In 2004, Terry Francona ended an 86-year curse in leading the Boston Red Sox to a World Series title. The Red Sox overcome a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS before sweeping the Cardinals in the Fall Classic.
Francona, who also led Boston to a World Series in 2007, is one win away from the third World Series title of his career – and the Indians’ first World Series title since 1948.
So, if Cleveland wins Game 6 on Tuesday – or Game 7 on Wednesday – which is the greater Francona accomplishment: the 2004 title with the Red Sox or the 2012 title with the Indians?
“That’s a great question,” MLB analyst C.J. Nitkowski said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show The ’04 situation, of course, is just historic because they were down 3-0, but it was a good team. Not to say that the Indians are not, but the Indians have dealt with adversity with, what, a $70 million pay roll? We usually say, ‘You can’t overcome that. You can’t overcome not having Michael Brantley.’”
Brantley, 29, hasn’t played since May 11 due to tendonitis in his right arm.
“When he went down and we saw him trying to come back and really just couldn’t stay healthy at all this year, I was thinking, ‘There’s no way. There’s no way this team who just cannot afford to bring in big players is going to survive without Michael Brantley,’” Nitkowski said. “Well, they have. And near the end of the year, (Danny) Salazar goes down and then (Carlos) Carrasco goes down. The last week of the season, he takes a line drive off his finger. He’s done. So now you say, ‘No Michael Brantley, no No. 2, No No. 3 starter. There’s no way you make a run at a World Series when you’re a team that has that low of a pay roll. And here they are getting it done.”
Jake Arrieta will start for the Cubs in Game 6, while the Indians will turn to Josh Tomlin. Andrew Miller, who did not pitch in Game 5, should be well-rested if called upon.
“Terry Francona has done a great job, and a lot of it has to do with the bullpen,” Nitkowski said. “Picking which one of these would be a greater feat, that’s a really tough thing to do. Not to be too much of a prisoner of the moment, but I think if they take down the Cubs with the team and the roster that they have, that might be the bigger one.”