One of the more disorienting aspects of this year's Major League Baseball postseason is that there have been no obvious villains. In almost every year of the last 20 years, there has been a "bad guy" America has been able to be unified in opposition to, whether it was the Yankees, or the Red Sox, or the A's back in the day, or the Cardinals more recently. These were excellent teams, full of excellent people, but you know how this all goes: We think certain teams have too many inherent advantages, we make vast generalizations about teams' fan bases, we just get sick of seeing their uniforms every October. We need to have somebody to sneer at.
But the League Championship Series just didn't comply. The Dodgers and Astros are two of the more innovative, forward-thinking franchises in the sport, and they're full of likable players, up and down the roster. The Yankees are the Yankees, sure, but they were a new sort of Yankees: young, exciting, fresh. If they were wearing anything other than pinstripes, they would have been everybody's favorite. (And your kids are all pretending they're Aaron Judge in the backyard.) And surely we haven't already starting cheering against the darling Cubs, have we? You really couldn't go wrong with any of the teams in the LCS: They're all fun to cheer for.
However, now that the World Series is here (starting Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on FOX), if your team's season is over, your loyalties may still be torn. So, we continue our annual Sports On Earth tradition -- this is the fifth one of these -- and give you five reasons to cheer for each World Series participant, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros.
1. They score so, so many runs. The great Sam Miller at ESPN broke this down well, but mostly it came down to the fundamental fact that the Astros sport one of the best offenses in MLB history. (Their 27 OPS-plus is the exact mark that the 1927 Yankees had.). There isn't a dead spot in the Astros lineup; if anything, it'll be sad to see them play in an NL park because the pitcher hitting means there's one fewer fantastic Astros hitter we get to watch. You like runs, right? Everybody likes runs! The Astros score a ton of runs, and you don't have to wait until the meat of the order for them to do it. It can happen at anytime.
2. Carlos Beltran. Back in August, I looked at the best active players by career bWAR who had never won a World Series title. There were some historic names on there -- though looking at it now, it sort of appears we forgot to include Justin Verlander -- but No. 2 was Beltran. It wasn't that long ago that we were all debating whether or not Beltran was a Hall of Famer. It's not much of a debate anymore, but he's the sort of all-time talent (not to mention a reliable postseason performer) whose career would feel a little incomplete without a ring. Many thought 2013 would be his last chance. He'll be 41 in April and had the worst offensive season of his career in 2017. This is probably his last chance.
3. They've never won one! That's not nothing! The Astros have been around since 1962 (when they were the Colt .45s for three seasons), but they've never had a championship to call their own. They've only made one World Series (in 2005), and they were swept by the Chicago White Sox. In fact, the most memorable moment in Astros postseason history is probably from that season … in a game they lost. 1962 was a long time ago. Remember, too: This is the year!
Portada de Sports Illustrated dedicada a los Astros de Houston...de 2017!!! pic.twitter.com/OA0y1tfJPa- Reimillan (@Reimillan) June 25, 2014
4. Jose Altuve. The likely American League MVP Award winner is the other player your kids are pretending to be in your backyard. The only difference is that your kids might actually be taller. Altuve has already secured his place as one of the greatest fastball hitters of all time, and he has gotten better every season since entering the league. The guy hit 24 homers this year and still hit .346. He is Exhibit A of what baseball is capable of producing, the sort of miracle this game only can provide. He's en route to becoming one of the most beloved baseball players of the past 30 years, and it's downright thrilling to see him on the biggest stage of all.
5. Houston Strong. It was only four years ago that the Red Sox rode the emotion of their city in the face of tragedy to a World Series title. Now, Houston is only just beginning to recover from Hurricane Harvey. Sports can't fix society's problems. But they can provide relief, and distraction, and joy. An Astros World Series would be quite the ending to a tumultuous 2017 in Houston.
1. Vin Scully. I know, I know, Scully isn't going to be calling any games: He retired last year. But he's rooting for the Dodgers, and you don't want to be on the opposite side of Vin Scully on anything, do you?
Dodgers2017🎉💙 pic.twitter.com/4O0WgeFYRm- Cat Scully (@cattherealtor) October 20, 2017
2. Puig! To be fair, there are still an alarmingly high number of baseball fans who don't realize that Yasiel Puig is a special baseball gift and that Puig is their friend. But who wants to be fair to those people? Puig has come into his own this postseason and now isn't just one of the most entertaining players in the game, he's one of the best. There are many of us who have been trying to get baseball to loosen up on the "unwritten rules" for years now and just remember that this game is supposed to be fun, and for everyone to act accordingly. Remember, this was the primary storyline of the World Baseball Classic. What a way to bookend a fantastic baseball season than to have Puig do something emotional and glorious at the finish.
3. Dodger Stadium. I wrote about Dodger Stadium last year, and if you'll forgive me, I'll just quote myself now:
It is forever 1962 here. This is the Los Angeles of limitless possibility, at least for the white people who were running the place back then, who saw infinite space in which to roam. When you walk into Dodger Stadium, you almost expect Bob Hope to come out to crack a few corny one-liners, remind you to support our boys overseas and make some sort of dated, creepy joke about airline stewardesses or your secretary. You can see Johnny Carson throwing out the first pitch. You can see Joe Friday, perfect posture, pressed suit and tie, Lombardi-brim hat, just the facts, just the facts, just the facts. It is the one place in Los Angeles that exists solely in the past. … Thus, Dodger Stadium gives Los Angeles something it has so little of but desperately wants: A never-changing memorial of a classier, sepia-toned time that has passed, an immortal history in which everything is always depressingly mortal. Dodger Stadium doesn't have the gravitas of a Fenway or Wrigley, but it doesn't need it: It gives Los Angeles all the history it needs. The Dodgers feel like a classic franchise while so little in Los Angeles itself feels "classic." L.A. is a wonderful place, but it is not "classic." Dodger Stadium gives a link to the past in a city that is constantly severing all their others.
This is all to say: Dodger Stadium belongs on baseball stadiums' Mount Rushmore with Wrigley and Fenway. It is one of the best places to watch a baseball game on the planet. Over the next 10 days, we all get to bathe in it.
4. Clayton Kershaw. Remember that list above, of the best players never to win a title, the one Beltran was second on? Kershaw was third on it. (For that matter, Curtis Granderson was 10th, though, again, I think we forgot Verlander.) Kershaw is the Sandy Koufax of our generation and almost certainly the best pitcher any of us under the age of 65 have ever seen. (With nods to Pedro, Gibby, the Rocket and moments of Dwight Gooden.) The reputation he has for postseason struggles is both wrong and factually incorrect, but get him a World Series ring, maybe even a Series MVP, and no one will ever bring up Matt Adams or Matt Carpenter ever again. Like with Beltran, we want our best players to win a championship. And there haven't been many better than Kershaw.
5. Boy, it sure has been a long time in LA. I know the Astros have never won a title, and they've been around for 55 years, but this is the Dodgers. This is one of the signature baseball franchises, and it has been nearly 30 years since they even set foot on the World Series stage. We need the Dodgers to be good. We need them here. It's strange it has taken them so long to get back. Baseball is better when the Dodgers are in the World Series. And so, at last, here they are.
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