Cleveland Indians take 3-1 World Series lead over Chicago Cubs

Corey Kluber moves Indians within one game of first World Series since 1948

If it weren’t for the Chicago Cubs and their history of legendary losing, we would all be cheering for the Cleveland Indians now. Any other opponent at any other place, and the Indians would be America’s darling underdog losers finally getting it together.

The Indians are lost in the Cubs’ shade, even though they beat the Cubs in Wrigley Field again Saturday night in the World Series. This time, it was 7-2 and now the Indians, up three games to one, are just one win away from winning the Series for the first time since 1948.

It is incredible that any one team could fail that consistently for that long, even if they haven’t failed nearly as long as the Cubs. And what’s happening now isn’t that the Cubs, who we have heard about all year long, are crumbling under the pressure of history.

Their problem is that they are just too young and too dumb. They’re too dumb to feel what everyone in their stadium and their city is feeling. But also, they are too dumb to stop swinging for as much glory as possible, a massive home run when the team could stand to drop down a bunt, steal a base, move a runner along and then knock him in with a sacrifice fly. When you can’t win big, you have to try small.


"We made mistakes,'' Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Absolutely, we made mistakes.''

If you watched the game, you know his clarification wasn’t necessary. You watch a car drive into a tree and you don’t really anyone to say that the driver screwed up. If you’d like a detailed rundown of Saturday night’s game, here it is:

Indians really good. Cubs really bad. It was third-baseman-Kris Bryant-made-two-fielding-errors-in-the-same-inning bad.

And I hate to bring this up as a lifelong Cubs, um, observer (cough, cough, wink, wink), but there is one little thing to consider here: The Cubs are a baseball Dream Team of the present and future. The Indians are not. They have one starting pitcher, Corey Kluber, who shut down the Cubs again Saturday. And they have a bullpen that believes in itself.

They have a manger in Terry Francona, who is a World Series genius. The Indians believe in him. But while these Cubs are not really about their history anymore, the Indians are not really free of theirs.

After 1948, the Indians had a long history of really, really bad. But then they got a new stadium and built things right in the early 1990s. And why haven’t they won since then?

It is called choking.

Remember José Mesa?

The Indians have been here before and they haven’t had their history-breaking moment yet the way the Cubs have, partly anyway, in getting to the Series for the first time since 1945.

Believe me (cough, cough, wink, wink), I’m not trying to get the Indians to think about the pressure of their history. But someone asked Francona if he might sit down his players before Sunday’s game and talk about staying calm and not thinking about the wrong things. Like, say, the franchise’s recent history of choking.

“No, that might make them nervous,” he said. “They’re doing fine. What matters right now is that we’re doing this right now.”

And that sounded like a direct request to keep the Indians in the now and not to infect the with their history. They did win it in 1948, thanks to the genius of owner Bill Veeck – as in wreck – the perennially underfunded, marketing and promotional genius. In fact, Veeck started as an office boy for the Cubs, worked his way up and actually planted the ivy that covers the home run wall at Wrigley.

In Cleveland, he was ridiculed for focusing on promotion over winning. And then he won. And then?

Have you heard of the Curse of Rocky Colavito? Well, one of the incredible moves of general manager Trader Frank Lane was to trade a young home run hero. There were other incredible trades, too, that led to decades of bad Then, they turned things around finally in the 1990s.

And in Game 7 in 1997, they were two outs from winning the World Series. Then, Mesa, the closer, couldn’t close. He blew it. The Florida Marlins won two innings later.

People don’t really know much about the Indians’ history, other than it happened in a city with a lake that caught on fire. While the Indians seem a little upset that they aren’t getting the attention they deserve, the truth is that they are resting comfortably in the Cubs shade. They haven’t been pressured by their past because no one is talking about it. They also are taking cover from the NBA title won by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The city’s losing image does not rest entirely on the Indians’ shoulders.

So on Saturday, after the Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Indians were comfortably able to come back. They got two runs in the second when Carlos Santana homered, and then Lonnie Chisenhall got on base and worked his way around the bases while Bryant threw the ball everywhere and bobbled it. The game actually stayed close until the seventh inning, when Jason Kipnis hit a three-run homer. It was 7-1. Game over.

But now for the hard part for the Indians: breaking their history. The Cubs have their best pitcher, Jon Lester, throwing Sunday and their next best, Jake Arrieta in Game 6 while the Indians throw guys not named Kluber. Here is a prediction: The Cubs will still get this thing to a deciding Game 7.

And then we’ll just have to see what happens to Cleveland with Kluber throwing on less than his regular rest again, tired, and playing in Cleveland, surrounded by ghosts of Indians losing past. There is a reason the Major League movies were made about the hapless Indians, why Back to the Future thought it was funny to have a future with the Cubs winning the World Series.

But that’s not to put any pressure on them (cough, cough, wink, wink).