You can picture it without a TV. Television executives with visions of ratings points dancing in their heads. Dollar signs for eyeballs. A marketing bonanza. The top two television markets with everyone in America's two biggest cities watching. But it's not going to happen. The Dodgers and Yankees are not meeting in the World Series. It will be the Dodgers and Astros instead.
If you were growing up as a teenager in southern California during the 1970s and into the 80s as I did, you just couldn't like the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers beat the Dodgers in back-to-back years in '77 and '78, with LA finally getting payback in '81. Getting a rematch 36 years later would have been sweet, but only with a Dodger win. I pointed out personal reasons last week for wanting the Yankees, but the Yankees beating the Dodgers would be too much to take—especially with New York being a wild card team this year.
The network execs may be disappointed, but this LA-Houston matchup has all the makings of a classic. The Astros did not have the best record in the American League, but they won over a hundred games (101-61). The Dodgers had the best record in baseball (104-58). It's only the eighth time that both World Series participants each had 100 or more victories, and the first time since Baltimore defeated Cincinnati in five games in 1970.
The Dodgers have been known for their pitching, but Houston co-aces Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander have combined for a 1.93 earned run average this post-season, and Verlander is 4-0. With the exception of Alex Wood, who has only pitched in one game and lost to the Cubs, Clayton Kershaw, who starts game one, actually has the worst ERA of the Dodger starters at 3.63. Houston's bullpen has been shaky. The Dodgers' has been near-perfect.
Here are some numbers for you. Yasiel Puig (.414) and Justin Turner (.387) have been the offensive stars for the Dodgers, with Turner hitting his first-ever walkoff home run. American League MVP candidate Jose Altuve (.421 in the playoffs) has five homers, including three in one game. The Diamondbacks and Cubs batted just .169 against the Dodgers. The Red Sox and Yankees combined to do a little better against Houston, but only hit .232. Kershaw has allowed 6 home runs in just over 17 innings, but his batting average against him is only .194. If you throw out Tony Watson's two runs and three hits in 3 1/3 innings, the Dodger bullpen has allowed 2 runs (1 earned) and 6 hits in 25 1/3 innings—an ERA of 0.36. Only Collin McHugh (1 game, 4 innings) and Luke Gregerson haven't allowed runs for the 'Stros.
The Astros and Dodgers can both hit. Both teams can pitch, but the key for Houston is for starters to go deep into games. Dave Roberts likes to take his Dodger starters out rather early and turn it over to the pen. One thing about baseball, though, you just never know. Like they say, you can take all those numbers and throw them out the window. The big TV execs may be disappointed that they didn't get Dodgers-Yankees, but there may be more to tune in to see than they realize.
I'm a survivor: Getting this out of the way, New Orleans defeated Green Bay in the NFL this week, so, we move on in survival football. Just for the record—going with Cincinnati over Indianapolis in Week 8.
You're Fired: The Boston Red Sox were a sub-.500 team in 2015 and went on to win back-to-back AL East titles. The Washington Nationals have back-to-back NL East crowns, have winning records in each of the last six years and have four division championships in that time. Both clubs fired their managers this week after being bounced in the post-season's first round. John Farrell deserved better, and poor Dusty Baker still hasn't won a World Series in his illustrious managerial career. The Nationals also have never won any playoff series since moving from Montreal in 2005. Even as the Expos, their only post-season series win was the strike-created Division Series in 1981, before losing to the Dodgers in the NLCS.
Quality programming: MLB Network was definitely anticipating a Dodgers-Yankees series. According to my program guide earlier this week, the network's Tuesday night lineup (opposite Game 1 on Fox) was due to show hour-long shows on the 1978, 1979, and the 1981 seasons, plus highlights of the '81 World Series. With the Astros in there now, the lineup has been juggled, but the 1981 season show is still scheduled to air at 6pm... My mom told me about this one, but there was apparently an online petition to try to get Vin Scully to do the World Series on Fox. After doing some checking (Google), the petition was aimed at ousting Joe Buck in favor of Scully. Buck got wind of it and said he would be thrilled to include Scully on the air, but the soon-to-be 90 year-old legend declined, and even had to send out an e-mail statement to reporters, saying he “didn't deserve it”, didn't want to be “back in the spotlight”, and would “feel like an intruder”. Too bad.
Speak up, son!: So it isn't just my TV. Several people have commented to me over the last couple of weeks that they are having a hard time understanding the announcers, because the crowd noise is so loud. Fox/FS1 seems to be a worse offender than TBS, but both are bad. When I record the games, I watch them on standard definition (takes less DVR space), but when I watch them live, I watch on Hi-Def. I haven't really noticed a correlation, but it really is annoying.
Diamond in the rough: When you can hear him, Fox analyst John Smoltz doesn't always speak the goodest English, but did have a nice line. During the Yankees-Indians series, he said, “Pitching in the playoffs is like pitching an inning in Colorado. You breathe different.” It's 'differently', but Luis Severino was pitching well and gasping for air a little, so we liked the comparison.
“Batting around”: It's an age-old (but not really that important) baseball question. How many hitters have to come up to bat in an inning before you can say the team has 'batted around'? TBS' Brian Anderson and Fox/FS1's Joe Buck seem to agree that the answer is 9, but it really should be 10, shouldn't it? In the third inning of NLCS Game 5 Thursday, Chris Taylor led off with a double. Clayton Kershw, the ninth hitter, ended the inning with a strikeout. Anderson said the team batted around when Kershaw stepped in the box, but the lineup wouldn't have completed the circle unless Taylor batted again. Right? Discuss.