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Managers Terry Francona and Joe Maddon rewatch, relive 2016 World Series Game 7 in new MLB Network special

Mileage is always going to vary by person, but for my money, Game 7 of the 2016 World Series — when factoring in all the surrounding circumstances — is the best baseball game I’ve ever seen. The Chicago Cubs and their 108-year World Series drought were visiting Cleveland, a franchise with a 68-year drought of its own. We all know how it ended.

The managers of the game, Joe Maddon with Chicago and Terry Francona with Cleveland, sat down to watch the game back with broadcasters Bob Costas and Tom Verducci for a special that airs Thursday on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET. 

“Any World Series Game 7 holds the potential of great drama,” Costas said in a press release. “2016’s deciding game certainly provided all the twists and turns, drama and excitement fans could ever hope for. But when you combine that with the rich and at times star-crossed history of the two teams, and the passion and yearning of their fans, this rises to a level all its own. To relive that game through the memories and insights of the two managers was a great experience for me and Tom and it’s a program baseball fans will savor.”

CBS Sports was able to view an advanced screening of the special and it’s well worth the watch. Well, I’m not sure if Clevelanders will love it — though Francona was great, as usual — but Cubs fans will thoroughly enjoy it and there’s plenty for any other die-hard baseball fans.

Generally speaking, there were several fun little nuggets throughout the broadcast, but the broad takeaway was it was a pleasure to hear each manager discuss his thought process at certain points throughout the game that had so many twists and turns in addition to such much historical weight. 

We’ll go light here, as to not ruin the broadcast or anything, but here were the bigger parts that stood out. 

Fowler HR/Kluber on short rest

Remember, Dexter Fowler of the Cubs led the game off with a home run, which is still the only instance of the game’s first batter hitting a home run in World Series Game 7 history. Maddon mentioned that in addition to scoring first — which is always a goal — the homer had a positive “psychological component” to it for the Cubs in getting to Corey Kluber early. 

On the Cleveland side, Kluber was a Cy Young-level ace in his prime, but he was also running “on fumes,” as Francona mentioned. Kluber had already won Games 1 and 4 in the World Series and some exhaustion crept in during this one. Francona expected it, saying they were “nervous” but didn’t really have any other choice due to some late-season rotation injuries. 

He later mentioned Kluber’s arm slot showing his fatigue.

“You can kind of see him getting lower and lower, and I get it,” Francona said, acknowledging that starting Kluber three times in seven games “was a big ask.”   

Lester vs. Francona

The Cubs brought in Games 1 and 5 starter Jon Lester to throw three innings of relief. The last time he worked in relief was with Francona’s Red Sox. Francona talked about his love for Lester and how he’d known him since Jon was in Double-A. But also that, at the time, “we want to beat his brains in” during Game 7. 

Miller vs. Ross

There’s a very interesting nugget on Andrew Miller’s pitch selection that I don’t want to ruin. 

Anyway, remember how much of a beast Miller was for Cleveland that postseason. It was ridiculous. Costas actually said how “by and large” great Miller had been, which drew a “BY AND LARGE?!?!? He was superhuman!” reaction from Francona, triggering the host to correct himself. 

Miller had also thrown a ton in the postseason and specifically against the Cubs in the World Series. He gave up two runs in this outing, including a solo homer to David Ross, playing in his last game. There’s great stuff on this matchup and Francona said Ross’ homer was “the single biggest swing of the game.” 

Rajai HR

As Costas pointed out, the Rajai Davis home run in the eighth flipped this from a good game to a classic. A lot of time is, correctly, spent on this one, including Aroldis Chapman’s pitch selection as being called by Ross behind the plate. Davis fouled off a bunch of pitches and it was great hearing everyone discuss the at-bat as they watched it unfold. Here’s a clip MLB Network has released to give you a feel of what the entire special is like: 

The end

About a third of the entire broadcast was spent on the 9th inning, 10th inning, the rain delay before the 10th, and the post-game celebration/interviews. There were quality breakdowns of the on-field action, some tidbits from Verducci (he was in the Cubs’ dugout for the game) about the rain delay and we got plenty of perspective from each manager both on the moves they were making in addition to their bigger-picture thoughts. 

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