“Dude, I’m Not a Player! I Can’t Get You Tickets”: A World Series Preview

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With the World Series beginning on Tuesday night, we asked MLB Network analysts Mark DeRosa and Sean Casey to give us their impressions and predictions on what is sure to be — no matter the winner — a momentous end to baseball’s postseason.

Mark DeRosa
Case, I gotta admit, the other night while I was watching the Cubs celebrate, I started getting pretty emotional. My wife looked over at me and said, “You want to cry?” And I said, “I’m not going to cry … but … I’m close.” I played second base for the Cubs for two seasons and they were the two greatest years of my career. I want to see them win the World Series. I feel pretty emotionally invested here.

Sean Casey
I think anybody who has ever called themselves a baseball fan is pretty emotionally invested in this World Series. The Cubs are the story, but I think people are overlooking the fact that that this is a really big deal for Cleveland, as well. I was a September call-up on that ’97 Indians team that went to the World Series and lost in seven games. I mean, I only had two hits and one RBI after getting called up — I was a bum. But I was on the team. I saw firsthand how much that city hurt when they came up short.

I’ve got so many damn ticket requests coming in, and I’m like, Dude, I’m not a player! I can’t get you tickets. Go to StubHub.

DeRosa
I think it’s going to be especially tough on whichever team loses. As a former Cubs player, I feel this attachment to this current team that I can’t really describe. If I wasn’t working the games for MLB Network, I’d buy a ticket to sit in the stands as a fan. Every person who’s ever worn a Cubs uniform wanted to be on the team that won the whole thing for Chicago. It’s what we talked about on the team plane, and while we stretched, and during bus rides. To see these guys make it there brought up different emotions in me that I didn’t even feel when I was on a World Series–winning team. I was just so happy for them.

Casey
It was a similar deal for me watching the Indians be so dominant against the Jays. Half my family is from Cleveland, so I’ve always felt a connection there. The Indians have the second-longest World Series drought, stretching back to 1948. I think the Cavs’ championship kind of overshadowed all of that, but this is also a team with a very long history — and a lot of tough years, just like the Cubs.

I can tell you that Cleveland is pumped. I’ve got so many damn ticket requests coming in, and I’m like, Dude, I’m not a player! I can’t get you tickets. Go to StubHub.

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Casey
I remember sitting in the dugout in Yankee Stadium in 2006 while I was with the Tigers. It was late in the season, during the heat of a pennant race. Suddenly this skinny, 6′ 7″ dude sits next to me and I was thinking, Is this the bat boy or something?

Then he turns and introduces himself to me.

“Hey, I’m Andrew Miller. I just got called up.”

And I was thinking, This is the first-round pick everyone’s talking about?

DeRosa
Everybody I’ve ever talked to has said this guy is one of the best teammates they’ve ever had. That, for me, is the most important thing. You watch the way he handles himself off the mound and he’s just a guy you want to go to battle for.

The other day Clayton Kershaw had no breaking ball whatsoever. The Cubs hitters knew it by the second inning, and it was game over.

Casey
It’s funny to think about where he was as a player 10 years ago. He always had electric stuff, but watching him on the mound you could tell he was still trying to figure out who he was and how to really put everything together. So when I watch him today, it’s like seeing your little brother dominate. He’s kind of the perfect example of having patience with talent. He’s throwing his slider for strikes regardless of the count, he’s taking on righties and lefties and you like his odds against any batter he faces.

DeRosa
He’s able to create such a violent and deceptive arm angle because of his height. He’s got basically no windup — he just barely lifts his front toe and then it’s coming. And the guy always has his slider. I’ve never seen him pitch without it because he’s never had to. To understand how special that is, the other day Clayton Kershaw had no breaking ball whatsoever. The Cubs hitters knew it by the second inning, and it was game over. Andrew Miller always has that wipeout slider.

Game 1 of this series will be interesting because we’ll see if the Cubs still have hot bats.

Casey
I love the way that Tito is using him, not just closing out games, but also to really shut down the meat of the opposing team’s lineup in the late innings.

DeRosa
He is the ultimate trump card for Francona. He’s the reason this is a tough series to handicap because it’s difficult to tell how much you can tax him. When he came into Game 2 of the ALCS, he was a little fatigued and throwing in the low-90s, but still nobody had a good swing against him. I don’t know if he can be run out there for three innings the way Jansen was used by the Dodgers. But if Francona is able to use him whenever he wants, it changes the whole complexion of this series.

Honestly, I feel like Toronto’s lineup is probably a tick better than the Cubs’ lineup. At the very least, they aren’t noticeably worse. The Indians absolutely shut them down. Toronto didn’t even pose a threat offensively.

Casey
That’s really the thing. People felt great about the Jays heading into the ALCS because all of their bats were hot. Donaldson, Encarnación, Bautista — even Tulo was raking. And Cleveland just shut them down right out of the gate.

DeRosa
Game 1 of this series will be interesting because we’ll see if the Cubs still have hot bats. I think you can break down Tito’s strategy early this series as basically, Here’s Kluber for six, here’s Miller for two and here’s Cody Allen to close it out. Go back in your slump, and then let’s put Bauer out there for Game 2 and see what happens.

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The best matchup of the entire series might be between the managers.

Casey
I think back to when I played in the 2006 World Series with the Tigers, and we had about six days off because we swept the A’s. We had been rolling up to that point and had a loaded lineup. Meanwhile the Cardinals went to seven games with the Mets and only had a day off before they began the series. Ultimately, I think it was to their advantage to be in the flow of playing intense games and carrying that over. For that reason, I think the Cubs have an advantage going in.

DeRosa
I agree with that.

Casey
The best matchup of the entire series might be between the managers. Both of these guys are great communicators, and they’re players managers. They have the ability to get the most out of their guys by getting them to relax in big situations. They’ve also both managed on this stage.

DeRosa
I have to give love to Terry Francona. He went into this postseason having lost not only two of his best starters, but two of the best starters in the game period. But he never approached it like, Oh, poor us! We’re just going to throw our gloves out there and hope for the bestnot at all. Instead he just managed the hell out of this team and reinvented the way they win games. I thought he was the MVP of the ALCS. He was perfect.

Cleveland is being treated like sort of an afterthought because of the Cubbies. But that’s a big mistake. The Indians were second behind the Red Sox in just about every offensive category.

Casey
What’s really telling, DeRo, when you watch the way he manages the team, you can see that nobody is in it for themselves. When he went to Kluber on three days rest and was like, I might need you … actually it wasn’t that at all. It was, I need you. We have no other options. And Kluber was like, I’m in!

It’s clear this isn’t a team with egos. They’ve entirely bought into this idea that if they put their faith in Tito and come together, they can beat anybody. They don’t have Salazar, they don’t have Carrasco, Bauer is cutting himself on drones — there are so many reasons this team shouldn’t win, but it keeps getting better.

DeRosa
Cleveland is being treated like sort of an afterthought because of the Cubbies. But that’s a big mistake. The Indians were second behind the Red Sox in just about every offensive category. Their pitching absolutely shut down two of the best lineups in the league. This team is going to be a tough out for the Cubs. When you dive into the numbers on Cleveland, they’re a heck of a lot better than you think.

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DeRosa
I’m not worried about the Cubs’ offense going into this series, even with a few guys like Heyward slumping. The reason for that is because I feel like Joe Maddon puts a very dynamic defensive club on the field, and then matches up his offense to it. The hitting is good enough, but the defense and the pitching ensure that you don’t need a whole bunch of runs to win.

I think Kluber vs. Lester will be a classic, but I’m also excited to see what Arrieta has.

Casey
Do you think Almora will start with Heyward slumping? He’s been great defensively.

DeRosa
I don’t know. I think Heyward is going to be in there because you’re going to keep him in the lineup against Kluber, keep him in there against Tomlin. I feel like Heyward is capable of running into something against anybody who doesn’t have a huge fastball.

Casey
I think Kluber vs. Lester will be a classic, but I’m also excited to see what Arrieta has.

DeRosa
He was the most dominant pitcher in the game for a year and a half, but recently he hasn’t been on that level. I know he’s capable of it. And him pitching a great game will tilt this series.

I’m also interested to watch how Josh Tomlin pitches in Wrigley because you can’t handicap that until you know which way the wind is blowing. If the wind is coming from behind him, he can throw those four-seamers all he wants and guys will just hit balls to the warning track. But if it’s blowing out? That’s the worst-case scenario for the Indians. 

Kyle Hendricks — oh, man. If anyone ever doubted that this guy was nails, that’s out the window.

Casey
There are a lot of really great arms on both teams, but can we just talk about Kyle Hendricks? That guy pitched the game of his life on the biggest stage of his life.

DeRosa
Kyle Hendricks — oh, man. If anyone ever doubted that this guy was nails, that’s out the window. Honestly, I was so disappointed when Joe Maddon took him out of that game. I mean, look, I get it. You’re up 5–0 and want to go to the World Series so you bring in a guy who throws 105. But, man, I would have loved to have seen him go the distance there.

Casey
It looked like he was about to fall asleep. Guy must have the lowest heart rate in the country.

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I really think it would be the most memorable championship in any sport ever. I really do.

Casey
It can’t be understated what’s up for grabs here for the Cubs. I remember back in ’04 when the Red Sox won it all, and I think that still stands as the most memorable World Series victory of my lifetime. To this day, if you were on that Sox roster, whether you’re Papi or the last guy out of the bullpen, you’re a legend in Boston forever. I think it’s the same deal for all of these guys on the Cubs. This is so huge, and if they win it, Theo Epstein will be inducted into the Hall of Fame the next day.

DeRosa
I really think it would be the most memorable championship in any sport ever. I really do. Playing at Wrigley is like being at a Little League game attended by 40,000 people. It’s just … fun. The community is so connected to the team that, as a player, you build these deep relationships with the fans in the stands and the people working at the ballpark. You’re all on the same team.

Casey
I played so many games against the Cubs over the years, and there was nothing like those crowds. Sometimes I wished I would get taken out of the game so I could sit in the bleachers and drink beers with the regulars. It was something else the other night, when there were two outs in Wrigley and people in the stands were all crying. All I could think of was, How many of these people have family members who have been great Cubs fans for all these years and are experiencing this moment on behalf of all of them? This isn’t a sports moment. It’s a cultural moment. This team’s drought has been part of America’s history, and even being this close to seeing it end feels wild.

DeRosa
So who do you have to win it?

Casey
I have to go with the Cubs in seven. But it could tilt either way depending on pitching.

DeRosa
Oh man, that would be epic. I want to take the Cubs in five, but because I have too much respect for Cleveland, I’ll say Cubs in six.


You can watch Sean and Mark on MLB Network’s World Series coverage on-site in Cleveland and Chicago.

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