No matter who wins the 2016 World Series, history will be made. The Cleveland Indians’ last championship came in 1948. The Chicago Cubs’ last World Series appearance was three years earlier.

Facebook wasn’t even invented yet! Everyone’s internet was dial-up! There was only a Starbucks every two blocks instead of every block!

It’s amazing that people existed back in those times. But here we are, all this time later, with a pair of teams that took their own unique route to the Fall Classic.

The Indians are, by far, the bigger surprise. Experts who chose them to win the AL Central were in the minority—let alone those who picked them to win the American League. Their rotation behind Corey Kluber was seen as shaky, and their bullpen needed some work behind Cody Allen. No one questioned their offensive firepower, but games in October are time and again won with elite arms.

Cleveland has gone ahead and proved everyone wrong over the last few weeks, posting a 7-1 postseason record behind elite pitching. The Indians have given up more than five runs just once so far and have gotten by despite fielding a makeshift rotation at times.

Their Game 5 American League Championship Series starter, Ryan Merritt, had one career start and 11 innings on his MLB resume before contributing to a six-hit shutout of the Toronto Blue Jays. Merritt was only placed in that position after Trevor Bauer injured his hand while fixing a drone in the middle of a postseason run.

Had the Indians gone on to blow the ALCS, that drone incident would have been enough to push a “curse” conspiracy theory.

Cleveland can attribute a lot of its success to manager Terry Francona, who has pushed all the right buttons in this postseason run. He’s trusted reliever Andrew Miller to go multiple innings in each of his appearances, has known just when to pull a tiring starter and has kept his team loose amid the postseason pressure.

Second baseman Jason Kipnis told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post:

Tito is the forefront of us, in all we do. You are not going to find one guy in here who does not enjoy playing for him and doesn’t wish he would be their manager the rest of their careers.

Once you have a guy like Tito, you really don’t want anybody else to manage you. You are like, ‘This is the way it should be, this is the way I want it to be, this is the way I enjoy it.’ He’s so much fun and he lets you be who you are.

Joe Maddon can take just as much credit in the triumph of these Cubs. Brought over as part of Theo Epstein’s master rebuilding plan before last season, Maddon has won 200 regular-season games in two years. If Chicago wins more than two games in this series, he will have surpassed his postseason win total with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Epstein has been at the forefront of the headlines over the last few days for good reason. Brought over after an unfortunately tense exit from Boston, the Cubs president enacted one of the best slow rebuilds in recent history. He stocked the prospect cupboards with elite bats, bided his time in free agency and then pounced when everything was ready to culminate.

The Cubs posted a ridiculous plus-252 run differential during the regular season. While they didn’t wind up blasting records as projected, it’s hard to do much better than rank third in runs scored and first in runs against.

“I think sometimes in the game today, it gets to the point where it’s just about acquiring a number,” Maddon said, per Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. “I’m a big believer in that, but I also like the balance between the person and what the back of his baseball card says. Our guys do a wonderful job of balancing the math with the actual person.”

Chicago enters this series as a heavy favorite, listed at minus-185 at Odds Shark. The depth of its roster is hard to contend with. If you get past Jon Lester, here comes Jake Arrieta. If you get past Arrieta, Kyle Kendricks and John Lackey are right behind him. It’s hard to imagine a lineup starting better than Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist.

Oh yeah, sure you can. You can add Kyle Schwarber to the end of that. He has made progress in his rehab and may wind up being available for designated hitter duties in the Fall Classic.

“He asked for a chance to do this,” Epstein said, per Jesse Rogers of “With as hard as Kyle has worked and as much as this means to him—and potentially us—we wanted to give him that opportunity.”

Even if Schwarber winds up being available for only pinch-hitting duty, he would give the Cubs another weapon in their seemingly endless arsenal. It’s hard to look at the talent on the two sides of the diamond and come up with any other outcome than a Cubs win.

The Indians have an almost-unhittable back end of their bullpen, but getting to Miller and Allen will be hard against this lineup. After more than a century, the Cubs are primed for another World Series championship.

Prediction: Cubs in six.

Read more MLB news on