It has been three days since the World Series ended, and I would like to tie a bow on it with three last discussion points.
- I rank this as the fourth-best World Series of the Wild-Card era. (See here for my complete rankings.) It was a tremendous series. It was a 7-game series with two epic games – Game 2 and Game 5. Game 2 gave us an Astros comeback in the Top of the 9th and a Dodgers comeback in the Bottom of the 10th. The Astros would ultimately win that game in the 11th. Then, Game 5 was a delight. I never thought I would enjoy a 5-hour, 9-inning game (and that was the length of the first 9 innings). The 10th inning put this game beyond the 5-hour mark, but it was all good. The score was 13-12, so, of course, it will take a long time to play a game like that. This game saw the Astros erase a 4-0 lead against Kershaw. It also saw the Dodgers erase a 3-run lead in the Top of the 9th. The most incredible part of this game was that the bullpens were so terrible that I don’t think anyone was surprised that the Dodgers erased a 3-run lead in the 9th.
In my mind, only three Wild-Card-era World Series rank higher than this one. Two of them – Cubs/Indians and Yankees/DBacks – had all-time-great Game 7s decided in the last inning. The other, Cardinals/Rangers, was extended to a Game 7 by the greatest playoff game I have ever seen.
- Some of the greatest moments in sports history occur when future Hall-of-Famers finally win championships in the twilights of their careers. John Elway, Michael Strahan, and Ray Bourque immediately come to mind. In this year’s World Series, the same thing occurred, as Carlos Beltran, whom I think belongs in the Hall of Fame, finally won a World Series. The only difference between this and the other examples mentioned is that Carlos Beltran did nothing to help the Astros win in the playoffs. Most sports fans have the images of John Elway helicoptering for a first down against Green Bay, Michael Strahan sacking Tom Brady, and Ray Bourque hoisting the Stanley Cup (ugh) emblazoned into our memories. However, no such emblazoning will take place with Beltran. For years, fans will remember (pick your favorite Astro) hitting homerun after homerun, Kate Upton cheering on Justin Verlander, or Carlos Correa proposing to Miss Texas USA. Seriously, Verlander and Correa have already dominated this life so much that I wish there were a higher life to which they could be called up. Clearly, they need a challenge. (FYI I don’t mean this in an “afterlife” way. I feel I must specify that so you don’t think I am calling for Verlander’s and Correa’s deaths.)
….but I digress. Nobody will think of Carlos Beltran when they think of the 2017 World Series, but the guy now has a World Series ring. It is poetic justice. He had one of the greatest postseasons of all time for the 2004 Astros, when he hit better than .400 in both the NLDS and NLCS and hit four homers in each series. Mets fans, by and large, are moronic and are the only group who blames the guy who made the last out of a series for the series loss. Yes, Beltran struck out to end the 2006 NLCS, but he hit .296 with 3 homers and an 1.054 OPS in that series. He was one of the few Mets to hit a lick in that series, but too many Mets fans focus on the last out.
Carlos Beltran belongs in the Hall of Fame. In 65 playoff games (with Houston, the Mets, St. Louis, and Texas), he hit .307 with 16 homers and a 1.021 OPS. That is a clutch player. Of course, his regular-season numbers will be key to whether or not he makes the Hall of Fame. In my mind, a stellar defensive center-fielder with career numbers of .279 BA, .837 OPS, 435 homers, and 312 stolen bases belongs in the Hall of Fame. Plus, he passes my biggest Hall of Fame test which is rendering a “Yes” to the question, “Was he a dominant player in the game for at least a decade?”
Circling back to my original point; because Beltran has dominated baseball for nearly two decades but always came up short of a ring, it is only fitting that the 2017 Astros carried him to a championship.
- Lastly, let’s discuss Clayton Kershaw. Often, when discussing economics and the politics related to it with my economics classes, I say, “The right answer is usually in the middle; but there is nothing sexy about the middle, and there are no ratings in the middle.” We hear it with immigration, with gun control, with taxes, with healthcare, etc. Nobody wants to hear a nuanced opinion that analyzes the good and bad of each side; people just want to declare something “great” or “terrible”.
This is where we are with Clayton Kershaw. Is he Madison Bumgarner or Jack Morris in the playoffs? No, he isn’t. However, many people now make him out to be a great pitcher who turns into the Yankees version of Carl Pavano every time he takes the mound in October. That isn’t the case either.
The “Kershaw can’t pitch in the postseason” narrative essentially started after the 2014 season. That year, Kershaw lost twice in the NLDS against the Cardinals, as he allowed 11 earned runs over 12.2 innings. This followed the 2013 NLCS against the same Cardinals, who tagged Kershaw for 7 runs over 12 innings in two more Kershaw losses.
However, this narrative conveniently ignores that he allowed 1 earned run in 13 innings across two 2013-NLDS starts against Atlanta. It conveniently ignores that he allowed only 4 earned runs in 13.2 innings (with a .88 WHIP) in the 2015 NLDS against the Mets. He beat the Mets at Citi Field in Game 4 when a Mets win would have sent the Dodgers home for the season. Those numbers are not amazing, but they are certainly respectable. Honestly, in this day and age, pitching 13 innings in two playoff starts is a great feat. Fast forward to 2016. He got roughed up in his two Division Series starts against Washington, but he came on for a .2-inning save in the winner-take-all Game 5, with the Dodgers clinging to a 1-run lead. In the NLCS last year, he allowed four earned runs in 12 innings. Again, not great, not terrible.
Finally this year, it is easy to say that Kershaw allowed four homers in his first start against Arizona, but they were all solo homers, and LA had a big lead. He was pitching the way one should with a large lead. Then, in the NLCS, he allowed 3 earned runs in 11 innings across two starts. In Game 1 of the World Series, he allowed 1 earned run in 7 innings, in 100-degree heat. That was a great performance. No, he could not hold a 4-0 lead in Houston in Game 5, but he did pitch four shutout innings in relief in Game 7. Yes, the Dodgers were already down 5 runs. No, it was not the same as Bumgarner throwing 5 shutout innings for a Game-7 save 3 days after pitching a shutout. However, it is still an impressive feat in its own right.
Anyway, to return to my “Economics” point….Clayton Kershaw has not dominated the playoffs like he has the regular season. However, he has not been a disaster either. Kershaw is a dominant regular-season pitcher who has been an average, at best, postseason starter.
With that, I have now tied the bow on the World Series.