Saturday, October 7, 2017

World Series 2017...My Preferences for a Champion

These are not predictions, just my hopes and dreams, ranked.

Of the 10 teams that made the playoffs, the Twins and Rockies were tied for 9th on my list, mostly because there was no expectation that either would advance. And neither did.

That said, here's your top 8:

I'm debating here whether to count down or up.

Counting up is more dramatic, and works well on the radio and on TV. Or on a Thrillist ranking where all 50 states are ranked on something and you have to scroll down a lot to get to #1, which you probably disagree with anyway. But 8 is a short list with little if any scrolling required, so we'll go with counting from 1-8.

#1: Red Sox (of course).

So what if they're already down by two games to Houston...the Sox came back from 0-2 to win the ALDS in 1999 (v. Cleveland), 2003 (v. A's) and down 0-3 to win the ALCS (v. Yankees) in 2004. As Monty Python would say, they're not completely dead yet. They pounded the Astros on Sunday, 10-3, to keep the series alive.

#2: Anybody but the Yankees.

Not much argument there other than folks from NY, NJ and the part of Connecticut south of Hartford. It's well-known that the real New England is 5-1/2 states.

#3: Washington Nationals.

People think of the droughts in Boston (86 years) and Chicago (88 years), but DC has gone longer than any market without a World Series Champion. 93 years, to be exact. It was in 1924. Prohibition was the law of the land. No beer vendors in the stands at Griffith Stadium (where I actually saw a game in 1958-Opening Day, Red Sox @ Senators. President Eisenhower threw out the first pitch). Back in '24 Calvin Coolidge was President and threw out the first pitch of Game 1. Star pitcher Walter "The Big Train" Johnson was the starter, 8th inning guy, and closer. He pitched all 12 innings, giving up 14 hits and 4 runs in a 4-3 loss to the New York Giants.

(Side note: in case you've ever wondered why people still refer to the "New York Football Giants"'s because the baseball Giants were around in New York a long time before the football ones. When the baseball ones moved to San Francisco in 1958 the Football Giants name just stuck.)

Johnson also started and finished Game 5, going the distance and giving up 13 hits and 6 runs in a 6-2 loss. In Game 7, with the series tied 3-3, Johnson came in as the closer in the 9th and threw four scoreless innings to lead the Senators to the championship in the 12th. 9 years later DC had one more World Series appearance, in 1933 against the same New York Giants...this time losing in 5 games. Nothing since then.

As years and bad seasons dragged on, the slogan "Washington...first in war, first in peace, last in the American League" was oft repeated by local sports scribes. The original Senators blew town in 1961 and became the Minnesota Twins. They were immediately replaced by a new Washington Senators that was worse than the original and also blew town, moving to Dallas in 1972 to become the Texas Rangers. Then the good folks of DC suffered through 33 years with no team. Better to have a lousy one than none, right? Finally, in 2005, the Montreal Expos gave up and moved to DC to become the Nationals (a nickname the original Senators used in the 50's). The Expos were a bad team when they moved to DC, but have morphed into a very good team. They were the first to clinch their division in 2017. So yeah, Go Nats!

#4: Indians.

Cleveland has gone 69 years without winning. I was three weeks old the last time it happened, which was at Braves Field in Boston, just 6 blocks down Comm Ave. from Fenway. There was almost a Boston-Boston World Series that year, but the Red Sox blew a one-game pennant playoff against the Tribe. The Indians are a very good team. They have Tito, who broke the curse in Boston. They have Corey Kluber, the likely Cy Young Award winner. Cleveland is a much better place than the urban legends would lead you to believe.

#5: Cubs.

They've got Theo, who broke two long curses. (the Babe Ruth curse made some sense, but the Billy Goat curse was just stupid.) A repeat win after waiting 108 years would be cool. I haven't heard this mentioned, but when the Cubbies won in 1908 it was a repeat of 1907. They beat the Detroit Tigers in back-to-back years.

#6: Houston.

They're an awfully good team this year after decades of mediocrity. The Astrodome was horrible, but Minute Maid Park is really nice. They got rid of the ugly pajama uniforms. Jose Altuve is probably your MVP. No Texas team has ever won the World Series, so maybe it's time.

#7: Dodgers.

A Dodgers-Yankees matchup is the least interesting possibility this year, but the team had an amazing run. Especially when Adrian Gonzalez ("The Cooler") was on the DL. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is enshrined in Red Sox history for the steal of the century in 2004. Plus, the Dodgers took Carl Crawford and Gonzo off our hands.

#8: Diamondbacks.

Ugly uniforms, but a nice ballpark. Their manager is Tory Lovullo, who filled in for John Farrell at the end of 2016 and is probably the reason the Red Sox won the AL East last year.

So that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Then again, there's Monday.

It will be a possible elimination night for the Red Sox, Yankees and D'Backs. Which would move Washington up to #1 on the list.

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