Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Tag: terry francona

A World Series for the Ages

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune

Leading up to game 1, this year’s World Series matchup had the potential to be great. Two long-suffering franchises with a combined 176 years without a championship vying for the trophy. The Cleveland Indians without a win since 1948 and the well documented 108-year heartbreak of the Chicago Cubs. Both teams loaded with young talent, balanced with veteran leadership, and led by top-tier managers in Terry Francona and Joe Maddon. Thankfully, for baseball fans everywhere (except maybe Cleveland), the series was even better great and both teams stretched it to the limit.

The Cubs were on the brink of heartbreak after 4 games, down 3-1, and it looked as though 109-years would be the new mantra. Terry Francona was pulling all the right strings and had his team poised to end their streak of mediocrity. Then, in impressive fashion, the Cubbies stormed back to force a game 7 in Cleveland for all the marbles. Ticket sales were through the roof insane, but if you were there to witness game 7 in person, it was the memory of a lifetime. The game had everything but great defense and proved to be the most watched baseball game since 1991 and according to Nate Silver at 538, had 49.9 million viewers at it’s peak going into the 9th inning.

The Cubs jumped out to an early lead and it looked as though Cleveland would wither away, but not this team. With 1 man on and 2 outs in the 5th inning, Joe Maddon inexplicably brought in Jon Lester. After a swinging bunt and throwing error by David Ross, the Cubs 5-1 lead was in jeopardy. With runners on 2nd and 3rd a bad wild pitch and a Ross stumble led to both runners scoring to shrink the Cubs lead to just 2 runs, 5-3. Ross redeemed himself in the top of the 6th with a HR to center field to extend the lead back to 3 runs, 6-3.

As most Cubs fans (and older Red Sox fans) would know, it felt like there was still too much time for the lead to evaporate and heartbreak to ensue. Sure enough, in the 8th inning, exhausted Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman stumbled in a big way. With 2 outs in the 8th, Lester allowed a single that deflected off of Cubs SS Addison Russell‘s glove and opened the door to bring in Chapman, who had already be heavily over-worked in the series. The first batter he faced, Brandon Guyer, ripped a line drive double into the outfield allowing Jose Ramirez to score. All of a sudden, it was a 2-run game with the tying run in the batter’s box.

With a 2-2 count on Rajai Davis, the UConn product*, Chapman tried to throw a 97 MPH fastball by him and failed. Davis crushed the pitch for a massive, game-tying 2-run HR. Even a 1,000 miles away in Boston you could feel the life being sucked out of Cubs fans and the phrase “not again” being muttered. The 9th was filled with some drama for the Cubs, including a challenge for slide interference and an inexplicable foul bunt K, but the game would move into extras. To add another layer of drama to the already crazy game, the tarp was unfolded after the 9th inning to prepare for an impending downpour that never really came. As it turns out, that 17 min rain delay was a blessing for the Cubs. They had a team meeting and regrouped, leading to 2 runs in the top of the 10th inning thanks to a Ben Zobrist double and a Miguel Montero single.

The bottom of the 10th began with a K to Napoli and a ground out for Jose Ramirez leaving the Cubs 1-out away…but Cubs fans gut-wrenching pain was not over yet. Brandon Guyer walked and Rajai Davis singled to drive him in, making it an 8-7 game with the winning run in the batter’s box and the tying run on base. Michael Martinez had the chance to destroy Cubs fans with an even more epic loss than anything previous, but a slow grounder to 3rd baseman Kris Bryant and an off-balance throw to 1st baseman Anthony Rizzo stranded the runner and gave the Cubbies the victory. One championship drought over, the other on-going.


This series, and in particular game 7, was incredible to watch for any fan of baseball. The big hits, dramatic catches, and unusual use of pitching staffs made for excellent entertainment. For those in Boston, there were countless storylines around former Red Sox managers, executives, and players. It was a battle of Cleveland manager Terry Francona against his former boss Theo Epstein for the Cubs. On the field there were 4 former Red Sox players or prospects on the Cubs roster (Jon Lester, John Lackey, David Ross, and Anthony Rizzo) and 4 on the Cleveland roster (Mike Napoli, Coco Crisp, Andrew Miller, and Michael Martinez), which only added to the interest from across New England.

Overall, this was the best world series of my lifetime outside of the Red Sox title runs. It’s the first world series, not involving the Red Sox, that brought me a similar level of rollercoaster emotions and an insane level of intensity. If baseball can figure out how to bring a similar level of intrigue on a more regular basis, then new fans would flock to the the sport and the MLB would grow to new heights. As is, more casual fans watched game 7 then practically ever before, so now is the time to grow the sport.

Finally, I just want to say thank you to the Indians and Cubs for putting on a show for the ages and delaying my offseason sadness. This is a series I will not soon forget.

*UConn Avery Point Campus

World Series Aspirations for the Red Sox

mlb-world-series-trophy

After a 3-year hiatus from postseason play, the Red Sox are back. They begin their postseason run tonight in Cleveland for game 1 of the ALDS after pulling away and securing the AL East crown in late September. The Indians are a formidable foe with former Red Sox manager Terry Francona at the helm and this should prove to be an interesting series, but the question I pose is much larger. Can the Red Sox win the World Series this year?

After the first month of the season, it looked as though the Red Sox offense could single-handedly win the World Series despite a struggling starting rotation, but as the year wore on, the two flipped a bit. The Red Sox starting pitching began to improve and the offense came back down to earth. The last month of the season, the Sox pitching staff had a 3.05 ERA and a strong 3.25 Ks/BB ratio, both season bests, while the Sox offense had the lowest average of the season, .267. In general I’m not worried about the offensive drop because they were still solid, but the uptick in pitching is critically important.

If we use the 2 wild card games as indicators of postseason play, pitching will be vital to success. Last night in the Mets vs. Giants game, both starters were dominate and allowed 0 ERs in a combined 16 innings. The night before in the Blue Jays vs. Orioles game, the starters allowed just 2 ERs a piece. Hits tend to be fewer and further between and runs come at a premium in the postseason, so a strong pitching staff is required to make a deep run. Timely hitting is of course crucial as well, but if your pitching rotation can’t put up 0s, then it will be very difficult to win consistently.

Tonight’s game 1 starter is Rick Porcello, arguably the favorite to win the AL Cy Young in 2016. If he continues to pitch like he can, then the Red Sox have a good chance to walkaway from game 1 with a W and gain control of the series on the road. Opposing Porcello in game 1 is Trevor Bauer, who despite having a nice year, holds a 6.39 ERA in his last 6 starts in September and October. Which Bauer will show up? The 9-6, 3.73 ERA solid pitcher until September, or the run-allowing machine in September and October.

The answer to my ultimate question is yes, if the pitching staff can hold up and perform at a high level, the Red Sox can play for the World Series. The offense will likely be good enough to win, but it all hangs on the pitching staff. With Porcello in game 1 I feel pretty confident, but David Price in game 2 and Clay Buchholz in game 3 scare me a bit. Price and Buchholz can both be lights out or absolutely terrible. If the starters sway to the side of lights out, then book your ticket for a Cubs vs. Red Sox World Series. Wouldn’t that be something…