The Chicago Cubs are World Series champions. That still feels weird to say. One player that had a huge and unexpected role in their victorious series was Schwarber. How did he pull it off?
The story starts with the Chicago Cubs’ third game of the 2016 regular season. Coming off an unexpectedly successful 2015, expectations were running high in Chicago. All the youngsters were starting to settle in; fans could feel that this might be the year. Cubs baseball was back and more exciting than ever.
Then it happened. With a fly ball heading into left-center field, Kyle Schwarber collided with teammate Dexter Fowler. Schwarber then laid helplessly on the ground, waiting for trainers to come attend to him. He was then carted off the field and given an X-ray. It was revealed that Schwarber had torn both his ACL and LCL in his left knee. His season was declared to be over.
Watching him lay on the ground, you didn’t have to be a doctor to realize it was serious. There are few things as deflating as watching a young superstar go down like that early in a season. Schwarber was ruled out for the rest of the season, playoffs included. The team was adamant that no matter how far they advanced in the postseason, Schwarber would not be an option.
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One comeback to rule them all
After successful reconstructive surgery, Schwarber began the process of rehabilitation. Though he couldn’t play, the team felt it was important for him to remain in the dugout during home games.
This is a tight-knit group, and they placed a high priority on making sure he was still apart of the team, even if he couldn’t take the field.
Seven months later, Schwarber was cleared to hit and was sent to the Arizona Fall League to take some at-bats. Watching from afar, Cubs GM Theo Epstein determined Schwarber looked good enough to help the team out in the World Series.
World Series spotlight
As if it wasn’t already miraculous enough that the Cubs made it to the World Series. But to have your fan-favorite slugger come back to DH? You can’t make this stuff up. From tearing two ligaments in April to starting in Game 1 of the World Series in October.
As a designated hitter, Schwarber hit .412 with a .971 OPS in the World Series. An instant difference maker, Schwarber was even moved up to the second spot in the batting order when the series went back to Cleveland for Games 6 & 7. For players with at least 40 postseason at-bats, Schwarber ranks fourth all-time with a .744 slugging percentage. He’s tied with some schmuck named Babe Ruth.
After the Indians tied the game up during the eighth inning, the momentum had gone out the window for the Cubs. It started to feel like impending doom for the North Siders. But that would not be the way things unfolded for the Cubs. After a short rain delay, Schwarber delivered a crucial lead off single to start the 10th inning. Lifted for Albert Almora to pinch-run, Ben Zobrist doubled him home to give the Cubs the lead once again.
If not for Schwarber’s hit, who knows how things would have unfolded. The Cubs tacked on one more run that same inning, giving them a two-run lead. But the Indians also scored one run in the bottom half. Without Schwarber’s single, it could very well be that the game would’ve gone on even longer. At that point, it’s anyone’s game to win.
A Legend is born
This all seems like stuff from a Hollywood script. And with the Cubs winning it all, a movie about the whole thing might be inevitable. I’ll be pre-ordering tickets for that one.
The comeback itself was amazing. Even more amazing was the way he performed. Some wondered if it was even a good idea to have him on the World Series roster, let alone to start him. In the end, he was one of the driving forces behind the Chicago Cubs’ 2016 world championship.
Schwarber’s story is still largely unwritten. With early comparisons to Babe Ruth himself, Schwarber’s future looks extraordinarily bright. He’ll get a healthy amount of time in both the outfield and as a catcher in 2017. All eyes will be on him as he continues to add to his already legendary legacy.