Paul: 108 thoughts on Cubs' first title in 108 years
Hmmm ... 108 takeaways from the first Chicago Cubs World Series championship in 108 years?
Let's give it a shot.
1. There may have been better action throughout a seven-game series before, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better World Series — given the history and droughts of the Cubs and Cleveland Indians (1948 and still waiting), and the dramatics of Game 7.
2. It took 108 years for the Cubs to finally win it all again, but it might only take a year for it to happen again. They open as 3-1 favorites for 2017. The Tigers, by the way, are 20-1, behind only the Indians, at 12-1, in the American League Central.
3. Funny — college freshman from Chicago now are left to wonder if the Bulls will ever win a title in their lifetime.
4. Put Cubs president Theo Epstein in the Hall of Fame right now. First, he breaks the Boston Red Sox curse, and now this. Mad genius, that guy.
5. Of course, Indians manager Terry Francona — who won two titles with Epstein in Boston — won't be far behind Epstein in cracking the Hall.
6. Francona — did you know? — actually got his coaching start in Detroit, on Buddy Bell's Tigers staff in 1996.
7. Congrats to West Michigan, which is flooded with Cubs fans. So many of them live closer to Chicago than Detroit, and grew up watching day baseball on WGN.
8. Pretty fitting that the final out in the 10th inning Wednesday went 5-3 — Kris Bryant to Anthony Rizzo. They're the faces of a potential brewing dynasty.
9. Speaking of Rizzo, wise thinking in a moment of chaos. After catching the final out and before joining the celebration, he pocketed the baseball.
10. What goes around, comes around. The Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 series deficit to win the NBA championship, Cleveland's first pro championship since 1964. The Indians lost a 3-1 series deficit to the Cubs.
11. It's hard not to appreciate what the Indians did this season, though. They were without their best player, Michael Brantley, practically all season, and basically had one go-to starting pitcher, Corey Kluber, in the playoffs. And they fought to the very end. Hats off.
12. No, seriously, hats off — can the Indians finally get rid of that racially insensitive logo, already?
13. The eccentric and elusive Bill Murray, Mr. Cub these days, was seen in public more in the last month than perhaps the previous 10 years combined.
14. Murray delivered some great comedy — like asking a reporter after Game 7, "Do you recycle?" and then handed him his finished-off bottle of bubbly — but some touching moments, too. The best was when he gave a random Cubs fan a ticket to Game 6, for the seat next to his.
15. How big a moment was this? I can't recall a sports championship running lead display on so many 1As in my lifetime.
16. Thrilled for ex-Tiger Rajai Davis, who hit the tying home run Wednesday night. Classy guy, funny guy, good guy.
17. If there was a breakout star in this World Series, it might've been Fox analyst Alex Rodriguez, who was well-prepared — maybe overly prepared at times — throughout the postseason run. He's got a future in the business.
18. Same can't be said for Pete Rose. He offered next to nothing. Will he be back? If I were a betting man ...
19. More TV observations: Joe Buck, oft-criticized, was excellent in the World Series. He let the sights and sounds tell the story at just the right times. This is such a lost art, one which the likes of Vin Scully and Ernie Harwell had mastered.
20. Anyone else have "Go, Cubs, Go" stuck in their heads? The Wrigley singalong after the NLCS and Game 5 of the World Series gave me goosebumps.
21. On the other hand, the "Fly the W" thing is kinda dumb.
22. The NFL's Arizona Cardinals (1947) now own the longest pro-sports championship drought in North America, followed by the Indians, Sacramento Kings (1951) and the Detroit Lions (1957).
23. Presidential-election season (ads) and sports titles (single-copy keepsakes) — two rare times newspapers make some decent money anymore.
24. Happy for Michigan assistant football coach Greg Mattison, a diehard Cubs fan.
25. Bummed for Jack Harbaugh, a diehard Indians fan.
26. Indifferent on Jim Harbaugh, who, apparently, is a diehard fan of almost every baseball team.
27. I doubted the Indians hundreds of times, from Day 1 of this season to the final day of this season. I was right only once, picking the Cubs in 7. I certainly won't make that mistake again in 2017, especially if that rotation is fully healthy.
28. Best part about this World Series, perhaps — there was no real goat, like Bill Buckner, etc. Sure, Tyler Naquin's blunder in center field in the first inning of Game 6 stands out, but the Indians probably weren't winning that game anyway. Not against Jake Arrieta.
29. Before the final out Wednesday night, fewer than a couple dozen people in the United States were alive the last time the Cubs won a world championship.
30. Now, at the time of this writing, there might be fewer than 5,000 people in the United States who weren't alive the last time the Cubs won it all, given an average of 10,000 or so babies are born every day.
31. Baseball's a kid's game, they say, and the Cubs are practically babies — leading to the dynasty talk.
32. But if baseball's truly a kid's game, as they say, maybe MLB can start World Series games a bit earlier. Not one of the seven games ended before 11 p.m. Eastern, not even Game 2 which was pushed up an hour because of weather threats. And Game 7 didn't end till well after midnight.
33. Eh, it'll never happen, of course. Money talks, and prime-time means big bucks. Game 7 30-second ads on Fox apparently were costing a half-million, or more.
34. Early TV ratings for Game 7 are in, and are huge — the highest-watched baseball game since Game 7 of the 1991 World Series (Twins-Braves), according to Nielsen.
35. That said, NFL remains king, of course. The Game 7 audience was barely half the size of Super Bowl 50.
36. And early reports say Game 7 was only the fifth-most-watched sporting event of 2016, behind Super Bowl 50 and three other NFL games.
37. Gotta believe the Indians will top 20,000 in average attendance in 2017. Only averaged 19,650 in 2016, third-worst, ahead of Oakland and Tampa Bay, which both have garbage stadiums that make Progressive Field look like the Taj Mahal.
38. Speaking of crowds, the Game 7 draw was pretty evenly split among Cubs and Indians fans, which wasn't a good look for Cleveland.
39. That said, with the average ticket price nearing $2,000 on the secondary market, it's hard to blame blue-collar Indians fans for taking the money over a chance to witness history, even if it meant selling to affluent Cubs fans.
40. In a way, the 50-50 crowd split was fitting, given no team a true home-field advantage in this World Series.
41. Maybe MLB can use this as a wake-up call and finally scrub the home-field reward to the winner of the All-Star Game, a meaningless exhibition. Your move, commissioner Rob Manfred.
42. Andrew Miller, the ex-Tigers prospect, had one heck of a postseason run, as Francona went to him early, late, and everywhere in between with games on the line.
43. But you could see Miller finally might've run out of gas toward the end.
44. As did Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman, it would seem.
45. Perhaps Joe Maddon and Francona — and Dave Roberts earlier in the playoffs with Kenley Jansen — didn't revolutionize bullpen usage, after all. It'll be fascinating to see how the other 27 managers react to this in 2017, whether they adapt or stand pat.
46. I heard a lot of folks criticize Brad Ausmus for not managing his bullpen like Maddon and Francona did this World Series. My response: You've gotta have the horse to ride, and Francisco Rodriguez, as solid as he is, isn't that horse.
47. How does Joe West keep drawing World Series assignments?
48. Money can't buy everything. There are a staggering 146 players in MLB who made more this season than the Indians' highest-paid player from their Opening Day roster, Carlos Santana ($8.45 million).
49. That includes six Cubs.
50. And — just for good measure — seven Tigers.
51. Hard not to think of the late, great Harry Caray on a day like this. Budweiser thought so, too, releasing a spot on Twitter that gave me chills. The clip uses Caray audio to call one more game — Game 7.
52. Steve Bartman better get a World Series ring, for all the undue commotion he's gone through.
53. More ratings madness, just off the wire: More than 2 million Chicago-market homes tuned into Game 7, at its peak. Insanity.
54. Timing is everything. If Jim Leyland had retired a year earlier (he retired after the 2013 ALCS), the Tigers could've hired Francona, who certainly would've been interested in the job.
55. If Leyland had retired a year later, the Tigers could've hired Maddon, though he was almost assuredly Cubs-bound.
56. That's back-to-back World Series titles for Ben Zobrist, the MVP this series who won with the Kansas City Royals in 2015.
57. Who would've thought Zobrist would've been the big Cubs free-agent signing last winter, and Jason Heyward would be the big bust?
58. If the Indians would've won the series, Kluber would've been the easy pick for MVP. What an absolute bulldog, attempting to become the first man to win three starts in the same World Series since Detroit's Mickey Lolich in 1968.
59. That said, pitching on short rest finally caught up with him Wednesday. You could tell. The stuff, especially the swing-back fastball against lefties, wasn't sharp.
60. "Major League" was far better than "Rookie of the Year," which still was a fine baseball flick. So, hey, at least the Indians have that going for them.
61. Speaking of movies, "Back to the Future" almost nailed it, predicting a Cubs World Series in 2015, rather than 2016.
62. The movie's official Twitter account explained the "error" Wednesday, saying the 1994 strike threw things off.
63. Thrilled for my best Cubs-fan pals, Detroit News metro editor Kevin Hardy and Indiana journalist Tom Moor.
64. Bummed for my best Indians-fan pals, Cleveland residents Genine Pellegrino and Lisa Dominguez.
65. A gallon of gas was just 20 cents the last time the Cubs won a World Series.
66. If it takes another 108 years, they'll be saying in 2124 that the national debt was just $19.5 trillion the last time the Cubs won a World Series.
67. My first Wrigley Field experience — 1998, for a Cardinals-Cubs game during the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa chase. Ernie Harwell sang, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
68. My first Progressive Field experience — 2006, as the parents of my then-roommate, Jennifer Karzen, were Indians season-ticket-holders. I bought them each a Tiger hat as a thank you. Her late step-dad, a no-nonsense guy, tossed them in his trunk and I'm sure never wore them. It probably wasn't the best gift idea.
69. My first World Series experience — 2006, Game 2, as my late friend, Jen Preston, had one extra ticket, thousands of friends to choose from, and picked me. She even kept the seat open when one of my bosses originally said no to the night off. Sports editor Phil Laciura came to my rescue.
70. My last World Series experience — 2012, Game 4. Not sure which day was colder, the first experience or last experience.
71. Asked myself in 2012, as well: How does Joe West keep drawing World Series assignments.
72. Hard not to smile at what graying catcher David Ross, at age 39, did in this World Series, especially with the homer in Game 7 — the final game of his 15-year major-league career. He'll be a manager someday, and probably soon.
73. This column was a great idea in theory.
74. ← This is where I, officially, hit a wall.
75. Curses make for a good story. Breaking long curses make for an even better story. Of course, curses aren't real.
76. Want more goosebumps? This guy once promised his dad if the Cubs ever had a shot at winning a World Series, they'd listen together. His dad died in 1980.
77. It's stunning that Kyle Schwarber, the sophomore slugger, did what he did in this Series. I thought it was crazy-talk for the Cubs to even consider using him when he'd been out — and seen no major-league pitching — since early April with an ACL injury. He was 7-for-17. Unbelievable.
78. Interestingly, since Schwarber wasn't cleared to play the field, it almost made the road games, where there was a DH, more advantageous for the Cubs.
79. I've been asked which World Series even compare to this one, at least in my lifetime. The easy calls are 2001 Diamondbacks-Yankees, and 1991 Twins-Braves. But, again, the historical significance just couldn't match this one.
80. Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor is going to be a household name very, very soon.
81. Cubs second baseman Javier Baez should be, too — if he ever learns to lay off the sliders a foot out of the strike zone.
82. That sure makes Kluber's decision to throw him a meatball over the plate — which Baez launched for a huge home run Wednesday — oh, so puzzling. Again, fatigue.
83. John Smoltz, who pitched one of the most-memorable Game 7s in history (1991 against Jack Morris), also was outstanding in his role as World Series analyst on Fox. The Lansing native had a smooth connection with Buck.
84. Fox ditching Harold Reynolds was a fantastic decision, and, sadly, so was removing Tom Verducci from the booth. He's one of baseball's best writers, and a good interviewer, but not the best analyst.
85. I want to know what the folks who paid those $300 cover charges at bars in Wrigleyville do for a living.
86. And do you have any openings?
87. Poor Cleveland — with the Browns 0-8, they can't possibly see another championship game until mid-June.
88. Maddon was creative as always in this World Series, with some head-scratchers like using Chapman in the Game 6 blowout and pulling Kyle Hendricks early in Game 7. I didn't get the Chapman move. I totally got the Hendricks decision. If I have to choose between Hendricks and Jon Lester-Chapman, that's a pretty easy call.
89. Tweet of the day comes from Arrieta, the Cubs ace: "Hey Chicago, what do you say? I say breakfast tacos & tequila."
90. Don't change the name of the Billy Goat Tavern. More importantly, don't ever change that menu. Mmmm. (Sorry, getting close to lunch time here.)
91. Sorry, I can't talk Cubs without bringing up the Lee Elia rant. If I ever need a laugh, this is a go-to.
92. It'll be interesting to see where these two teams go from here. The Cubs have the foundation in place to be good for a very long time, but figure to spend big on more free agents in the coming years, especially with the Wrigley Field modernization set to bring in much more revenue.
93. But will the tight-budget Indians? They did well on the cheap this winter (Mike Napoli, Davis), and it worked. Given the bright future for the young, talented and controllable rotation, it might just keep working.
94. Cleveland's Trevor Bauer best make drone-repair an offseason activity moving forward.
95. John Lackey now has rings with three different teams — Los Angeles Angels (2002), Boston Red Sox (2013) and Cubs (2016). For pennant-starved fans, he's not a free agent again until after next season.
96. Confidence is sexy. But, umm, oops.
97. We learned a whole lot about these two teams over the last month. Most hilariously, we learned Francona is a junk-food addict. One night, he ordered $44 in room-service ice cream; another night, he woke up with peanut butter on his glasses after falling asleep dipping pretzels.
98. Francona, by the way, couldn't have been classier in defeat. Maddon would've been the same way. It's awfully hard not to like those two guys.
99. The Indians could've used the rain delay as an excuse, but they didn't — because Francona refused to. Perfect. Francona entered this series having won both his World Series as manager (2004, 2007 with Red Sox). It was easy to like him then. But the true character of a man comes out in defeat, and we saw greatness there.
100. Hands in the air if you had Mike Montgomery throwing the last pitch Wednesday night? Liars, all of ya!
101. Here's the Washington Post front page from the last time the Cubs won it all. Notice how the "Detroit Team Never Seems to Try Throughout Game." Ouch.
102. Tigers new assistant hitting coach Leon "Bull" Durham, like Bartman, can sleep a little easier now. The Buckner error is way more famous, but Durham's error at first base in Game 5 of the 1984 NLCS led to a big inning for the San Diego Padres, who won, 6-3, to advance to the World Series.
103. Man, can you imagine a Tigers-Cubs World Series? That'd be lit.
104. I'm 37, and none of my grandparents, who've all since passed away, were even alive the last time the Cubs won a World Series.
105. MLB should be ashamed for allowing the Cubs and Indians, at different times, to wear their solid-blue tops for a marquee event like the World Series. This isn't beer-league softball. Road grays and home whites should be required.
106. God bless sportscaster Craig Sager, who put down a grand last year on the Cubs to win it all this year. Good things happen to good people, and Sager, continuing his fight against cancer, is one of the best.
107. Welp, that's all folks. No more baseball till February. That's the bad news.
108. The good news: At least free-agency starts in just five days. Be sure to check out my annual top-50 free-agent list, coming next week, complete with predicted destinations and contract terms.contract terms.