You could argue that the two best teams in baseball made it to the World Series, and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. This year’s World Series will feature the teams with the top regular season record in each league for the first time since 1999. Good old-fashioned justice had its way, and now we’ll be able to see the best of the best go head-to-head for seven games and determine the true champion. This Series is bound to be one for the ages.
I’m not here to rain on everyone’s parade. The Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals are in fact two really good teams. They are also historic franchises, and have incredibly passionate fan bases. But holy crap, this is about the most unbearable World Series matchup we could’ve ended up with.
Look at the teams just eliminated in the League Championship Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers were one of most exciting baseball teams in a long time. A wealthy new ownership group, including L.A. Lakers’ legend Magic Johnson, took over the Dodgers in 2012 and quickly made like Big Meech, blowin’ money fast on big names like Zack Greinke, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford. They also made one lower-profile move during the offseason, signing athletic but unpolished Cuban defector Yasiel Puig to a seven-year deal worth $42 million. The Dodgers came into 2013 with sky-high expectations, but started out of the gate slow and nearly fired manager Don Mattingly two months into the season.
But then, with the unexpectedly loud arrival of Puig and some improved health and performance from the rest of the team, the Dodgers shot up to the top of the National League West standings while playing truly exhilarating baseball. Puig immediately showed his absolutely freakish ability and was reminiscent of a young Vladimir Guerrero, throwing heat-seeking missiles from right field and hitting home runs that looked bound for the moon. Ace southpaw Clayton Kershaw led the National League in strikeouts and had the best season that a Dodger pitcher has had since Sandy Koufax, and seems like a lock to win the NL Cy Young Award for the league’s best pitcher. And after returning from an early-season injury, shortstop Hanley Ramirez put up the best numbers of any hitter in baseball.
The Detroit Tigers also had some serious star power. Miguel Cabrera came into the season off of winning the first Triple Crown since 1967, and somehow almost pulled off the insane feat of winning it a second time in a row, which has never been done before. Cabrera, while a lackluster defender and baserunner, is a true master of hitting. Armed with quick hands, an impeccable knowledge of the strike zone, and simple brute strength, Cabrera is nearly impossible to get out, and he once again ended up with some of the best stats in the American League. Last year’s AL Cy Young runner-up, fireballer and frequent Taco Bell eater Justin Verlander, had a bit of a down season, but fellow starter Max Scherzer finally honed his filthy arsenal of pitches, and the guy with the crazy, mismatched-colored eyes (see left) looks poised to win this year’s Cy Young Award.
Unfortunately, at least for baseball fans like me who want the most potential excitement possible, we won’t get to see these bright stars like Puig and Kershaw and Cabrera and Scherzer shine on the biggest stage. Instead, we’ll have the traditionalist Cardinals and scrappy Red Sox facing off, to the joy of all the stodgy folks out there whose #HotSportsTakes (brilliantly parodied by BC alum Andrew Sharp on Grantland) included that the Dodgers’ wild antics and Hollywood bravado would catch up to them, and that the Tigers’ squad of giant sluggers and rocket-armed pitchers just didn’t have enough guys who wanted to get their hands dirty and do the little things that winning teams need to.
No offense to the Cardinals or Red Sox, two truly deserving teams, but this World Series matchup is terrible for the sport. The success of these teams is only feeding into the old school, ridiculous narratives that have been proven wrong over and over again by rational thinkers. These enlighteners include the brilliant leaders of the statistical revolution like the pioneering Bill James, Oakland A’s General Manager and Moneyball protagonist Billy Beane, Baseball Prospectus contributor turned political media superstar Nate Silver, and even the scathingly hilarious writers of the now-defunct website FireJoeMorgan.com (and they weren’t only great at tearing apart bad sportswriting; all three were writers for The Office, and Ken Tremendous, aka Michael Schur, played Mose Schrute in The Office and went on to create Parks and Recreation).
People like these have undoubtedly proven how silly these ideas of karmic justice and heart winning over talent and “playing the game the right way” are, but these narratives are still perpetuated, and now are being magnified due to the success of this year’s Red Sox and Cardinals. The Red Sox were good this season because they were much healthier this year and got some unexpected contributions from guys like Shane Victorino and Koji Uehara, not because they got rid of supposed bad apples like Bobby Valentine and Carl Crawford and cut fried chicken and beer out of their diets.
The Cardinals beat the Dodgers because their best hitter, Hanley Ramirez, got hit by a pitch and broke his rib in the first game of the series, not because the Cardinals play the game the right way and the Dodgers have too much of a cocky Hollywood attitude, violating the game’s unwritten rules and doing things like having a pool party after clinching their division. The Red Sox beat the Tigers because Miguel Cabrera’s nagging injuries hampered his performance, not because the Sox’ beards contain magical baseball voodoo or because the Sox deserved to win because of the power of “Boston Strong”. Sure, showing heart and dedication and class and grit are all well and good, but having fun and showing off isn’t necessarily bad, as baseball really just comes down to skill and luck.
I love baseball, and I’ve been fascinated by the game since I was a little kid, but it’s really hard for me to care about either of this year’s World Series participants. My dad is a lifelong Red Sox fan despite the fact that he grew up on Long Island, and along with rooting for his happiness, I probably should show some Boston solidarity since I live in Boston and actually don’t hate the Sox like I do some other Boston teams (f*** the Celtics). But these 2013 Sox don’t have any curse to overcome, don’t have any captivating stars like Manny Ramirez or Pedro Martinez, and even David Ortiz is basically a parody of himself at this point. They just have a bunch of plain, quality players with awful beards, fans who feel entitled due to so much recent Boston sporting success, and the most punchable face in baseball, Shane Victorino (Full disclosure: I’m a long-suffering Mets fan who had to deal with Victorino’s idiocy when he played for the Phillies and I’m still salty about it).
The Cardinals are a little cooler, with generally awesome players like Matt Holliday, Adam Wainwright, and one of the best postseason hitters of all-time, Carlos Beltran, whose great play for the Mets, outstanding tweets about gum, and “straight to the monkey” mentality has forever won him my admiration. But this Mets fan still has nightmares about Yadier Molina’s go-ahead home run and Wainwright’s devastating curveball knocking the Mets out of the 2006 NLCS, so I really can’t get behind St. Louis either.
So for this World Series, I guess I’ll just have to root for some exciting moments, and hope that people realize that the team that wins at the end of the day is not the grittiest or the classiest or the purest of heart, but simply the best at playing baseball.