I'll admit that I'm hardly a die-hard fan of the Chicago Cubs, and why should I be? I was only a casual fan of baseball as a kid, never followed it much as an adult, and live nowhere near The Windy City...although that didn't stop me from jumping on the Bulls bandwagon in Jordan's era. But a certain amount of historical drama adds a lot to any sporting event, so the idea of watching a team attempt to break their 108-year championship drought was more than enough to grab my attention. The rest of America thought so, too: last month's 2016 World Series pulled in nearly double the ratings as the previous year, with the now-legendary Game 7 drawing more than 40 million viewers (a number that hadn't been topped since 1991). The Cubs winning a Fall Classic actually seemed possible for the first time in decades, especially since their last National League title occurred a month after the end of WWII.
Citing that year's infamous "Curse of the Billy Goat" as a tongue-in-cheek rationale for the continued drought (although I'm certain that plenty of superstitious fans took it seriously), generations of Cubs disciples lived and died during the next seven decades. Players like Ernie Banks and Ron Santo did, too. All were undoubtedly hopeful that their team would one day win another pennant, or even a World Series, so the franchise's overwhelming success this year was as bittersweet as it was long overdue. After a highly successful regular season that included 103 wins (the franchise's most in over a century) and doubled as the best record in baseball, the Cubs entered both the Division and National League Championship Series as favorites; in contrast, the eventual American League champion Cleveland Indians won just 94 games during the regular season but were also first place in their division.
Following the Cubs' curse-ending National League Championship win against the Dodgers (also included in this set as a bonus feature), the seven-game 2016 World Series proved to be as riveting, magnetic, and emotional as any in recent memory...especially since the Indians hadn't won a World Series of their own since 1948. A victory would have been extremely meaningful for either team, and the fact that the championship was decided by one run in a seventh game that went extra innings---and after a Series-first rain delay, no less---made this match-up a lot less one-sided than the all-blue cover artwork suggests. Such a historic Fall Classic seems appropriate for MLB's annual home video package...and more than ever, this Blu-ray Collector's Edition (also available on DVD, as well as a one-disc highlight compilation) feels like an accessible souvenir that's worth preserving. Serving up eight full games on eight discs, the only bells and whistles are the high-definition visuals and a few thoughtful audio options.
So, whether you already bought that stripped-down highlight compilation or you're just hoping that this is an all-inclusive affair, prepare to be mildly disappointed. Don't get me wrong: this is one of the best and most memorable World Series in recent memory, but the lack of fanfare with a "games-only" package means that die-hard fans have seen everything here already. Given the historic significance of this event---and on both sides of the playing field, to be fair---plus the presence of a "bonus disc", you'd think that an $80 package would get you at least a little more than 17 hours of material you already watched for free (hell, we don't even get any pre-show footage). The A/V boost is certainly appreciated, but this party's over awfully fast after that final out in the bottom of the 10th.
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio at 1080i resolution, the majority of Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series looks better than what most fans likely saw during the original FOX broadcast. Colors and image detail are quite good overall: fine detail and textures are noticeable during mid-range and close-up shots, and black levels are balanced nicely from start to finish. The only obvious (and understandable) imperfections stem from the source material of these live recordings, such as the occasionally harsh glare of stadium lighting or slight inconsistencies with exposure levels. All eight discs rarely feature more than three hours of content apiece, ensuring that there are no compression issues. Anyone familiar with high-def sports presentations---baseball or otherwise, and especially previous MLB World Series Blu-rays---should know exactly what they're getting here, and will likely be pleased.
DISCLAIMER: The still images and screen captures on this page are decorative and do not represent the Blu-ray under review.
The audio is slightly less robust, but the variety of choices makes up for it. I'm not aware of the original mix for these games, but the default DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio broadcast track serves up a rather basic presentation (past World Series Blu-rays have also included 2.0 audio, just for the record). While there's good channel separation and great depth at times, the lack of rear channel activity gives it a less immediate and enveloping atmosphere than expected. Either way, if you're not a fan of FOX's play-by-play or just want a different experience (especially during replays), three other options are also here in DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio: the Cubs and Indians Radio Network audio, as well as Spanish play-by-play. Fidelity is similar on all tracks, despite a few subtle differences in volume levels and mixing. Frustratingly, English SDH subtitles are listed on the packaging but were nowhere to be found.
Menu Design & Packaging
More or less identical to past collections, the basic interface is clean and easy to navigate...but did they really have to have the same five pre-menu commercials on every disc? Separate options are available for audio set-up, as well as a scoreboard-style "inning selection" that also includes access to the brief post-game material. This eight-disc release arrives in a multi-hinged keepcase with double-sided artwork, a handy Booklet with detailed stats for each game (no running times listed, but it tells you the friggin' temperature for some reason), and a slipcover.
No traditional extras are included here (unless you count the brief post-game material, which is less than 10 minutes on each disc), just the full National League Championship Series, Game 6 clincher against the Dodgers. It's a good enough game and well worth having as part of this collection, but the lack of additional content is really disappointing here. No pre-game? No seventh-inning stretch? No victory parade footage or Bill Murray speech? What a missed opportunity. It's bad enough that die-hard fans have to buy two separate Blu-ray packages to get what might barely be described as "the full experience"...but if you're just in it for the games, you won't be too disappointed.
Whether you're a die-hard Cubbies fan or just enjoy great baseball, this Collector's Edition of Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series makes good on its promise of delivering all seven Fall Classic games (plus a bonus one from the NLCS) in one convenient high-definition package. But anyone expecting bonus features---even no-brainers such as the pre-show, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, or more in-depth post-game material---will be disappointed, and this complete lack of goodies almost ends up spoiling the party a little. There's very little fanfare in what should be a much more all-inclusive package, and even buying the standard edition separately yields little more than season highlights and brief clips of the victory parade. That said, the A/V quality is good enough (especially the four separate audio options) and the privilege of having an "official copy" of this landmark championship will be more than enough to entice most fans of the franchise. Recommended, unless it's already secured a permanent spot on your DVR.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.