Yesterday, Major League Baseball agreed with its players union to ditch the four-pitch intentional walk:
Major League Baseball and its Players Association agreed to replace it with an automatic walk triggered by a signal from the dugout. The curious part was its cause of death: It was sacrificed in the name of shorter games.
That is curious, to say the least, because the intentional walk had neither the frequency of use nor the potential time-savings to make it an obvious target of league officials, led by Commissioner Rob Manfred, who want to speed up the pace of play. Last year, intentional walks occurred at a rate of one every 2.6 games. Their elimination would save perhaps a minute with each instance — a statistically insignificant improvement for a sport that averaged a record-high 3 hours 6 minutes per game in 2016.
Even something as seemingly innocuous and frivolous as the intentional walk has a long history, full of occasional mishaps (pitchers lobbing the ball to the backstop), sneaky swings (as when a batter reaches across the plate and pokes a wide pitch into the outfield for a hit) and even the famous fake intentional walk in the 1972 World Series, when Oakland A's reliever Rollie Fingers struck out Cincinnati's Johnny Bench with a pitch over the plate after the A's feigned walking him intentionally.
In many of those instances, the intentional walk was the most exciting and memorable thing that happened in that particular game. Sure, those zany plays were infrequent, and in the vast majority of instances, the intentional walk was simply a banal, goofy and sometimes counterintuitive exercise in run-prevention.
But will the no-pitch walk still be scored IBB?
You couldn't script the game better: tied at 6 going into the 9th, then the 10th, then a rain delay, then a 2-run homer top of 10 followed by a nail-biting run and out to end the game. The Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. And Chicago went nuts.
There are, as you can imagine, a ton of stories about it. The best I thought came from the Guardian, but of course the Chicago Tribune, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the New York Times, the Atlantic, and Chicago Public Media all had things to say. And let's not forget the Onion.
The New York Times explained how the Cubs did it. Crain's Chicago Business said the curse is finally dead. And the Washington Post provided context around how the world has changed since 1908.
AdWeek highlighted a Nike commercial that aired right after the final out. Crain's reported that the game had the highest ratings of any baseball game since 1991, and the highest-rated sporting event in Chicago history, with 40 million people watching.
DNAInfo chuckled that more people called in sick today than usual (myself included). We'll probably miss some more work tomorrow because of the parade, which starts at Wrigley Field and ends at Grand Park. Metra, our local heavy-rail system, is throwing every locomotive and rail car they have into the morning commute and tossing their schedules tomorrow, and asking people to work from home if they can.
It was an incredible night. I'm still amazed and agog. And hung over—but that's another story.
The Cubs' World Series Game 7 tonight in Cleveland may be "the biggest game in Chicago sports history," according to Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. I agree.
But still, I'm trying to maintain perspective:
- This is the only the second time in franchise history they've played in November. Last night was the first.
- They won the National League pennant after a 71-year drought. That's not trivial.
- If Cleveland wins, maybe they'll be so happy there it will tip Ohio into Hillary Clinton's column.
- They have played some amazing baseball during this series, and during this season.
- They'll be back next year.
So let's see what happens. And go, Cubs, go!
Here's hoping for a Game 7.
The Cubs won last night's game so they get to play Game 6 tomorrow night in Cleveland. Whew!
Last night also set a few records:
- It was the latest Cubs home game ever (October 30th).
- It ended the longest period in Major League Baseball that a team went between World Series home-game wins (25,955 days).
- It set the record for highest attendance at Wrigley Field in a season (3,232,420).
The Cubs are still favored to win the series, but it'll be tough. I'll be watching.
All of these articles look interesting, and I hope I get to read them:
Oh, fun! Another meeting!
Until yesterday, 25,951 days had passed since the last time the Cubs won a game in the World Series. And tomorrow night, it will have been 25,951 days since the last time a World Series game has been played at Wrigley Field.
More than that, as of today, 39,460 days have passed since the last time the Cubs won the whole thing.
Let's keep that last number under 39,467, OK? Eamus Catuli!
It's only one game out of a best-of-seven series, but last night the Cubs did not look like the same team they've been all year. Some highlights:
Corey Kluber pitched neatly into the seventh inning, Roberto Perez hit two home runs and the Cleveland Indians beat the Chicago Cubs 6-0 tonight in the World Series opener.
In a matchup between the teams with baseball's longest championship droughts, the Indians scored twice in the first inning off October ace Jon Lester and were on their way.
Dexter Fowler took a called third strike from Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber leading off the game, becoming the first Chicago Cubs player to bat in the World Series in 25,948 days.
Chicago had not played a Series game since Oct. 10, 1945, when Don Johnson hit into a game-ending forceout against Detroit's Hal Newhouser in Game 7.
Indians ace Corey Kluber has set a World Series record with eight strikeouts through the first three innings. Cleveland leads the Chicago Cubs 2-0 in Game 1.
The eight strikeouts also represent the most by an Indians hurler in a World Series game.
It just got worse. They looked like the Cubs of old. I am not pleased.
This is not the way I'd hoped the World Series would open.
Update, bottom of the 8th: Really, really, really not the way.
The guys over at 538 have proved the Cubs really are the unluckiest team in baseball—but they still give them a 48% chance of winning the World Series:
[A]ny ballclub that appears in the postseason often enough — no matter how mediocre its teams are — should eventually be guaranteed a World Series win. But for more than a century’s worth of Cubs squads, no level of greatness has been able to get them over the hump. I determined just how unlucky each franchise has been over its postseason history by taking its Elo rating and the size of the playoff field and then calculating how likely the team was to win the Series each year using the process I outlined above. I added up those probabilities from all the years in which a World Series was held and compared them with how many titles the teams actually won, and I found that the Cubs are the unluckiest team of the last 113 years.
Just based on the pretty-good teams the Cubs have featured in their 18 playoff appearances, my model expected them to win six or seven championships. Instead, they’ve only won two since 1903, and both were more than 100 years ago. (Notably, this year’s Cubs triumphed in the NLCSover the second-most-unlucky team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.) The Cubs have had more years to be unlucky than most teams, since they’ve existed for a long time. But even on a per-playoff-season basis, the Cubs have been the least fortunate franchise in baseball.
That said, the Cubs are in Cleveland tonight to play their first World Series game in 71 years. Will they win it all? No one can say. But they're here.