We'll be digging into this series in every possible way over the next three days, but let's not let all the analysis distract us from the fundamental, and staggering, fact at hand here. In 10 days or fewer, either the Chicago Cubs or the Cleveland Indians are going to be World Series Champions. The year 2016 is certain, no matter what happens, to be a season that is remembered for decades to come for that precise reason. It doesn't make a difference exactly what goes down. For someone who just wants to see history, all outcomes are wonderful outcomes.
Schedule (with probable starters)
Game 1: Tuesday, Oct. 25, 8 p.m. ET, Progressive Field, FOX (Lester vs. Kluber)
Game 2: Wednesday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m. ET, Progressive Field, FOX (Arrieta vs. Bauer)
Game 3: Friday, Oct. 28, 8 p.m. ET, Wrigley Field, FOX (Hendricks vs. Tomlin)
Game 4: Saturday, Oct.29, 8 p.m. ET, Wrigley Field, FOX (Lackey vs. TBA)
Game 5 (if necessary) Sunday, Oct. 30, 8 p.m. ET, Wrigley Field, FOX (TBA vs. TBA)
Game 6 (if necessary): Tuesday, Nov. 1, 8 p.m. ET, Progressive Field, FOX (TBA vs. TBA)
Game 7 (if necessary): Wednesday, Nov. 2, 8 p.m. ET, Progressive Field, FOX (TBA vs. TBA)
Likely lineups (at least for Game 1)
CF Dexter Fowler
3B Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Ben Zobrist
SS Addison Russell
2B Javier Baez
DH Willson Contreras/Jorge Soler/Kyle Schwarber/Albert Almora Jr.
RF Jason Heyward
C David Ross
CF Rajai Davis
2B Jason Kipnis
SS Francisco Lindor
1B Mike Napoli
DH Carlos Santana
3B Jose Ramirez
LF Brandon Guyer
RF Lonnie Chisenhaall
C Roberto Perez
Three questions for the Cubs
- Will the rotation hold up? Jon Lester will start Game 1 on full rest and Jake Arrieta will go in Game 2. But how much does Joe Maddon push Lester, if the series doesn't start the way he wants? Arrieta, in particular, is a bit of a concern: If Cleveland wins Game 1 against Lester, that's a lot to put on Arreita's shoulders.
- The bats aren't going to disappear again, are they? It wasn't until Game 4 of the NLCS that the Cubs' offense really showed up. Once it did, it was bombs away, but there's always a danger of a similar disappearing act. A big question: If the offense struggles again, would they pull Jason Heyward back out of the lineup like they did in the NLCS? Are we even sure he starts Game 1? The Cubs have a ton of young bench talent and have almost more options than they know what to do with.
- Is this it? No more talk about The Fear here. The Cubs have cracked though to their first World Series in more than 70 years without really breaking much of a sweat. Their attitude throughout seems precisely designed to destroy any "curse" business: They're young, they're awesome and they don't care about some stupid goat. This team hasn't shown any fear all season. They're not starting now. They're ready to do this.
Three questions for the Indians
- They wouldn't really try Danny Salazar … would they? Terry Francona floated the tantalizing notion that the injured Indians starter could potentially start a game in the Series. That seems ambitious, but it speaks to the general worry the Indians face: Do they have enough starting pitching after Corey Kluber? Ryan Merritt was a fun little story, but is that someone you can really count on against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in the World Series? Is Trevor Bauer's pinkie ready to go? The Indians arguably have the starting pitching disadvantage in every game. Francona has to patch together what he can.
- How long until Andrew Miller's arm falls off? Unless there's a blowout in either direction, you should expect Miller to pitch in every game this series. He has to blow out eventually, doesn't he? Even if Miller remains his dominant self the whole way, you're still talking about a guy pitching 10 innings tops this whole series. You still have to figure out how to fill the others.
- Can LeBron play? Well, he'll be a little busy raising that championship banner, but you know what I mean: The whole "Indians are blessed" vibe derives in large part from LeBron's magic last June. It made us all feel that maybe, somehow, it really is Cleveland's year. The Indians might not match up to the Cubs talent-wise, but there's undeniably something special about this team. Still: Quite a hill to climb here. There better really be something in the Cleveland air, because the Tribe could use it.
How do you overcome history and curses? In sports, you do it by not caring one whit about either of them. The Cubs have steamrolled everything in their path since Spring Training. They still haven't faced an elimination game. When everything is running smoothly, they seem nearly indestructible. The Indians have a couple paths to winning this series. But the Cubs have about 100. Maybe 108, to be exact.
Cubs in five.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow me @williamfleitch; or just shout out your window real loud, I'll hear you. Point is, let's talk.