By James Payne and Ryan Fitzgerald – 1851 Staff & Co-Editor-in-Chief
The Chicago Cubs are going to the World Series. First time anyone can say that with truth to it since 1945. The Cleveland Indians will make their first appearance since 1997. The Cubs haven’t won it all in 108 years and the Indians haven’t taken home the trophy in 68 years. History is before us and it feels humbling to witness it. But you know who else is in the World Series this year? A lot of former Boston Red Sox.
Eight former Red Sox players, former Manager of the Sox, Terry Francona, and former General Manager (GM) of the Sox, Theo Epstein who broke the 86-year curse in Boston, and now attempts to end a 108-year Chicago curse. Not to mention the winners of both League Championship Series MVP awards used to pitch on the mound in the shadow of the Green Monster. The Red Sox are well represented.
Cleveland and Chicago deserve to be in this Series and no one can take away from their respective moment. The teams just had a little help from former Sox to get there.
Theo Epstein: Now President of Baseball Operations with the Cubs, he was named GM of the Red Sox at the end of the 2002 season when he was just 28 years old. He played a part in naming Terry Francona manager after the heartbreaking end to the 2003 playoffs. Epstein brought in players Mark Bellhorn, Orlando Cabrera, Keith Foulke, Doug Meintkiewicz, Dave Roberts and Curt Schilling who all had key roles in reversing the curse of the Great Bambino in 2004. He then rebuilt another Red Sox team in 2007 to win a second World Series in four years. After the debacle that was the 2011 season, Epstein got the heck out of dodge and joined the Cubs. He since built a playoff caliber team and now, for the first time in 71 years, a team capable of making it to the World Series. If they win this year, first the first time in 108 years, or any other season while Epstein is in the front office, he will have a plaque in Cooperstown, NY one day and be hailed a baseball god.
Jon Lester: The ace of the Cubs was a part of the 2007 and 2013 World Series champion Red Sox teams. He should still be in Boston. The Red Sox front office thought he was past his prime in 2014 so they traded to him to Oakland before Epstein brought him to the Windy City. He proved himself in big games and is loved by all in Boston, unlike David Price whom the Sox ultimately replaced him with. Lester is a Cy Young candidate this season, won two games in the NLCS, was co-NLCS MVP and is set to start Game 1 of the World Series.
John Lackey: Winner of the clinching game of the 2013 World Series in Boston, he has also been a solid member of the Cubs pitching rotation but is often overlooked because of Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks.
Anthony Rizzo: Theo Epstein drafted the first baseman and then traded him to San Diego in 2010. Jed Hoyer, Epstein’s right hand man, traded for Rizzo prior to the 2012 season and is now an MVP candidate for the Cubs.
David Ross: The Cubs backup catcher was a 2013 World Series Champion with Boston and is highly revered in the Cubs’ dugout.
Terry Francona: Named Red Sox manager prior to the 2004 season it did not take long to etch his name in team history. Down 0-3 in the ALCS, he led the team to a 4-3 comeback series victory against the Yankees and then a sweep of the Cardinals in the ‘04 World Series. He led the Sox to another World Series in 2007 and several other successful seasons before the unfortunate collapse in 2011, which showed Tito the door. He made an immediate impact in Cleveland in 2013 leading the Indians to the Wild Card game in his first season. This season, the Indians won the American League Central, swept Francona’s former club in the AL Divisional Series and beat the Toronto Blue Jays in five games to advance to the World Series.
Andrew Miller: He has been with six different teams in his 10-year career including 2011-2014 in Boston (brought in by Francona) and spending the second half of the 2016 season in Cleveland. He began as a starting pitcher in Boston and transferred to the bullpen in 2012. He missed the majority of the 2013 season but was still given a championship ring by the Sox. Miller is a versatile reliever who has only allowed two walks in 29 regular season innings since joining the Indians. He struck out 10 of 12 batters faced in the first two games of the ALCS and pitched 2 2/3 in the clinching game five. He won the ALCS MVP and will likely have a big role out of the bullpen in the World Series, especially with the pitching injuries the Indians have faced.
Coco Crisp: Coco spent three seasons with the Sox, including the 2007 championship run. He was the Sox starting center fielder until the 2007 ALCS when he got benched for then rookie Jacoby Ellsbury. Crisp did begin his career in Cleveland from 2002-2005 before rejoining the Indians at the 2016 trade deadline. While mainly coming off the bench, Crisp did have a couple of key at bats during the 2016 ALDS versus the Red Sox including the eventual game-winning two-run home run in the final game of the sweep.
Mike Napoli: He quickly became a fan favorite for his big home runs, celebration antics and insanely thick beard. He spent two and a half seasons in Boston but his first, the 2013 championship season, was by far the most memorable. He plays first base and bats cleanup for Francona and was a 100-RBI man this season.
Michael Martinez: The final player comes off the bench for the Indians and had a grand total of seven plate appearances for the Red Sox at the beginning of the 2016 season.
Both cities need a World Series but only one will get it. Cleveland saw the Cavaliers bring home a championship in 2016 for the first time in 52 years. For them to get two titles in one year would be special. But it’s time for the Cubs to get one. Chicago in 5.