CLEVELAND: World Series managers sent a clear message to their players Monday (Tuesday in Manila) — pay no attention to the historic title droughts that have created such a tremendous buzz around your games.
The Chicago Cubs, who have not won a title since 1908 in the longest championship futility streak in American sports history, worked out on the eve of the opener of the 112th World Series against the Cleveland Indians, whose title drought since 1948 is the second-longest in Major League Baseball annals.
“I think we all have a tremendous amount of respect for history and what has happened before us or not happened before us, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “But you go in that room right now, they are very young. Really not impacted by a lot of the lore.”
The Cubs feature five starters who are 24 or younger, including 22-year-old shortstop Addison Russell. Not reaching the World Series since 1945 is ancient history to him and his teammates even as it represents a lifetime’s wait for many of their devoted supporters.
“We are impacted by our city and our fans and the people that attend our games and the conversations that we have,” Maddon said. “But I don’t think when there’s a groundball hit to Addie, he’s going to be worried about stuff like that.
“They’re going to be in the moment. That’s what we’ve done and that’s all I preach. Hopefully they’ll be able to get this done and at that point you can really reflect on everything, interact with folks and really try to get down to the root of all of this.
“But in the meantime, man, I really anticipate and expect our guys to stay right in the moment.”
It’s much the same for Indians manager Terry Francona, who in 2004 managed the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series crown since 1918.
He can feel the excitement in Cleveland fans, who had not celebrated a champion in any sport since the 1964 NFL Browns until the Cavaliers won the NBA crown in June. He knows the Indians have not been to the World Series since 1997. But Francona knows such reflections are best done after the task at hand is finished.
“I just think if you look too far back, you look too far forward, you miss what’s right in front of you,” Francona said.
“These players have earned the right to try and see if we can beat the Cubs, and that’s going to be a tall enough task. But I don’t think we need to go back and concern ourselves with 40, 50, 60 years ago.”
But even he couldn’t resist acknowledging the excitement, adding, “Now, if you win, it makes for a cool story.”
The Indians will play the World Series opener at home for the first time ever Tuesday while across the street, the Cavaliers will raise a championship banner in their season opener.
“This is going to be the number one place to be for sports,” Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “What a special day for a city to do that.”
The Cubs, who won a major league-best 103 games this season, send left-hander Jon Lester to the mound in game one against right-handed pitcher Corey Kluber for Cleveland.
Chicago is favored and despitre Maddon’s talk about focus on the moment, the Cubs can feel the hopes and dreams of long-suffering Cubs fans worldwide resting on their shoulders.
“We know how much it means to everyone,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “But at the end of the day, we have to go out and play.”
Lester, who won World Series titles with Boston in 2007 and 2013, is enjoying the Cubs’ date with destiny.
“It’s awesome, especially to be a part of this organization with all the history and all that fun stuff,” Lester said.
“We don’t look ahead of anything. We stay where we’re at. And we’ll enjoy this for the next however many days and see where we’re at the at the end.
“One of us has to win, right?” AFP