The Indians’ 5-1 loss to the Cubs Wednesday night was more lopsided than the score indicates. Chicago had nine hits and drew eight walks, but mercifully left 13 runners on base. Jake Arrieta took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, when Jason Kipnis doubled and scored to ruin both the no-no bid and the shutout. By then, the Cubs were already ahead by five runs. Defense and base running, normally both strengths, deserted the Indians; second baseman Kipnis committed two errors (the first errors made by an Indians position player this October) and Francisco Lindor was caught stealing to snuff out a scoring opportunity. In dealing former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona his first loss in 10 career World Series games as manager, the Cubs were never in danger of losing the lead after scoring a run in their very first at-bat.
Shivering in the damp 43-degree chill, waiting for a reason to hope during a 4-hour, 4-minute game whose outcome was determined in the early innings, Indians fans at Progressive Field had little to cheer.
Yet cheers could be heard anyway. “Let’s go Cubs! Let’s go Cubs!” A large number of Cubs fans – way too many for my liking – had invaded the Indians’ home ballpark. When the Indians last played in the World Series in 1997, the nation responded with a collective yawn, but the people who attended the three games in Cleveland were almost all rooting for the Indians. This time, the nation is paying much more attention – overnight TV ratings are up about one-third over last year’s figures – but the Indians’ home-field advantage has been compromised by the widespread popularity of their opponent.
This happened in Los Angeles, too, where Cubs fans could be heard in full throat during the NL Championship Series against the Dodgers. The Cubs indeed have a national following. But in Cleveland at least, the noisy support for the visiting team could not be attributed solely to the legions who root for the Cubs even though they live outside Chicagoland.
According to reports, the demand for tickets at Wrigley Field is so high that only the well-heeled can afford them. So rather than take out a loan to pay $4,000 or $5,000 per seat, some Cubs fans have decided that the only affordable way to see their team play in its first World Series since 1945 is to make it a road trip. Prices at the Indians’ park are high, too, but earlier this week, a spokesperson for StubHub put the average price of tickets for Game 1 there at a much less outrageous $1,000. Cameron Popp of StubHub also told The Associated Press that about 25 percent of the tickets sold on the website for Game 1 were paid for with credit cards associated with Illinois ZIP codes.
Against any other opponent, I’d be happy to see the Cubs win a World Series game for the first time since the year World War II ended. I’d also be happy to hear about the zeal that motivated more than 2.6 million people – about the same number as the population of Chicago – to sign up for a drawing for a chance to buy one of the few thousand tickets the Cubs were selling themselves. And Cubs fans are reporting a unique kinship with Indians fans, a mutual respect between two fan bases that have waited a combined 176 years for a championship.
But if the Cubs do win the Series as prognosticators predict they will, it will be at my favorite team’s expense. Talk about bittersweet.
Posted October 27, 2016
Sources: ABC News, The Associated Press, Fox Sports, mlb.com