CHRISTOVICH: Cubs Break Curse, Win Sloppy Game 7

No one ever thought that one of the greatest games in baseball history would be this sloppy.

Imperfections, errors and nerves defined the 10-inning, almost five-hourlong World Series Game 7. There were just as many Little League mistakes as unimaginably timely plays. And while the Cubs’ narrative bore the weight of 108 years, the players themselves revealed the nervousness and inexperience of a group of young, talented players in their first Game 7.

Wednesday night’s Game 7 was not about romantic baseball perfection. It was the youthful, fundamental ability for atonement and baseball amnesia.

Take 23-year-old Javier Báez, who perfectly exemplified these qualities: Baez dropped a bare-handed catch that cost the Cubs an inning-ending double play and then made a wild throw to first after losing his footing while fielding a particularly nasty ground ball.

A couple innings later, however, Báez launched a home run into the center field bleachers, atoning for his fielding missteps and quite literally driving Indians’ ace Corey Kluber out of the game. Kluber let up four runs in five uncharacteristically precarious innings.

In a similar narrative, catcher David Ross committed a costly error when he rushed a throw to first base, missing the glove of first baseman Anthony Rizzo. However, Ross redeemed himself when he homered against Andrew Miller in the top of the sixth to give the Cubs a 6-3 lead. 

The obscurity of the game also showed itself when Cubs manager Joe Maddon decided to pull starter Kyle Hendricks in the bottom of the fifth and insert Jon Lester into a dirty inning, despite saying before the game that he would not do that to Lester.

And even stranger, Maddon attempted to force a squeeze play by signaling to Báez to bunt on a full count with a runner on third, breaking one of the most fundamental rules of baseball.

Maddon delegated Lester to bridge, effectively, three innings before he could bring in the Cubs’ overworked, overtired Chapman was entrusted with four outs just a day after a two-inning outing, an outing twice as long as Chapman could pitch comfortably. Chapman blew the save when center fielder Rajai Davis launched a two-run homer to tie the game up at six.

Maddon sent Chapman out again in the bottom of the ninth despite knowing Chapman was tired, not hitting his marks and potentially lacking in velocity.

And then the skies opened up, literally and metaphorically.

Right when the game was about to enter extra innings, field personnel covered the field with a tarp, as a deluge that could only have been brought on by the cruel baseball gods began to rain down upon the agonized fans in Cleveland.

It soon became evident, however, that what mattered for the winners of  the 2016 World Series was not the 108 years storied in every headline, but rather the 17 minutes in the clubhouse during perhaps the most historic rain delay of all time, when struggling right fielder Jason Heyward called a team meeting.

Heyward, who was hitless in the game, reminded the Cubs of who they were, what they had accomplished and just what they were fighting for. With desire in their hearts, the gritty Cubs went back out when the skies cleared up, determined to win.

The Cubs rained base hit after base hit down on the Indians, punctuated by a couple intentional walks, eventually driving in two runs to bring the game to 8-7.

And even in the bottom of the 10th, the Cubs gave up one run, making Cubs’ fan hold their breath, before a smiling Kris Bryant made a routine infield play to end the curse, the series and one of the messiest baseball games ever played.

The Chicago Cubs made multiple mistakes on Wednesday night, but with every blunder, they answered with a persistent show of desperation, hope and power. For many of the fans, this game represented the end of 108 years of suffering. For the all-star infield, though, the group of young athletes that was  “an emotional wreck,” as Rizzo told Rossy early in the night, the win was the end of one epic season.

The 2016 Chicago Cubs represent a young team grinding in the wake of errors, rain and questionable calls, a young team with an old history, which rode on the hopes and dreams of one day as opposed to 108 years.

The truth is, the 108 years did not matter. The 3-1 series deficit did not matter. The errors did not matter.

The title is what mattered. The Cubs’ road to baseball immortality was paved with mistakes committed in the face of unimaginable pressure on a young team — but after that last out, the roller coaster was nothing more than a story to be written.

The Chicago Cubs are 2016 world champions. Today, no other narrative matters.

Amanda Christovich is a sophomore in the College. The Analyst appears every Friday.

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