Tag: World Series

Cubs Parade 2016: Celebration Schedule, Live Stream, Route and Players to Watch

There might not be another celebration quite like what we are expecting out of the Chicago Cubs and their fans after 108 years of waiting.

The Cubs won their first World Series title since 1908 Wednesday night. Two days later, they will take part in a parade that will likely only be a continuation of a full week of parties.

Longtime fan Bill Murray is certainly looking forward to it, per MLB Network:

Whether you are preparing to join the fun or just watch along at home, here is what you need to know about the upcoming event.


Cubs World Series Parade

Date: Friday, Nov. 4

Time: 12 p.m. ET

TV: MLB Network

Live Stream: MLB.com; CBS Chicago


The celebration is certain to be a big one, with just about anyone within a few hours drive likely to take the day off and join the fun.

“We’re going to have a parade in Chicago that will stand the test of time,” mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday, per John Byrne of the Chicago Tribune. “It will be a parade that 108 years have waited for. It will be a parade and a celebration that all of Chicago for 108 years in their mind’s eye, have been envisioning. We’re going to make it a reality in the city of Chicago.”

This is a lot to live up to, but the attendance alone is certain to make this event a memorable one.

As Carrie Muskat of MLB.com noted, the Chicago Blackhawks drew about 2 million people for their parade for their third title in five years. It’s easy to imagine a lot more will care about the Cubs in a city of this size, even considering the fact those on the South Side already celebrated the Chicago White Sox title 11 years ago.

The attention for this series is also much more than anything we have seen in years. Austin Karp of Sports Business Daily reported over 40 million people watched Game 7 between the Cubs and Cleveland Indians, the most for a baseball game in 25 years.

Everyone from the diehards who were suffering for decades to the casual fans who just started watching this week will be able to enjoy this event, which will likely flood the streets throughout the city.

According to WGN, fans will be encouraged to watch from one of three locations, at Addison from Sheffield to Pine Grove, North Michigan Avenue from Oak St. to Ohio St., and Columbus Dr. from Monroe St. to Balbo Ave.

The parade itself will travel from Wrigley Field down Michigan Ave. and then Columbus Dr. toward Lower Hutchinson Field in Grant Park, where the official rally will take place around noon local time.

There could be north of 3 million people crowding the streets, so either be prepared for some all-day craziness or watch from the comfort of your own home.


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The Wait Goes on for the Cleveland Indians: ‘I Don’t Think It’ll Take 108 Years’

The day Mike Hargrove was traded to the Cleveland Indians, the team was 8.5 games out of first place and the drought was 31 years old. It was 1979, and while no one thought of the Indians as winners, there were many other cities and organizations that had waited much longer since last winning a World Series.

The Boston Red Sox were 61 years into a curse that would last for another two decades. The Chicago White Sox were 62 years into a wait that wouldn’t end until 2005. The Philadelphia Phillies had been around ever since the first World Series in 1903, and they’d never won one.

The Chicago Cubs? They were already the stuff of legend.

One by one, those other teams won. The Phillies in 1980, and the Red Sox in 2004. Then the White Sox, and finally Wednesday night, the Cubs. Hargrove spent seven years as an Indians player, nine years as the Indians manager and now the last six years as an Indians adviser.

He managed some of the greatest teams in franchise history, with two trips to the World Series. In 1997, his Indians were two outs from a title before losing to the Florida Marlins in extra innings in Game 7.

He was there Wednesday night at Progressive Field, too, when Rajai Davis hit the home run off Aroldis Chapman and when Ben Zobrist ripped the double that eventually made the Cubs champions.

He woke up Thursday like so many others in Cleveland, excited about what he had seen but disappointed to come so close again and lose.

But don’t tell Mike Hargrove what happened Wednesday was the continuation of any curse. Don’t tell him that another year without an Indians championship means they’re never going to win.

Instead of devastation, he feels hope. Instead of despairing about a missed opportunity, he looked at what the Indians have, what they’ve done and who they’ll get back from injury when it comes time to play again. Yes, he said, this Indians team is the one that can win.

“I really do believe that,” Hargrove said. “I think this group can break through. I certainly don’t think it’ll take 108 years.”

One-hundred eight was the Cubs’ number. The Indians are facing 68, now going on to 69 next season.

But as Hargrove and others who lived through the great Cleveland years but ultimate World Series disappointments of the 1990s watched this team, they felt mostly admiration.

They also had flashbacks, as another Indians team played extra innings in another World Series Game 7. Only four Game 7’s in World Series history have gone to extra innings, and the Indians were part of the last two.


“Yeah,” said Brian Anderson, who pitched in relief 19 years ago in Miami. “And not good for me or the Indians either time. It was an eerie reminder.”

As I pointed out in my Bleacher Report story on the Indians of the ’90s, Anderson grew up in Northeast Ohio and experienced much of the region’s sports angst as a fan. He still does as a Cleveland Browns season ticket holder.

But as he watched this World Series and rooted for his team, he didn’t see this as another sign the Indians can’t win or won’t win.

“I hope people don’t feel that way,” he said. “A lot of the national narrative has been that the Cubs are here to stay. But I don’t see any reason the Indians can’t do it, too. With [Danny] Salazar, [Carlos] Carrasco and [Corey] Kluber in the rotation, with [Andrew] Miller under control and a great young core, I think they can be the team that can end the drought.”

Looking back, it’s incredible they came as close as they did to ending it this year, with the injuries that kept Salazar and Carrasco from starting in the postseason and kept outfielder Michael Brantley from playing basically all year. It was “an implausible journey” to Game 7, as longtime Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton said Thursday.

Yes, the Indians held a three-games-to-one lead in the World Series. But even at that point, they were facing a Cubs team that held a big edge in the upcoming pitching matchups. Without Salazar and Carrasco, Indians manager Terry Francona was using his remaining pitchers on short rest and necessarily overtaxing a bullpen that had been brilliant.

“At the end of the day, taking nothing away from what the Cubs accomplished, in Games 6 and 7 the lack of depth finally caught up with us,” Hamilton said.

Still, that chance was there, right in front of them. Maybe it wasn’t as clear a chance as in 1997—this time, the Indians never held the lead after the fourth inning in a game that could clinch a title—but it was there.

“My brother texted me at 7:30 this morning and said he needs me there,” an Indians fan told me the morning of Game 7. This friend lives in Michigan, but he nervously headed to Cleveland.

“I want this so bad,” he told me. “It’s there. We gotta take it!”

They couldn’t take it.

“Brutal,” was all my friend could manage when it was over.

The narrative now is naturally about the Cubs fans, the ones who have waited so long and the ones who didn’t make it long enough to see the championship. In Wright Thompson’s fine story for ESPN.com, he visits an Illinois cemetery where fans left pennants on gravestones of those who were gone.

The Indians fans have largely gone unnoticed, even though their wait for a title has lasted most of their lifetimes. Hargrove may not have grown up an Indians fan, but he is too young to remember their last title.

They won in 1948. He was born the following October.

He was there at Progressive Field for Game 7, enough of a baseball person to appreciate what the Cubs had done.

“You feel good for them,” he said. “But you’d rather your guys were feeling good.”

There was no one to blame, no regrets about any decisions made or not made. There were no goats in this World Series, not in the sense of a curse, not in the sense of a player whose failure cost his team the title.

“I hurt for everybody who is part of that team and city,” said Dan O’Dowd, the MLB Network analyst who spent 11 years in the Indians front office. “But I’m so proud to be associated with the Indians, with how hard they competed. I think they were 24th in payroll [actually 27th by USA Today‘s numbers]. It’s incredible how they maximized that.”

Hamilton agreed, thinking back to an amazing postseason.

“Anybody with an ounce of common sense or baseball intelligence would have to be grateful for a month of baseball this city hasn’t had since the ’90s,” he said. “If people aren’t happy with that, I feel bad for them.”

Just as in the ’90s, though, there’s that one final step the Indians couldn’t manage.

Sandy Alomar Jr. understands that all too well. He played for the Indians teams of the ’90s. He serves on Terry Francona’s coaching staff now.

He came to Cleveland in a December 1989 trade and has spent most of the last 27 years trying to break through and win a title. Before this year’s run to the World Series, he would hear the current players joke about Cleveland fans still living through the teams of the past.

“I say, ‘Win it,'” Alomar said one day last summer. “Turn that page. Win it. I want this organization to win. I’d be the first one to be jumping up and down, trust me.”

It almost happened. One more time, the Indians came as close as any team could come, to extra innings in Game 7.

It didn’t end well for the Indians, not either time.

In Cleveland, the wait goes on.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball. 

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Historic Cubs-Indians World Series Moves MLB From Fading Pastime to Spotlight

If MLB locked 1,000 screenwriters with 1,000 typewriters in a room for 1,000 days, they couldn’t have conjured a better storyline for the 2016 World Series.

The game’s two longest suffering franchises. A galaxy of young stars on both sides. Montages of weathered knuckles and weary eyes and vintage Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians gear wistfully narrated by Bryan Cranston. 

Then, unbelievably, a taut seven-game affair packed with twists and intrigue. The Cubs—who had elevated the role of lovable loser to an art form—overcoming a 3-1 series deficit and winning in 10 innings in Game 7. On the road, after coughing up a late lead.

After the skies opened and the rain poured down for 17 minutes, just enough time for overpaid, underperforming right fielder Jason Heyward to deliver an inspirational speech.

The masses were transfixed, and why not? In a year defined by ugly, divisive politics, here was sport reduced to its most transcendent elements: talent, angst, high drama, joy.

“It’s got to be a top-three game of all time,” said Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein of Game 7, per MLB.com’s Andrew Simon, David Adler and Matt Kelly. “Everyone’s prone to hyperbole at moments like this, but I think it really was. It felt like it. I died like six times. It was pretty remarkable.”

The numbers don’t lie: 40 million people tuned in to watch Wednesday’s Game 7 on Fox, the highest viewership for a baseball game in a quarter-century, per USA Today‘s A.J. Perez

Overall, the 2016 Fall Classic averaged 23.4 million viewers, according to Paulsen of Sports Media Watch, up 59 percent from last season’s Kansas City Royals-New York Mets tussle.

It was the highest average since 2004, when an average of 25.4 million people tuned in to watch the Boston Red Sox defeat the St. Louis Cardinals and secure their first title since 1918. 

Maybe the takeaway is folks like to watch a long curse end. Undoubtedly, MLB owes a fat gift basket to Epstein, the architect of the Sox’s and Cubs’ drought-busting runs.

There’s something deeper at play, though. 

Granted, baseball is America’s pastime in name only. According to data cited by Bloomberg.com’s Will Leitch in April 2015, 67 percent of Americans consider football to be the nation’s pastime as compared to 28 percent for baseball.

Other professional leagues, from the NBA to the UFC, are also breaking off chunks of cultural relevance.

Baseball is stodgy, the narrative goes. It moves at a glacial pace and discourages displays of unbridled celebration with its mothball-infested unwritten rules. Hence reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper’s “Make Baseball Fun Again” campaign

There is no question baseball needs to keep looking in the mirror. The implementation of instant replay has helped get more calls right, but it’s still a work in progress. New technology could reduce umpire error even further.


The league has embraced other shifts, including the second wild card. Now, with the collective bargaining agreement expiring in December, everything from adding the designated hitter to the National League to stricter pace-of-play rules are on the table. 

The biggest thing baseball has going for it, though, is history. The NFL and especially the NBA may have more marketable superstars. The NFL has the edge in event viewing.

But you can’t manufacture the past. The Cubs-Indians clash was intriguing because of the players involvedburgeoning studs like Chicago’s Kris Bryant and Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor.

More than that, however, the interest came from the way those franchises were embedded with the cities they represented. The way generations of fans had lived and died with the laundry. 

America may not think of baseball first. But when the sport presents a compelling narrative, America is ready to come running back.

No, not every World Series will feature two teams with this kind of backstory, and one of them from a big market to boot. 

Yes, many casual observers will never be able to follow a 162-game season with the fervor they give to a once-a-week NFL tilt or a loaded UFC fight.

The effects of this series may be fleeting; it’s doubtful there will be a notable MLB ratings bump by the time April rolls around. 

Still, as Elizabeth Williamson of the New York Times noted:

It was a thrilling escape of a World Series, played in the shadow of a more consequential national cliffhanger, a battle of angry teams and distrusted coaches, in which 50, 60 or 80 percent of Americans say they’re afraid of what will happen to the country if the other side wins, and some threaten not to accept the result at all. This World Series brought joy in a time of exhaustion, and a reminder that there are things so much more important than the game.

It was a series that lent itself to flowery language edging toward hyperbole. The type that reminded you why this complex, confounding, indelible game has lasted so longsurviving wars, segregation, a depression, recessions, labor strikes and shrinking attention spans. 

A lot has changed since the Cubs last won the World Series in 1908, or the Indians in 1948. Here’s one thing that hasn’t: baseball.

It was in the spotlight then, and it’s in the spotlight now.

It’s tough to come up with a more compelling storyline than that.

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World Series 2016: Biggest Offseason Questions for Cubs and Indians

An epic 2016 World Series ended with one of the most memorable games in recent baseball history. The Chicago Cubs ended their 108-year championship drought with an 8-7, 10-inning win over the Cleveland Indians in Game 7.

While the elation is through the roof in Chicago, the disappointment is deep in Cleveland. Both teams, however, have plenty to address this offseason to ensure they make it back to the Fall Classic. Each club is facing important departures and obstacles that could affect the chances of a rematch in 2017.

Let us take a look at two major questions facing the Cubs and Indians, respectively, as they head into a significant offseason.


Can Chicago Re-Sign or Replace Pending Free Agents?

The Cubs went wire-to-wire as the best team in baseball, thanks to a loaded lineup and deep pitching staff that resulted in the seventh-highest payroll in the sport. Yet, the club may be forced to part with several key pieces of its championship squad.

Chicago has four significant players who could become free agents this winter in Aroldis Chapman, Chris Coghlan, Dexter Fowler and Jason Hammel. How the team handles these situations could have a tremendous impact on next season.

Fowler signed a one-year deal worth $9 million last offseason with an option to initiate a $5 million buyout to decline the second year, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. The 30-year-old could decide to opt out after he posted a .276 average with 13 homers and 48 RBI this season,. Those were his best numbers since 2012. Fowler was also a hero in Game 7, going 3-for-5 with an RBI, thanks to a historic swing, per Bleacher Report:

Perhaps more important to Chicago’s postseason run was Chapman, a trade-deadline acquisition who solidified the team’s pitching staff. Since Chapman’s arrival from the Yankees, the Cubs converted 16 of his 18 save attempts with a 1.55 ERA in the regular season. He also became the only bullpen member manager Joe Maddon trusted near the end of the World Series. Chapman pitched 5.1 innings with 97 pitches thrown in the last three games.

Coghlan and Hammel are less significant, as the former served as a reserve outfielder this season while Hammel won 15 games before failing to make the postseason roster. Given the value of starting pitching in MLB, it is hard to imagine Chicago making any legitimate effort to keep Hammel signed, as he could command some solid money.

The same could go for Fowler, as he could be in for a payday after his strong playoff finish. His .276 average was the second-highest of his career. As such, Chicago could be better suited to keep Coghlan in the outfield rotation. The Cubs then could promote a younger guy such as Javier Baez or Addison Russell to replace Fowler at the top of the order.  

This would end up saving the Cubs a long-term deal that could top $10 million a year for Fowler.

Lastly, Chicago should try to retain Chapman, but it has to be smart. The 28-year-old could command one of the biggest contracts ever for a reliever. Meanwhile, the Cubs have young players such as Baez, Kris Bryant, Russell and Kyle Schwarber who will eventually require hefty new deals.

For the right price, Chapman would be a perfect fit for a Cubs team that needs bullpen help. But that cost could end up being too high, as John Harper of the New York Daily News expects the Yankees to make a serious run at the closer.


Should Cleveland Bring Back Mike Napoli?

After outfielder Michael Brantley’s season ended due to a shoulder injury early in the season, it seemed Cleveland would have a massive hole in the middle of its lineup. Luckily, first baseman Mike Napoli came through for the Indians.

In 2016, Napoli experienced a career renaissance with his power at the plate, which Cleveland desperately needed. Even with Napoli‘s 34 dingers, the Indians still finished 18th in homers in the majors. However, the 35-year-old is a pending free agent, and it is not clear how the team will handle this situation.

Prior to Game 6, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported that the Indians have interest in bringing back Napoli, and the team believes the player shares that intrigue. 

“We have a desire to have him here, and my sense is that he has a desire to be here,” said Cleveland general manager Mike Chernoff, per Crasnick. “That’s something we’ll have to address once the World Series is over.”

Napoli will likely expect a raise from the one-year, $7 million deal he played on last season, given his production. But is this something Cleveland should want? Napoli is not a young player, and this past season was an outlier compared to his previous five campaigns:

His postseason numbers were also dreadful. Napoli posted a .173 average, one homer, three RBI, 21 strikeouts and just four walks. During Game 6, Sports Illustrated‘s Jonah Keri noted that Napoli‘s production was even worse, considering where he was hitting in the lineup:

The Indians do not have the payroll of big clubs such as the Cubs or Yankees. It cannot afford to be risky with players battling inconsistency such as Napoli. With Brantley set to return and the team having the option to re-sign Carlos Santana, Cleveland can make up for Napoli‘s production. It should move on unless he decides to stay at a discounted rate.


Can Both Teams Return to the World Series?

Chicago was the best team in baseball this season, and it could be better in the coming years. The team could even challenge this historic mark, courtesy of MLB.com:

Cubs President Theo Epstein has done a magical job of creating an influx of young talent, which sets the team up for a potential dynasty. Anthony Rizzo is the oldest member of Chicago’s offensive core moving forward at 27 years old. The remaining position players are all 24 years of age or younger. For being so young, this group still put up impressive numbers this season:

Other than Rizzo, the guys above—as well as Schwarber—have not even hit the peak of their primes yet. When they do, this lineup will be downright scary.

The rotation is also in good hands, as its top three arms still have plenty in the tank to propel another championship run. Jake Arrieta is 30 years old; Jon Lester is still 32. And 26-year-old Kyle Hendricks led the majors with a 2.13 ERA in the regular season and added a sparkling 1.42 mark in the postseason.

All three players are locked up until at least 2018, which makes the top of this Cubs rotation arguably the best in baseball next season. The bullpen could use some work, but this unit cannot be fully evaluated until the Chapman issue is resolved.

Cleveland also has plenty of reason for optimism because of the boost it will receive next season from players returning from injury.

Not only will Brantley return next season, but the New York Post‘s Joel Sherman reports that the star could be available for the entire season.

“He should be fine for spring training next year,” Chernoff said, per Sherman.

The Indians could deploy him with emerging superstar Francisco Lindor to solidify a lineup that still ranked fifth in MLB in runs without Brantley.

Cleveland was able to make this postseason run without several other key parts, as Tom Withers of the Associated Press noted:

Those two pitchers are Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. The latter returned for some relief work in the World Series, while Carrasco was shelved for the entirety of the playoffs. Here is what the Indians were missing behind ace Corey Kluber:

Having these two dynamic arms could have made the difference in this series for Cleveland. Yet, their absences gave 25-year-old Trevor Bauer some valuable experience. Bauer’s development in his fourth full season could give the Indians a formidable rotation of their own.

Napoli and possibly Rajai Davis are the only impactful free agents with a chance of leaving. Cleveland will return its sensational bullpen of Cody Allen, Andrew Miller and Bryan Shaw to go with its returning healthy players.

Given what each team is bringing back, Chicago and Cleveland look to be the favorites to emerge from their respective leagues. The volatility of MLB makes it unlikely that this will happen, but there is a chance the world could be treated to a sequel of this memorable matchup.


Statistics are courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

Contract and free-agency information are courtesy of Spotrac.com. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

2017 World Series Odds: Chicago Cubs Favored to Repeat

While the Chicago Cubs are currently busy celebrating the franchise’s first World Series title in 108 years, oddsmakers have listed them as heavy favorites to do it again in 2017.

Per OddsShark.com, the Cubs are 7-2 favorites to win next year’s World Series. The Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers are tied for second at 9-1, followed by the Washington Nationals at 12-1. 

More to follow.

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World Series 2016: Cubs Trophy Celebration Highlights, Comments and More

The Chicago Cubs and their diehard fans enjoyed a celebration befitting the long-awaited end of the team’s 108-year championship drought early Thursday morning as the team completed a memorable World Series comeback by defeating the Cleveland Indians on the road in Game 7.

Michael Martinez made the final out as his slow chopper to third was picked off the slick grass by Kris Bryant and fired across the diamond to Anthony Rizzo, who slyly slipped the ball into his back pocket as the celebration erupted in both Cleveland and Chicago.

It’s a moment many Cubs fans have waited decades to witness. They endured a multitude of heartbreak few fanbases in the United States can even fathom along the way. In the end, however, all of that disappointment made the hard-fought triumph even more euphoric.

Of course, the moment of exaltation didn’t come until after some drama. The Cubs blew a 6-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth as Rajai Davis smoked a game-tying two-run homer to left field after Brandon Guyer had doubled home a run for Cleveland.

After a scoreless ninth, the umpiring crew decided to call for the tarp as a heavy rain shower passed through the area. But after waiting 108 years, a couple of extra minutes is nothing.

Chicago came right back out in the 10th and put two runs on the board courtesy of RBI hits by Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero. Cleveland got one back thanks to another clutch hit by Davis, but it wasn’t enough as Mike Montgomery finally slammed the door shut on a terrific World Series.

Afterward, Cubs manager Joe Maddon discussed the championship from both a long-term and short-term perspective, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

“Historical,” Maddon said. “This carries more significance in the city of Chicago, the fanbase, just history. Obviously, the last time it was won was over a century ago. But for me, the significance is that this team, this group, wins a World Series.”

He added: “I wanted to attack the word ‘pressure’ and ‘expectation’ from day one, so that our guys would be used to hearing it, and also channel it in the proper direction. You’ve got to give our guys a lot of credit, because they’ve been hearing this from day one.”

Steve Keating of Reuters passed along comments from World Series MVP Zobrist, who likened the series and its epic Game 7 finale to a prize fight.

“It was like a heavyweight fight, man,” he said. “Just blow for blow, everybody played their heart out. The Indians never gave up either, and I can’t believe we’re finally standing, after 108 years, finally able to hoist the trophy.”

It’s a result that seemed like a long shot after the Cubs fell behind 3-1 in the series with the final two games looming at Progressive Field.

But perhaps in the end, the Indians’ injury issues finally caught up with them. They embarked on the playoff journey without outfielder Michael Brantley and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco. Fellow starter Danny Salazar returned, but he was limited to a bullpen role.

While the offense remained formidable, the starting rotation got stretched thin, forcing Corey Kluber to pitch three World Series games. The Cubs stuck with a four-man rotation and looked fresher over the final three contests. If Carrasco and Salazar were available to start, maybe Cleveland closes it out.

That said, Chicago was the best team all year long. It won 103 games during the regular season, eight more than the next-closest team, and the club’s star-studded roster responded to adversity with seemingly unwavering confidence throughout the playoffs.

It set the stage for a night Cubs fans, who were tortured for so long and endured 464 losses in a five-year span starting in 2010 as the organization went through a complete rebuild, will never forget. Billy Witz of the New York Times provided the perfect remarks to sum it all up from Rizzo.

“We’re world champions,” Rizzo said. “The Chicago Cubs are world champions. Let that sink in.”


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Bleacher Report’s 2016 World Series Awards

The better team won.

After all the talk of curses and droughts, and all the angst about which manager shouldn’t have used which pitcher at which point, it came down to simple baseball logic. The Chicago Cubs had more dependable starting pitchers and more productive stars.

They have the World Series title they deserve, and they have a more-than-memorable Game 7 to talk about for the next 108 years.

And here at Bleacher Report, we have World Series awards I started working on Sunday, when the Cleveland Indians had a 3-1 series lead. As you might imagine, it looked a little different then.

It changed Sunday night when the Cubs won Game 5. It changed even more when they won Game 6 Tuesday. And it changed two or three more times over the course of a Game 7 that began Wednesday night and ended after midnight Cleveland time Thursday morning.

It won’t change again, because after a baseball season that went the distance and then some, the Cubs have ended a legendary drought that went the distance and then some.

It’s safe now, I think, so here are Bleacher Report’s 2016 World Series awards.

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Rain Delay Speech Helps End Drought as Chicago Cubs Win Historic World Series

CLEVELAND — Into the droughts fell the rain. Seventh game of the World Series, nine innings completed, the score 6-6 and, of course. This Fall Classic would not nearly be large enough to contain the 108 years the Chicago Cubs had gone since their last title and the 68 years for the Cleveland Indians. It couldn‘t be. We should have seen this coming.

Yes, into every drought, eventually, falls the rain. And as it did Wednesday night, with the Progressive Field grounds crew dragging the tarp onto the field and the Cubs reeling from blowing a large lead and a few chances and, quite possibly, all of the good cheer they’d built up all summer, outfielder Jason Heyward called them into the strength and conditioning room just off the tunnel right behind the dugout and delivered a speech that echoed all the way back to 1908.

When they emerged and the skies cleared, it took them one inning to reach out and grab the rainbow, eking out an 8-7, 10-inning win in one of the best World Series Game 7s ever played.

“I just want to say this real quick,” owner Tom Ricketts said upon accepting the Commissioner’s Trophy. “Hey, the Cubs are World Series champions!”

How many people living today have ever heard that one before, there is no telling. But that number is incredibly small. They’re at least 108 years old.

This was a night for rewriting history, as starter-turned-reliever Jon Lester said. It was a night to be glued to the edge of your couch in front of the television, and one that crossed several generations.

It was for the late Ernie Banks and Ron Santo and for the living Billy Williams, as Ricketts said, and it was for fathers and sons and grandmothers and granddaughters and everyone else who’s ever fallen in love with this game, and this team, and fallen short and persistently picked themselves up and kept moving forward.

The Cubs raced to a 5-1 lead, and you could hear the party noise all the way from Clark and Addison Streets in Chicago.

They were four outs from winning when the Indians’ Rajai Davis slammed a stunning two-run, game-tying home run in the eighth inning against Aroldis Chapman, and Cleveland lit up like a birthday cake.

There were shocking errors from incredibly gifted infielder Javier Baez, Chapman’s blown save, Kris Bryant skillfully running the bases, MVP Ben Zobrist artfully working through plate appearances, Lester’s cringeworthy wild pitch, David Ross’ home run straight out of the pages of The Natural, Cleveland battling back, the Cubs nearly folding, the rain and…

“Best game I’ve ever been a part of,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “Best game I’ve ever seen, really.”

“I’m exhausted,” Ross said. “I feel like we played nine years.”

“Man, this one about made me pass out,” Zobrist said.

“This is why I came here,” said Lester, who signed a six-year, $155 million deal two winters ago. “To break the goat or the black cat or God knows what.”

How appropriate is it that the team burdened by the longest championship drought in the history of American professional sports—pick a sport, any sport—received new life during a rainstorm?

Inside that strength and conditioning room, a team that had grown unusually close since spring training gathered for an unusual speech from a quiet outfielder who suffered a bitterly disappointing season with the bat.

The Cubs were shellshocked following Davis’ astounding, game-tying home run in the eighth, and it would have been so easy to fall into tentative, here-it-goes-again mode.

This is the franchise that has been saddled with the “Curse of the Billy Goat” since 1945, when Billy Goat Tavern owner William Sianis put a hex on it when he was asked during that year’s World Series to please remove his pet goat from the ballpark because other patrons were complaining about its odor.

This is the club that blew a sure thing down the stretch to the New York Mets in 1969, a collapse immortalized in one instant when a stray, black cat suddenly appeared from nowhere and walked by Santo when he was in the on-deck circle at Shea Stadium.

This is the team that was five outs from a World Series in 2003 when poor Steve Bartman reached out to catch a foul ball and knocked it away from a waiting Moises Alou. The Florida Marlins stormed back, then won Game 7, and the Cubs were foiled again.

“The curse is an excuse,” Lester said as the champagne flowed. “The curse is an excuse to me, just looking for a way out. We cared about playing good baseball.”

Oh, there were plenty of chances for the goat to bleat again. Baez carelessly rushed a throw to first base in the first inning for an error, then missed barehanding a flip from shortstop Addison Russell in the third to allow Cleveland’s first run, evening the game at 1-1.

Later, after a clearly fatigued Chapman surrendered the devastating Davis homer, Heyward was on third base with one out in the ninth inning when Baez fouled off a two-strike safety squeeze attempt. After the strikeout, Dexter Fowler grounded to short. Then, Cleveland went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the rain fell and the game was delayed for 17 minutes.

It was the most important rain delay in the last century for the Cubs. Seriously.

Seeing a few downcast faces, Heyward gathered them, players only, and began talking.

“You guys should all look in the mirror and understand we can get it done,” he told them with a dash of anger, a pinch of passion and much love. “I don’t care who it is. There are a lot of [things that happen] over the season. You’re not going to be happy about some things, and some are easier to swallow. Just be happy in this moment, in this situation, because you can come through.”

He mentioned Baez’s muffed safety squeeze attempt.

“That’s a tough thing,” Heyward said. “We’ve all got to be ready to do what our manager asks us to do, and it’s not easy. It’s not easy for him to make the calls and pull the strings, but it’s not an easy thing for us to do, either. And [Bryan Shaw] is a tough pitcher to bunt off of, too.

“I understood Javy was frustrated, but I also understood that we, as a group, live and die with each other’s at-bats, and I wanted to remind him that, hey, you guys will be fine. We’ve overcame it before, we can do it again. Just, everybody be ready. Yeah, I know what the situation is now. Yeah, I know it’s game tied, it’s Game 7, whatever. But just know you can get it done, and I wanted everybody here to feel like they accomplished something to get us to this point because it’s true.”

Talk about using your time wisely.

“I walk off and I see them all gathering in that little room down below there, and they had a meeting,” manager Joe Maddon said. “And I’m upstairs just checking out the weather map.

“Like I told you, I hate meetings. I’m not a meetings guy. I love when players have meetings. I hate when I do. So they had their meeting and the big part of it was, we don’t quit.”

Across the field, the Indians’ time wasn‘t nearly as productive.

“I went to the bathroom,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “I mean, [the delay] was only about 10 minutes. I don’t think it had much impact.”

Oh, but if they only knew…

No sooner had the tarp been pulled from the field than Kyle Schwarber punched a single to lead off the 10th. After Shaw issued a one-out walk to Rizzo, Zobrist squirted an opposite-field RBI double, roaring with glee as he pulled into second base, face contorted, fists pumping, helmet flying off his head.

Two batters later, Miguel Montero rifled an RBI single to boost the Cubs’ lead to 8-6.

“The rain delay, I think it was really important for our team,” Zobrist said, noting Heyward pushing the reboot button.

He continued: “It was just an epic battle. We’ve been listening to the Rocky soundtrack the last three games. We’ve got our own Italian Stallion, Anthony Rizzo, who’s been putting that on.

“It was like a heavyweight fight, man. Just blow for blow, everybody playing their hearts out.”

The drought came to a gushing end just as many people who have watched the best team in baseball this summer thought it would. But it ended in a way nobody thought it could.

Rookie Carl Edwards Jr. and midseason acquisition Mike Montgomery pitched the 10th, with Montgomery getting the save. Montero was behind the plate, rushing toward Montgomery following the final out, appropriately enough, Michael Martinez’s ground ball to third. Bryant was close behind the ball after he threw to first, meeting his best friend, Rizzo, in the grass behind the mound for a bear hug, and the rest of the Cubs threw their caps and gloves into the air.

And Chicago’s North Side blues are no more. Thousands in the crowd of 38,104 sang several joyful choruses of “Go, Cubs, Go” as Edwards Jr. held a “W” flag aloft and the party started.

It wasn‘t always easy, and they certainly didn‘t always follow the expected path, but these Cubs embraced the target and digested the pressure. It’s what Maddon preached from the first day of spring training, understanding that the only way for a Cubs team not to get crushed under the weight of history would be to welcome all comers.

“Everybody’s waiting for the other shoe to drop,” Maddon said. “And you’ve got to expect something good to happen as opposed to that. And I know that even tonight, I’m certain people would be doubtful the way it all played out, but that’s the game of baseball. There’s professionals on both sides. Both teams are good, and there’s going to be an ebb and flow to the game.

“It has nothing to do with curses or superstition. It has nothing to do with what’s happening today, nothing. If you want to believe in that kind of stuff, it’s going to hold you back for a long time.

“I love tradition. I think tradition is worth time, mentally, and tradition is worth being upheld. But curses and superstitions are not.”

Imagine, the Cubs, lovable winners. There are babies born this year who do not know a world in which the Cubs are not World Series champions.

“The whole thing was storybook,” Ross said. “I feel like I’ve been in a movie that’s been happening since spring training. You can’t write it.

“I caught a no-hitter [Jake Arrieta‘s, in Cincinnati in April]. The best team in baseball. This is the first team I’ve been on that’s won 100 games [103, to be precise]. Those guys continued to fight.

“Before the game, if you told me we’d give up seven runs, I’d say we were going to lose.”

But this time, the Cubs won. They became only the seventh team in history to come back from a 3-1 deficit and win a World Series, and the first team since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates to do it on the road. And stamped-for-Cooperstown president of baseball operations Theo Epstein built a bookend for his 2004 Red Sox team that won a title in Boston for the first time in 86 years.

“This,” Epstein said, “was one of the best games of all time.”

Said Ross: “I’m not a history major, but that was pretty dang good.”

Goat-busters and reign-makers. Crown them, the Chicago Cubs, World Series champions. Somewhere over the rainbow, it’s really happened.


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Cubs’ Championship Heroics Rescue Chapman, Maddon from World Series Goat Status

You can exhale, Chicago Cubs fans. It finally happened.

After 108 years of waiting, you watched your team storm the field and hoist a trophy. You watched the Cubbies win the final game of the postseason 8-7 Wednesday night at Progressive Field.

You did not have to wait until next year.

It wasn’t easy. The Cleveland Indians kept pushing back. They came awfully close, in fact, to turning Cubs skipper Joe Maddon and closer Aroldis Chapman into a pair of goats, to invoke the Windy City’s least favorite barnyard creature.

In the end, Chicago’s heroics prevailed against the Tribe and Mother Nature. Just barely.

Things began on an auspicious note for the Cubbies, who led 1-0 after Dexter Fowler’s leadoff home run in the top of the first inning. 

The Indians tied it 1-1 in the third on a Carlos Santana single, but Chicago plated two in the fourth and two in the fifth to take a commanding 5-1 lead.

Shortstop Addison Russell, who tallied six RBI in Chicago’s 9-3 Game 6 win, notched a sacrifice fly. Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo knocked in runs with a double and a single, respectively. And brash second baseman Javier Baez launched a solo homer.

The Cubs, by all accounts, were in control. They’d gotten to noted postseason ace Corey Kluber and neutralized the threat of Cleveland’s shutdown bullpen, particularly Andrew Miller.

Then, in the fifth, with two outs, starter Kyle Hendricks walked Santana. Hendricks, MLB‘s reigning ERA king, had been mostly excellent, commanding his pitches and exhibiting a cool, collected demeanor on the hill.

Still, Maddon went to the pen and summoned Jon Lester, a proven postseason performer but by no means an experienced reliever, along with catcher David Ross, replacing Contreras.

Right on cue, a throwing error by Ross and a wild pitch by Lester plated two runs and made it 5-3.

Ross made it 6-3 in the sixth with a solo homer, temporarily easing the sting.

But Maddon‘s machinations weren’t over yet.  

With one on and two out in the eighth, the Cubs manager turned to Chapman. It made sense in a way. The Cubs acquired the fire-balling reliever at the trade deadline for precisely this moment. 

Maddon, however, used Chapman for 20 pitches in the Cubs’ relatively easy Game 6 win after asking him to get the final eight outs in Game 5. It was worth wondering how much the Cuban hurler had sloshing in the tank.

Chapman surrendered a run-scoring single to Brandon Guyer to make it 6-4. Then Rajai Davis launched a two-run homer, his first home run since August 30, to tie it at 6-6. 

That was the moment when the curse fog crept in, when long-suffering Cubs fans could be forgiven for curling up in the fetal position with visions of Steve Bartman dancing in their heads.

Their bullpen stud had failed them. Their manager, a noted chess master, had wandered into checkmate. The air smelled like defeat.

Instead, after a 17-minute rain delay that felt like a practical joke from above, the Cubs rallied.

Kyle Schwarber, who was supposed to be done for the season after busting his knee in early April, opened the 10th inning with a single. 

After a Kris Bryant flyout and an intentional walk to Rizzo, Ben Zobrist plated a run with a double. Miguel Montero added an RBI single to make it 8-6.

Davis made it 8-7 in the bottom of the frame with an RBI base hit. Ultimately, though, the Cubs pen locked it down. It wasn’t Chapman who recorded the final outs, but rather Carl Edwards Jr. and Mike Montgomery.

It was a true team effort. There were heroes up and down the roster. Maddon was saved from an offseason of brutal second-guessing. Chapman avoided becoming the latest symbol of the Cubs’ formerly inevitable futility.

It felt like the duo escaped as much as triumphed, as NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra noted:

Hindsight is 20/20. Maddon pulled many of the right levers this season, and Chapman was a necessary cog in Chicago’s curse-busting machine. 

In Game 7, however, it was the sheer force of the Cubbies‘ collective will that got them over the hump. A team accustomed to choking chewed up the moment and spit it out, victorious.

“It’s really great for our entire Cub-dom to get beyond that moment and continue to move forward,” Maddon said, per Jordan Bastian and Carrie Muskat of MLB.com. “Because now, based on the young players we have in this organization, we have an opportunity to be good for a long time, and without any constraints, without any of the negative dialogue.”

He’s right. The Cubs are just another squad now, talented and looking toward the future. They slayed the billy goat and kept it out of Maddon and Chapman’s lap.

You can exhale, Cubs fans. It finally happened. 

It finally happened.

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Ben Zobrist Wins 2016 World Series MVP Award

Ben Zobrist has been named Most Valuable Player of the 2016 World Series while helping the Chicago Cubs secure their first title since 1908.

The outfielder had the game-winning RBI double in the 10th inning of the dramatic Game 7 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

Baseball Reference noted the historical importance of the game-winning hit:

He also finished the series batting .357 with a .419 on-base percentage, getting a hit in six of the seven games.  

Zobrist has now won back-to-back titles after winning the World Series with the Kansas City Royals last season.

ESPN Stats and Info provided an interesting note on the veteran player:

Per Odds Shark, the No. 4 hitter had 10-1 odds to win this award coming into the series, tied for second-best among Cubs players behind only Jake Arrieta. He lived up to expectations with a strong performance throughout the seven games.

He finished with a .250 batting average and five RBI in 17 postseason games.

His wife, Julianna, provided motivational words from her view of the big play:

Buster Olney of ESPN discussed the lack of pressure Zobrist had put on himself in these big games:

Of course, with a team like this, there were plenty of other options for MVP. Woody Paige of the Gazette noted the possible options:

Kyle Schwarber batted .412 in his appearances as a designated hitter after missing most of the season. Anthony Rizzo hit .360 with some clutch RBI, while Kris Bryant was responsible for some of the biggest moments in the series.

The pitching staff also had some big moments, although Justin Verlander was voting for a sentimental favorite:

David Ross hit a key home run in his last game before retiring.

Still, it was Zobrist who took home the hardware, helping break the longest championship drought in professional sports in his first season with the team.

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