It was 10 days ago that SB Nation published an empirically correct ranking of all the possible World Series matchups. It featured a convoluted ranking system that gave extra credit to teams that haven’t won a World Series in a while, among other things, and I use it because it’s hard to wrap your head around 25 different matchups. There has to be a way to sort through the mess.
With four matchups, we can just eyeball it and use our feels.
Really, our feels are all that count. Which of these matchups just feels better than the others? Here’s what the original ranking system had:
9. Red Sox — Dodgers
10. Red Sox — Brewers
11. Astros — Dodgers
19. Astros — Brewers
Does those rankings track with our current feels? Let’s take a look.
#4. Astros — Brewers
Ah, the Switched Leagues Cup. Plop someone from 1988 down and show them a World Series program, and they’ll think they’re in an episode of Sliders. Oh, the wacky hijinks of Jerry O’Connell, we’ve missed you so.
Problem is, I can’t tell if that makes this matchup cooler or less cool. Or if it makes absolutely zero difference. Probably the latter. Here’s my real problem with this matchup, though: There’s too much of a chance that the worst possible outcome would happen.
The worst possible outcome being that the same team wins from last year. No offense, Houston, but that story has been written. Here, I left it all on the table. I have no more words to give for another Houston championship. Maybe something like, “Hey, c’mon guys, cut it out.”
I wonder if I can get 1,000 words out of “Hey, c’mon guys, cut it out” after Game 7.
And this outcome would also come with the maximum amount of pain, considering it would be the Brewers who lost. Now, I know the Milwaukee Braves won in 1957, so technically the city has seen a championship. But now we’re in Indians levels of drought, and I’m not sure if it helps or hurts to claim it. The actual Brewers have been there for 48 seasons, with just one pennant to show for it, and that was nearly four decades ago.
The Astros celebrating while the Brewers slunk off the field would be a bad look for folks like me who are entirely too obsessed with droughts. As such, I can’t endorse this pairing above the other three.
#3. Red Sox — Brewers
Anti-Brewers bias? Kind of. I’ll cop to it, but before I give my reasoning, I would like to point out that I’m definitely excited about Christian Yelich and the beefy thunder of Jesús Aguílar. There are all sorts of fine talents sprinkled around the roster — having a good team is sort of how one gets to the NLCS. If I have to watch the Brewers, I’ll be thrilled!
It’s just that here’s something I’ll never say:
Oh, hell yeah, Chris Sale vs. Jhoulys Chacín.
I know that Chacín has electric, underrated stuff. I also know the Brewers starters are a meticulously curated group of underwhelming-but-excellent arms, and it’s their command and control that help them win.
It’s just that I’ll never say ...
Justin Verlander vs. Wade Miley? Now we’re talking.
So this leapfrogs over the Astros-Brewers combo because we’re only mildly less sick of the Red Sox, but I’m afraid the Brewers take both spots because ... well, because they don’t have Clayton Kershaw, okay?
Not until this winter, at least.
#2. Astros — Dodgers
Yes, it’s a rematch from last year, which takes at least some of the fun out of it. But let’s remember how fantastic that World Series was. The two teams were so evenly matched, and they traded body blows so furiously, that this has the feel of a necessary sequel instead of a here-we-go-again vibe. You didn’t say, “Ugh, Apollo Creed again?”
Just forget the part where the first Rocky is about 80 times better than the second Rocky.
They’re mostly the same teams, too. The Astros added Gerrit Cole, and the Dodgers created Max Muncy out of mud and twigs, but the general rosters are the same. You get most of the same principals from last year, which means there’s a tiny chance that we’ll live through something like Game 5 again.
Hrmm, that article had a Rocky reference too. I see what you’re talking about when it comes to there being too much repetition. Maybe a rematch would bore us all silly.
There’s at least a chance, though, that we would look back at this as something of a necessary rivalry, an unexpected intertwining of two of baseball’s most dominant franchises. There’s no reason why the Cowboys and 49ers should be linked throughout history, but they most certainly are. Same goes for the Warriors and Cavaliers. If the Yankees and Royals could be a thing, why not the Astros and Dodgers?
There’s a 60-percent chance this Series would make us roll our eyes the entire time, but a 40-percent chance that we would be jumping out of our chairs and secretly hoping 2019 game us a thrilling conclusion to the trilogy. This combination scares me, but it also fascinates me.
#1. Red Sox — Dodgers
In my previous life as a partisan Giants homer, I would have written something like “Heh, the only good part about this matchup is one team is guaranteed to lose.” But because I’m definitely a Serious Journalist™ now, I definitely can’t write that.
[winks hard enough that eyelashes fall off]
So it’s not that I’m enamored of the idea of either one of these teams winning. The Dodgers haven’t won since video games looked like this:
And that still amuses me TREMENDOUSLY. The Dodgers getting this close threatens one of my favorite bits, in which I look at the year 1988 and cherry-pick something hilariously antiquated to highlight how long it’s been. Like this Radio Shack ad for a cell phone.
SORRY, sorry. Let’s move on and focus on another gross scenario, which is the Red Sox winning again. This would be their second championship of the decade and their fourth since they started winning them. I get that they had some karma built up from the previous decades, but it’s gauche to spend it all at once.
And yet. And yet. Dodgers/Red Sox has a ring to it. I know they’ve played in a World Series before, technically, in the days when Babe Ruth was a pitcher (he was 0-for-5 as a hitter in the series), but that doesn’t count. This is a new time, with a different coast involved, and it’s a matchup that should have been happened at some point over the last century, but didn’t. For as long as these two teams have been around, they’re linked by, what, the Adrian Gonzalez trade? That’s it? How is that possible?
So as long as we’re dropping movie comps, let’s pretend like this is King Kong vs. Godzilla. Maybe both teams will fall into the ocean, and we’ll constantly argue about who actually won! We can only hope.
Still, this matchup would have a lot going for it. The gnarly slider-curve combo of Clayton Kershaw vs. the fast-twitch mastery of Mookie Betts. The unholy stuff of Chris Sale against the quick bats of Chris Taylor and Justin Turner. Yasiel Puig running through the Green Monster on a popup behind home plate. This is where the star power is.
Even better: Both bullpens are just a liiiiiiiiittle shaky. They’re not bad bullpens. They just don’t make you supremely confident, which allows for late-game chaos.
For Giants fans: I know it would be hard to root for a rich team that had gone years and years and years without winning the World Series, then suddenly won three in a short period of time, which made for an absolutely insufferable fan base that the rest of baseball despised, but you could probably find a way. It would be strange, but you’d figure it out.
When it comes to the best combination of stars and talent, maybe the Astros-Dodgers would be a better matchup, but we’ve seen it before. This is something fresh. This is something between two teams in huge media markets that probably should have happened before, and we can all agree that if it does happen, we won’t need to see it for 100 years.
Consider me curious, though. This is probably the best remaining World Series matchup left.