Got some controversial news you’d like to take cover from? How about letting it slip on Hall of Fame induction day? That seems to be what is happening here:
As Lukas notes, visually, this is not a big deal. We’re still going to see Wahoo all over the place. But make no mistake: this is a big deal. It’s a significant move which comports pretty nicely with what I have long suspected: Indians management’s desire to slowly, slowly marginalize Chief Wahoo with an eye towards his eventual elimination.
I first floated this idea a couple of years ago when I noticed that, at the Indians’ spring training facility in Goodyear, Arizona, Chief Wahoo is hard to find. The buildings and signage all feature the block C logo and the block C cap is worn far more often during spring training than in the regular season. With the introduction of the Indians’ alternate uniforms in the past few years — alternates that are worn far more often than most teams wear their alternates — my suspicions along these lines have increased.
Of course, the Indians have denied that they are phasing out Wahoo. As I probably would too if I were in their position. They have a large and loyal fan base who has been wearing that odious red-faced mascot on their caps and shirts for decades now. The team doesn’t want to make an abrupt change, with an attendant announcement, which effectively says “hey, fans? You all are racists in our eyes now, ok?” They also don’t want to lose merchandise sales. And to be clear, Wahoo still exists even on the alternate jerseys in the form of a sleeve patch and apparently still will even now that the official logo has changed.
But this fall the Indians surveyed fans about Wahoo. And the heat being brought to bear on the Washington Redskins for their racist name and iconography is no doubt being noticed on Ontario Street up in Cleveland. And, even if they once again deny it today, it’s impossible to see this move as anything other than a further marginalization of Chief Wahoo. One that, in my view, will inevitably lead to his elimination at one point in the not-too-distant future, even if it’s done without a press release or official announcement.
And good for the Cleveland Indians for doing so.
After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.
The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).
Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.
With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.
Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.
With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:
So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).
Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.