Bleacher Report's 2016 World Series Awards

Danny KnoblerMLB Lead WriterNovember 3, 2016

Bleacher Report's 2016 World Series Awards

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    The better team won.

    After all the talk of curses and droughts, and all the angst about which manager shouldn't have used which pitcher at which point, it came down to simple baseball logic. The Chicago Cubs had more dependable starting pitchers and more productive stars.

    They have the World Series title they deserve, and they have a more-than-memorable Game 7 to talk about for the next 108 years.

    And here at Bleacher Report, we have World Series awards I started working on Sunday, when the Cleveland Indians had a 3-1 series lead. As you might imagine, it looked a little different then.

    It changed Sunday night when the Cubs won Game 5. It changed even more when they won Game 6 Tuesday. And it changed two or three more times over the course of a Game 7 that began Wednesday night and ended after midnight Cleveland time Thursday morning.

    It won't change again, because after a baseball season that went the distance and then some, the Cubs have ended a legendary drought that went the distance and then some.

    It's safe now, I think, so here are Bleacher Report's 2016 World Series awards.

Best Curse-Breakers: Chicago Cubs

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    It took a team like this to break a curse like this.

    It took a team strong enough to win 103 games in a regular season that matched expectations, and a team resilient enough to stay strong after falling behind in both the NLCS and the World Series. And, of course, to keep it together after Rajai Davis' stunning game-tying home run off Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning Wednesday night.

    It took Theo Epstein to build it and Joe Maddon to manage it.

    Yes, Maddon, no matter how you felt about his bullpen usage the last couple of days (could have been better). Maddon created the atmosphere that led to that strength and resilience, and I'll take that over a game decision or two that goes terribly wrong.

    As David Ross told Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal when it was over: "What a group of winners!"

Biggest Indians Regret: None

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    It's tough to lose the World Series, doubly tough to lose in Game 7 and triply tough to lose in extra innings in Game 7.

    "Brutal," as an Indians fan texted me minutes after it was done.

    I get it. They've lived all the disappointment over all the years. But this Indians team deserves tons of credit for what it accomplished and no complaints about falling just short.

    The Indians went through the postseason with one dependable starting pitcher and one hot hitter. Going into Game 6 of the World Series, Francisco Lindor had a .360 batting average in the postseason; the rest of the Indians combined were hitting .199.

    Manager Terry Francona, who has transformed the franchise and had a great postseason, had little choice but to start Corey Kluber repeatedly on three days' rest and to push Andrew Miller into four games as early as possible.

    The injuries that were supposed to catch up with them in the regular season or in early October may have kept them from winning. The Indians can rightly feel things could have been different with Michael Brantley in the lineup or Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar in the rotation.

    But those aren't regrets. There can't be any regrets.

Best $184 Million Rain Delay Meeting: Jason Heyward

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    So that's why the Cubs gave Jason Heyward all that money.

    He had a terrible first season in Chicago. His .631 OPS ranked third-worst among qualifiers, ahead of only Adeiny Hechavarria and Alexei Ramirez. He drove in one run in the postseason and was so bad he was benched for five of the Cubs' 17 postseason games.

    But when the Cubs needed him the most, he was there. Not with his bat. Not with his legs. Not with his glove.

    With his leadership.

    Kris Bryant told Fox Sports' Tom Verducci the 17-minute rain delay in the 10th inning was "the best thing for us," because of a players-only meeting called by Heyward. The Cubs, stunned by Davis' game-tying home run off Chapman, went back on the field and scored two runs in the 10th to win it.

    "I just had to remind them who they were," Heyward told Verducci.

    Is that worth the $184 million the Cubs gave Heyward last winter? If it was the key to ending a 108-year curse, how could you ever say it wasn't?

Best In-Game Tweet: Justin Verlander

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    The Detroit Tigers ace is well into his offseason, as you can see above (at the Art and Film Gala at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with fiancee Kate Upton).

    But he hasn't forgotten about baseball. He was watching—and tweeting—Game 7. When Davis came up to face Chapman in the eighth inning, here's what Verlander tweeted: " likes hitting lefties. And likes hitting heaters. Good matchup."

    Chapman threw a heater. Davis hit it. The game was tied, and Verlander soon had 2,500 retweets and 4,500 likes.

Best Attempt to Steal the Show: Rajai Davis

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    Verlander's tweet didn't make the Davis home run any less stunning. Had the Indians gone on to win, it would have been one of the biggest homers in World Series history—from a guy with 365 career stolen bases but just 55 career home runs.

    Davis had another potentially big hit in the bottom of the 10th, driving in the game's final run.

    Without him, no one is calling Game 7 one of the best games ever. Because of him, this was a game we'll all remember.

Best Cubs Celebrity Fan: Bill Murray

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    America is going to get really tired of Cubs fans. America is going to get especially tired of celebrity Cubs fans.

    I can watch this clip of Bill Murray singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" any time.

    Murray had quite a week. He was the celebrity seventh-inning stretch conductor for Game 3 at Wrigley Field. He gave a free ticket to Game 6 to Cubs fan Karen Michel of Northwest Indiana, according to MLB.com's Alyson Footer.

    And while celebrity fans in postgame locker rooms can be an annoyance, Murray was a perfect fill-in interviewer on Fox Sports' postgame show.

Best Comeback Story: Kyle Schwarber

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    He was out for the season. Then he was in the Arizona Fall League. Then he was on a plane to Cleveland for the World Series.

    That would have been enough.

    Then Kyle Schwarber had a hit in Game 1 and two more hits and two RBI in Game 2.

    That would have been enough.

    He was 2-for-4 through nine innings of Game 7. And yes, that would have been enough.

    But did you catch who had the hit that started the Cubs' World Series-winning rally?

    Yeah. Kyle Schwarber.

    Incredible.

Best Reactions: Anthony Rizzo

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    It was Ben Zobrist who doubled home the run that put the Cubs ahead and eventually made them champions (although it turned out they needed the run that came home right after it on Miguel Montero's single, too).

    But the image I won't forget from that inning is of Anthony Rizzo standing at third base after the Zobrist double. He had both hands on his helmet, and you could read his lips: "Oh, my God!"

    They always say they're men playing a kid's game, but the 27-year-old Rizzo always shows off a kid's emotion as he plays the game.

    He's one reason (not the only one) why the Cubs are likable winners.

World Series Cy Young: Jake Arrieta

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    I easily could have given this to Corey Kluber, who won Games 1 and 4 for the Indians and was the only starting pitcher on either team to throw a pitch in the seventh inning (he threw three in Game 1, giving up a single to Zobrist before being pulled for Andrew Miller).

    It just didn't feel right to give it to the guy who would have been Game 7's losing pitcher, if not for the Davis home run (even though Kluber deserves tons of credit for starting twice on short rest).

    Instead, it goes to Jake Arrieta, who won Games 2 and 6 for the Cubs. In this World Series where no starter went more than six innings, he went 5.2 innings and pitched well in each of his two starts.

    Oh, and if you want a sign of how much the game has changed, the last time a Chicago team won the World Series, the 2005 White Sox swept the Houston Astros with all four starters finishing seven innings. That was after all four threw complete games in the ALCS.

    Eleven years later, the Cubs had an eight-inning start from Jon Lester in Game 1 of the division series, and they didn't come close to having anyone match it the rest of the way.

    At least Arrieta was proof starters still matter.

World Series MVP: Kris Bryant

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    I know, Zobrist got the official MVP award and the car that goes with it. That's reasonable, since Zobrist's hit broke the 6-6 tie in the 10th inning of Game 7.

    But the Cubs never get to Game 7 without Bryant.

    When they were down three games to one and trailing while facing elimination in Game 5, Bryant led off the fourth inning with the home run that tied the game and turned the series. The Cubs went on to score three times in that inning and won the game 3-2. They won the next two games and captured the World Series.

    Bryant also hit the first-inning home run off Josh Tomlin that started the Cubs on the way to their 9-3 win in Game 6. He also scored two runs in Game 7.

    MLB can go with Zobrist, who had a great World Series (.357 batting average) and has been on the championship team two straight years. We're going with Bryant.

Early 2017 Prediction: Cubs Win Again

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    If the curse really is over, there's no reason the Cubs shouldn't win again, right?

    Baseball hasn't had a repeat champion in 16 years, since the New York Yankees won their third in a row in 2000. That's not 108 years, but it's the longest stretch there's ever been without a team winning back-to-back years.

    The Cubs are young and talented enough to win again, and they'll certainly have the money to spend.

    Besides, the last time the Cubs were world champions, they won two in a row. Everyone always talks about 1908, but they won in 1907, too.

    So why not 2016 and 2017? I don't have a good track record with predictions, but I did pick this one.