MESA, Ariz. -- Another new and exciting Major League Baseball season is nearly upon us, but we'd be remiss in enjoying the Cubs' first World Series title defense in 108 years without revisiting the game that got them here one more time.Chicago's 8-7 win in 10 innings over the Indians
MESA, Ariz. -- Another new and exciting Major League Baseball season is nearly upon us, but we'd be remiss in enjoying the Cubs' first World Series title defense in 108 years without revisiting the game that got them here one more time.
Chicago's 8-7 win in 10 innings over the Indians last Nov. 2 at Progressive Field was one for the ages, rich in twists and turns and managerial decisions that will be analyzed and second-guessed forever.
This spring, MLB.com spoke to Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Indians skipper Terry Francona about a few of those decisions.
Maddon, for someone who had just won the World Series, probably took more guff than any winning manager in history because of his use of Albertin Chapman throughout the seven-game series, but particularly for multiple innings in Games 6 and 7.
Chapman said he wasn't very pleased about it after signing a five-year, $86 million deal to return to the Yankees in December. The hard-throwing Cuban left-hander blew a three-run lead by allowing an RBI double to Brandon Guyer and a two-run homer to Rajai Davis in the eighth inning of the finale.
Maddon was nonplussed.
"I have no problem with any of that. You know me better than anybody, and everything you saw was pre-calculated, was thought about before the game," Maddon said. "Most people don't even know what they think in that situation, so they're probably parroting a lot of what they heard. The narrative at that time probably led to a lot of that. But I have no problem with any of it."
What about with Chapman?
"I have no problem with that, either," Maddon said. "Chappy and I talked all the time. We talked through his interpreter. I was told by him that everything was fine. It probably hurt him a little bit to give up the homer. So I'm willing to absorb commentary. It's part of my job. But I wouldn't have done anything differently."
Francona managed an almost flawless series until one seemingly innocent ninth-inning defensive shift -- moving Guyer from right to left field and swapping Michael Martinez for starting left fielder Coco Crisp -- caused him unending headaches.
Did Francona regret switching out Crisp, who was hitting .333 in the World Series, for Martinez with one out in the ninth? Cleveland got a better throwing arm in the outfield defensively, but the Indians wound up having Martinez hit with two outs in the 10th and the tying run on first.
Martinez, who hadn't recorded a hit since Sept. 15, grounded weakly to third baseman Kristopher Bryant to end the epic World Series.
"If I had a crystal ball and you were going to tell me that they wouldn't hit a ball to Coco and he had to throw it, I would not do it in a minute," Francona said. "We don't have crystal balls and you do what you think is right. You try to stay consistent. Any time defensively we thought we needed that, that's what we did.
"I mean, Coco is a better hitter. There's no getting around that, but at the time, that's what we thought we needed to do."
On the other side, Maddon decided to yank starter Kyle Hendricks with two outs in the fifth at 63 pitches. Later, Maddon sent in Chapman for Jonathan Lester with two outs in the eighth. That set up the series of events in which the Cubs blew a 6-3 lead when Davis hit the tying homer off Chapman.
For all intents and purposes, Hendricks was Maddon's best starter last season, with a 16-8 record and a Major League-leading 2.13 ERA. But in 2015, Maddon had a quick hook for Hendricks, and the right-hander knew he was on that same hook in Game 7, particularly when he struggled to get out of the third inning.
"Obviously, coming into the start, I knew it was going to be very abbreviated," Hendricks said recently. "In the moment, being a competitor, you're caught up in the game. I don't think anyone wants to come out of that game or that situation. I can't lie about that."
Hendricks had retired seven in a row, but when he walked Carlos Santana with two outs in the fifth, Maddon had seen enough. Because of the early problems, Lester had been warming up since the third inning.
"And you can't get him up, sit him down, get him up and have him be effective," Maddon said. "When the clock started ticking, when do you get him in the game? So the clock started sooner. If Kyle hadn't struggled, you would have not have seen Jon so early, because I had him up so soon."
Lester had two outs and nobody on in the eighth when Jose Ramirez beat out an infield hit. And because the left-hander has issues throwing to first base, you don't want Lester on the mound with a runner on that late in the game, Maddon noted.
"Jonny was magnificent," he added. "Not just OK, magnificent. For me, everything worked out perfectly, quite frankly."
Until Chapman was pelted for the double by Guyer and Davis' home run.
At that point, it was Tito's turn. Crisp's arm never came into play, but his bat certainly did. After the infamous rain delay, the Cubs scored twice in the 10th to take the lead.
In the bottom of the inning with two outs and Mike Montgomery on the mound, Guyer walked and went to second on defensive indifference. It was Davis, again, who singled to center, making it a one-run game.
At this point, the tension was a thick as the late-evening mist. The Cubs with 108 years of pathos on the line, the Indians with 68.
Martinez took the first pitch for a strike and then tapped what amounted to a swinging bunt toward Bryant. A team that relies so much on analytics was defeated on Francona's gut decision.
Percentages of Crisp having to make a throw against him hitting in a key spot?
"I don't know and I'm not sure I really care," Francona said. "Because whatever the percentages are and somebody hit it to him and you asked me, 'Why didn't you do it?' I wouldn't have a good answer for you. When you lose, you can be damned if you do and damned if you don't.
"If you win, you're smart. And when you lose, you need to answer the questions. I've always felt that when you do what you do, have enough confidence in it. Answer the questions and move on. If I don't have an answer, shame on me."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.