The Boston Red Sox defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers last night to win the 2018 World Series® of Major League Baseball. The Red Sox, who had to win 4 games, did so in just 5 games, with the Dodgers winning just one game of the Series. I watched and/or listened to about 95% of this Series, mostly because I am a Red Sox fan and a baseball enthusiast, not necessarily in that order. And even though, this is World Series® #46 for me, I have to say there are still a few things I learned or re-learned about baseball.
In no particular order, here are the top ten things I learned:
- Celebrating a game winning home run when there are still 3 innings to play is not advisable. Because the feeling you will get watching the OTHER team shake hands with a win after your theatrics is really sucky!!! Case in point – Yasiel Puig hitting the Over Excite Button on his 3 run home run in Game 4 just a bit too early. Puig ended up watching the tying run and then the winning runs pour in after the 7th inning, helplessly in the Dodger’s right field. And then watched from the Dodgers dugout as the Red Sox shook hands after a Game 4 comeback to win.
- The Dodgers are an immensely talented team but had no baseball discipline in this Series. From the start, the young, athletic, brash Dodgers swung at bad pitches, took called third strikes, over-swang with runners in scoring position only to ground out or fly out without a run scoring. Pitchers threw hittable pitches time after time with 2 outs. 2 outs, your concentration has to be much better on the mound. The Dodgers had no discipline on the mound or at the plate, thus rallies ended early for them and rallies continued for the Red Sox.
- I root for guys like Steve Pearce, who worked harder than anyone to not only make the postseason roster, but who contributed time and time again against the Yankees, Astros, and finally the Dodgers. So much, the Red Sox couldn’t keep his bat out of the lineup. Mitch Moreland had been the starter all year and is superior defensively to Pearce. But Pearce proved himself at the plate tremendously with runners on base, hitting the ball with authority into gaps and out of the park. He proved to be the biggest difference in these games. And he was awarded the MVP of the Series for his incredible string of games.
- The Red Sox made an art of Pinch hitting. Nunez, Game 1 – 3 run Homer. Devers, Holt, Moreland – the list goes on and on. Pinch hitting is really tough because a lot of times, you are not in the flow of the game (physically and mentally) by not playing a position in the field. To make matters worse, most pinch hitting at-bats come later in the game and are against a quality arm coming fresh out of the bullpen. You have to be so mentally prepared for the entire game and when the manager calls your name, you have to be ready to perform with little or no notice. The Red Sox players seemed to have that mental focus and got tons of pinch hits. The Dodgers did not fair well at all with pinch hitters. Huge difference in the Series.
- What we witnessed with relief pitchers taking a back seat to starters will become more of the norm than the exception going forward. When you have a 4th or 5th starter that can come out of the bullpen in a close game and pitch 2, 3, even 6 innings of shutdown baseball, that is just untouchable. Relievers these days are completely gassed after 1 inning, 2 innings tops. But starters can go longer and throw harder longer, and thus this new era of the hybrid Starter/Reliever. When 300 strikeout, sub 2.00 ERA Pitcher Chris Sale came in the game in the 9th inning last night, it was an all but foregone conclusion that the game was over. The hitters had absolutely ZERO chance of hitting the ball fair against him.
- Manny Machado cost himself millions of dollars this postseason. He consistently dogged plays in the infield. He has one of the most incredible throwing arms in the Major Leagues and yet “tossed” balls over to first making routine plays into close plays. Machado is a dirty player who attempted to injure several players running through the first base bag. Yes, he apologized. I don’t buy it!!! His bat was cold, his demeanor was smug, and his antics were on display for 30 General Managers who can potentially offer him a long term contract this off season. He is a free agent and teams should take notice of the whole package. This is a player that young athletes will be looking up to for guidance. If I were a GM, I would pass on Machado.
- The stolen base has completely disappeared from baseball. Years ago, it was a strategy to increase run production. It was used to get defensive players out of position during a hit and run play. It was used by speedy players to get into scoring position for doubles, triples, and sometimes singles which would drive them in. Now, most players just stand over there at first base, talking with their first base coach, maybe the opposing first baseman or the umpire. They take modest leads but we all know they are going nowhere. The stolen base used to be such an exciting play in baseball to watch unfold. And now, it is pretty much extinct.
- They need to have 2 day games during the World Series®. The bookend weekends need to have a 4pm game, no questions asked. The ratings were phenomenal, I’m sure for most of the series. But how many fans saw Nunez hit that homer in Game 1. Or Muncy’s historic home run in Game 3? Did you let your kids stay up to watch Game 4 and 5 which ended around 12 midnight EST? I know I did, I couldn’t send my kids to bed knowing that the Series was all but clinched and that victory was imminent. But, true fans will tune in on a Sunday at 4pm and watch the World Series®. Day games present challenges like the glare of the sun on a bright, sunny day. But going to a day game is just awesome. Fans will turn out to the stadiums and on TV, trust me. The misconception that they need to have the games on at 8pm so they can maximize advertising dollars is preposterous. Plus, you can watch the games live on your phone anywhere!!! Let’s get 2 day games for the World Series®.
- The lefty/righty matchup did not work for the Dodgers. Consistently, they put a sub-par team on the field that batting right handed. On their bench, for most of the Series, were Muncy, Bellinger, Grandal, and Peterson – all potential home run and RBI producing hitters. Their lineup turned over too many times and there wasn’t any real continuity to their lineup each day. This throws off the timing of hitters and was evident by the poor at bats by the Dodgers overall. Check out the Red Sox. They simply went with the hot bats. Devers, Holt, Pearce – it didn’t matter who they faced, they were in the lineup. And they produced BIG TIME.
- Alex Cora won a World Series® as a player with the Red Sox. He won a World Series® with the Astros as a bench coach. He has now won a World Series® as a manager. Cora’s game management, his smooth style in dealing with players, his commitment to players not performing at their best, his ability to recognize the edge within a matchup, and his real life, real game connection to all his players were the difference over Dave Roberts of the Dodgers. Cora’s moves were genius, they were baseball moves that made sense to him, his staff agreed, the players executed, and everyone looked good doing it. Should this pitcher go another inning? Yes, and the result was a 1-2-3 inning. Should I pinch hit this guy for this guy? Yes, the result is a base hit scoring 2 runs. Should I start this guy, should this guy come out of the bullpen? Yes, and yes and the result is a convincing 4-1 championship for the Boston Red Sox. Players play, managers manage. Alex Cora managed the heck out of this World Series®.
Despite the hot dog antics of Puig and the poor sportsmanship of Machado and the bad decisions of Manager Dave Roberts, the Dodgers were literally in every game this World Series®. To me, they just didn’t want it as bad as the Boston Red Sox. I saw hustle plays go the Red Sox way time and time again. They ran out every ground ball, and a few they were able to beat out. They dove for balls in the outfield. Their hitters and pitchers “grinded” out at bats and long innings in long games, according to post game comments by Chris Sale and others. They won as a team. They lost game 3 as a team and came right back, as a Team, and won the next two games convincingly. They were the better team mentally and physically all Series. When Sale struck out Machado to end the game, the baseball Gods were smiling. As was I and my family sitting there watching another great Rhode Island Baseball Experience – the final out of the clinching game of the 2018 World Series®.