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A drought will end World Series 2016

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A drought will end  World Series 2016 (AP file photo)

Cubs, Indians aim to end generations-long championship waits

No matter who wins, the 2016 World Series is going to bring one long-suffering franchise's championship drought to an end.

Say it with me: The Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians are facing off to determine the champion of Major League Baseball. Sounds weird, doesn't it?

It shouldn't come as that big of a shock. The Cubs were the consensus best team in baseball coming into the season and have spent the last six months living up to that billing, while the Indians started 2016 strong and rode out a number of key injuries on their way to 94 wins and the second-best record in the league. These are two excellent baseball teams.

We just haven't seen them on this stage in a while.

The ongoing futility of the Cubs franchise is well-documented at this point. This is a team that hasn't won a championship in over a century 1908 was the last year they hoisted the trophy. They haven't even won a pennant since 1945. Cleveland is no slouch in the drought department either; while they last appeared in the World Series a relatively short two decades ago, they haven't won a title since 1948.

Two epic streaks and one of them is about to come to an end.

It's hard to pick against Chicago. This team looks stacked in just about every aspect of the game. The lineup is filled with talented, productive hitters. Kris Bryant has a good shot at being named your National League MVP, while guys like Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist are fantastic players in their own right. While the postseason offensive production hasn't been quite to the level of their regular season output, they've hit enough to beat some good teams.

Their pitching has a lot to do with that. Jon Lester has been nigh-unhittable in his three postseason starts; Kyle Hendricks hasn't been too far behind. And while Jake Arrieta and John Lackey haven't been nearly as strong, they along with the Aroldis Chapman-led bullpen have done enough to keep the Cubs moving forward.

They also have the benefit of one of the sharpest managers in the game in Joe Maddon. Maddon's cerebral, yet relatable approach has played a big part in establishing and maintaining this team's obvious chemistry. His willingness to incorporate strategic advances has contributed to greatness in the field, on the mound and at the plate.

But make no mistake Cleveland earned their spot. While their lineup might not be as celebrated, they're talented too. And while they've struggled a bit at the plate Francisco Lindor is really the only regular who has managed consistent excellence this postseason they've played smart and tough and managed to score just enough to take down some formidable foes.

Of course, the pitching staff has been what carried them. Despite being without stud starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, the Indians pitching staff has been excellent. Cory Kluber has been lights out, striking out 10 per nine innings with a sub-one ERA, while Josh Tomlin has been very good and young Ryan Merritt has stepped up. But it's the bullpen that really stands out. Andrew Miller has become perhaps the most feared pitcher of the postseason; he's second on the Indians in postseason innings at just shy of 12, striking out 21 and giving up just five hits and exactly zero runs.

Terry Francona is a savvy manager in his own right, one who has turned this Indians team into one that runs the bases and fields exceptionally. His unorthodox and fearless bullpen usage is a major reason that Cleveland has this opportunity.

So where does that leave us?

Well, as someone with no particular rooting interest, it's easy to choose the Cubs. Not only would they be ending the longest current championship drought in American professional sports, but they would be giving one of baseball's most loyal fan bases the victory for which they've waited for generations. Seriously the night the Cubs won the pennant, the phrase 'I wish my dad was alive' was trending on social media. Think about that. How many thousands of Cubs fans saw their beloved team make it to the World Series and thought back to the parents and grandparents with whom they shared their fandom?

I have no doubt that there are plenty of Cleveland fans with memories that are just as long, with a joy and passion for their team that is just as visceral and real as that carried for the Cubs. And yetit's isn't the same. It just isn't. Sure, the Indians haven't won it all since 1948, but Chicago's wait is a full 40 years longer.

It's too bad that one of these teams has to lose. But as someone who spent most of his formative fandom rooting for a team that labored under a curse of its own, there's no question as to the team for which I'll be pulling.

Cubs in six.

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