The impossible has happened: it’s going to be the Cubs and the Indians in the World Series. And regardless of how this World Series turns out for either team, this is the best outcome MLB could have hoped for.
No, it’s not a traditional matchup featuring MLB’s heavyweights–Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cardinals, et. al.–but we should be long past thinking that only big-market teams can attract widespread interest. The most-watched NBA Finals of all time featured teams from Oakland and Cleveland, and why? Because it was the matchup of the two best teams, with big-name stars and thrilling basketball along for the ride.
The same thing is at play here. Chicago boasts Kris Bryant, who may be the closest competition Mike Trout will have for best player on the planet over the next decade; other stars on the team include (deep breath) Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Addison Russell. And that’s just the stars. On the other side we have Francisco Lindor, a blossoming star who now gets to showcase his talents for his biggest audience yet—by the end of the series, he could have the highest national profile of any Indian since Manny Ramirez. The other Tribe standouts may not have the highest Q ratings, but Corey Kluber has a Cy Young to his name, Jason Kipnis is no slouch, and Carlos Santana has a swing so smooth, it’s almost as if it were feat. Rob Thomas (terrible joke alert!). And the baseball world is currently fascinated by Andrew Miller’s transformation into an actual fire-breathing dragon; more of that would make for a welcome development. Young talent is where these two teams shine, and it’s an area MLB needs to highlight throughout the league–the league shouldn’t go into another year where the best-known player is still the retired Derek Jeter.
This is also the best storyline that MLB could have possibly hoped for. The Cubs are trying to break a 108 (!) year curse and shed the label of “lovable losers” while bringing joy to the lives of Eddie Vedder and Bill Murray, which itself is always a worthwhile endeavor. The Indians’ 68-year drought is somehow the second-longest in this series by 40 years, but still, 1948 was a damn long time ago. This is their chance to avenge 1995, 1997, 2007, and so many other years of heartbreak. So the Indians aren’t simply the villains in the Cubs quest to break the curse, like pretty much any other team would have been–they’re a team with an improbable drought of their own. And if they win, they can add to what the Cavs started and continue the Year of the Cleve; and yes, that is the actual Chinese calendar name for 2016.* We’ve learned what a Cleveland championship parade looks like this year; another and the city might explode. And I can’t wait.
We also, in an increasingly rare occurrence, appear to have the best team from each league in the World Series. It was close between the Indians and the Red Sox in the regular season in the AL (I’m not including the Rangers because I do not believe that they are in fact wizards who have mastered the dark art of winning one-run games), so the sweep by the Indians in the playoffs tips that in their favor. The Cubs were simply utter juggernauts all year. This is no matchup of 88-win wild card teams (cough, 2014 Series); this is a clash of the titans.
This is what fans care about: they want to see great baseball, star power, a compelling storyline, and teams trying to achieve greatness, and they don’t care if there’s an “NY” on the cap or not. The point of all this: this is the best possible World Series, one that MLB and its fans should be thrilled is happening. This is one to enjoy, not just as an Indians fan, but as a baseball fan. Get excited. This is gonna be a fun one.