutely, an impactful moment.

Maddon nonetheless said he’s embracing the pressure:

I’ve said it probably a hundred times this year, I think it’s great. I really addressed that point in Spring Training. In Spring Training, there was an inordinate amount of expectations and pressure that was heaped upon us, and I tried to convince our guys that’s a good thing. Why would you ever want to do anything or be part of a situation or moment that did not have great expectations? And I think they’re synonymous terms. Expectations and pressure probably become synonymous. And why would you ever want to run away from that? The alternative right now I could be in Tampa cooking steaks in my backyard, making sure DirecTV is working properly. And I’d much prefer this reality.

So I plan to enjoy it. I want our guys to enjoy the moment. I want them to take mental snapshots of everything that we’re doing out here.


Cubs Pitcher Jon Lester

Lester discussed what’s gone into his recent improvement with runners on base:

I don’t know. I mean, I guess it could be testament to our defense. I feel like our whole staff has done a really good job with runners on base, not just myself. So really our bullpen as well. So I think it’s a testament to our guys making quality pitches and then at the same time, our defense has played really well behind us.

So we’re not afraid of contact and letting these guys do their job as well. So it’s been, I think, a culmination of all of us just kind of bearing down.

Lester and Anthony Rizzo are unique in that they’re teammates who have battled cancer and returned to elite form. He discussed their bond:

Yeah, I mean, I think we have a unique bond just with everything in our past and what we’ve been through. I think that makes coming to a team like this as a new guy, last year, it made our relationship a little bit easier. You already had something that joined you. So that was good.

First time I met Anthony, five minutes after I met him, he fainted. So there were some interesting moments early on. But just talking to him through the years here and there and seeing what kind of inspiration this guy is to other people, not only on the field but off the field, and what he’s been able to do in the Chicago community and the community back home in Florida, I think, for me that’s the cool thing. I look up to him on that. I know how hard it is to do the things that he does outside of baseball, and he does them all over the place, and he puts his whole heart into it.

It’s fun to be his teammate, and it’s awesome to be a part of kind of the stuff he does off the field, the charitable stuff as well.

One of the most successful World Series pitchers in history, Lester talked about how he handles the moment:

I don’t know. I try to harness my emotions, but these stages sometimes — you know, I pitch with emotion and all that stuff. So sometimes it comes out. But as far as is pitching, I believe as I got done saying, it’s a cookie-cutter answer, but you execute your fastball, you execute your pitches. It works the same here as it does during the season. So I just try to take that mindset. […]

You have a routine, you have the stuff that you’re supposed to do day-in and day-out to prepare your body and prepare your mind for these moments. I feel like when I’m in that routine and I show up, now it’s the fun part. Now you get to pitch. You spend the other four days kind of busting your butt and sitting around to get to this point.


Indians Manager Terry Francona

Francona also discussed his relationship with Maddon:

I think Joe’s career speaks for itself. He started in Tampa and had the ability down there to kind of almost do what he wanted. He always pushed the envelope trying to do some things, whether it was playing four outfielders against Ortiz. The one thing he’s always had the ability to do is keep a clubhouse together, which is saying a lot, during the course of 162 games, keeping guys going in one direction. I mean, certainly there’s a lot more to him than that. He’s very intelligent. But just for the fact that he gets teams going and believing is a pretty big compliment in itself.

After managing the Red Sox to their first World Series in nearly nine decades in 2004, Francona knows a bit about ending droughts. It just doesn’t seem to factor into his thinking:

I know that’s a really cool thing for fans to talk about and stuff. It really doesn’t enter into what we’re doing. It’s so hard to win anyway. We’ll put all our energy into tomorrow, see if we can beat Lester, and whoever follows him, hopefully. Then if we win, we’ll move on. If we lose, we’ll move on and try to win the next day.

I just think if you look too far back, you look too far forward, you miss what’s right in front of you. So these players have earned the right to try to see if we can beat the Cubs, and that’s going to be a tall enough task. But I don’t think we need to go back and concern ourselves with 40, 50, 60 years ago.

Francona previously managed Lester in Boston and discussed their relationship:

He’s one of my favorites. He’s one of everybody’s favorites though, so that’s an easy one. I won’t be pulling for him tomorrow, but he’s very special. I’ve known his mom and dad for a long time, and he’s pretty special.


Indians Pitcher Corey Kluber

Kluber discussed the Indians’ resilience despite injuries in the rotation:

Injuries are a part of the game. It’s going to happen throughout the year. Obviously, we’ve had our fair share of them pitching-wise. But I think it’s just really guys embracing the challenges of stepping in and filling those shoes. Not really trying to do too much, but just really going out there and being the pitchers that they are, do what makes them good. I think it’s had good results for us.

Like everyone, Kluber seemed to want to focus on the moment at hand than the big picture:

Oh, I think you’re aware of it. Obviously, you’re in the World Series, and there’s two teams left and all that kind of stuff. But also at the same time, I think you’re so wrapped up in the moment of trying to prepare and do everything you can to be ready that. For me at least, it’s been all about getting prepared and being ready when it is time to throw that first pitch tomorrow. It will probably be something that will take more time to reflect on after the fact.

Kluber also highlighted what a special moment this is for Cleveland as a sports city:

It’s entertaining. I know at the last game they came to, it looked like they were having a good time up there. But, yeah, it was an unbelievable run they went on in the spring. It definitely sent a vibe through the city. You could just feel the energy through that run after they won and stuff like that. I think it’s been great. It’s been great for Cleveland the fact they won a championship, and hopefully we can bring them another one.


All transcriptions are from ASAP Sports.

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