Back in early July, I bumped into longtime outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who was playing with the Atlanta Braves at the time (before he was traded to the Miami Marlins). The Cubs were running away with the best record in baseball, running away with the National League Central, but Francoeur and teammate Freddie Freeman were adamant that they had just finished a series with the team that was the best in baseball — and it wasn't the Chicago Cubs.
The Braves had just been swept by the Cleveland Indians in what amounted to complete and total destruction, and Francoeur was deeply impressed not just by the quality of their pitching but also by some of the subtleties of their excellence: their sound defense, the intensity of their baserunning, their sense of purpose. That was a month before the Indians would add Andrew Miller at the trade deadline, and also before they would lose Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar to injury, and Francoeur declared them the team to beat. "And it's not even close," he added.
I texted Francoeur on Saturday night, in the midst of the Indians' Game 4 wipeout of the Cubs, that it looked like his assessment had been dead-on. "Damn right," he replied.
There is a path through which the Cubs could come back and win the World Series, Jesse Rogers writes. But no team has come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the Fall Classic since the 1985 Kansas City Royals, and the Cubs would have to reverse a month of Indians exceptionalism and get through Corey Kluber to do it.
Some numbers that reflect just how dominant the Indians have been:
20: The run differential posted in this postseason by Cleveland, which has outscored its opponents 42-22.