The 2018 World Series is here, and you don’t need reasons to watch it. It’s the World Series, you goober. It’s the Boston Red Sox vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers, two historically significant, rich, powerhouse teams loaded up with talent. Take a week or two off work and relax a little. Watch the danged Series.
However, there’s the slightest chance that either you’re not excited, or you need a little more convincing. I can help with that. Below are some extremely compelling reasons to watch the World Series. Do you want storylines? Players? Drama? This World Series has a whole mess of it, and I’ve curated the 16 points of interest that I recommend wholeheartedly.
These are 16 reasons why you should be extremely excited about the 2018 World Series:
I hereby declare that Mookie Betts is the Most Watchable Baseball Player Alive. This is a tremendous honor. There will be a small ceremony and reception to follow. In order to be the Most Watchable Baseball Player Alive, you need all six tools:
- Hitting for average
- Hitting for contact
- Base running/speed
- Playing baseball like you’re constantly thinking, “Holy crap, I’m playing baseball right now. This is awesome.”
Ichiro had the six tools. Andrew McCutchen had the six tools. Francisco Lindor has the six tools. Mike Trout kinda has the six tools, but he’s just reserved enough to make people argue about the last one.
Mookie Betts has the six tools. And they aren’t subtle tools. His bat control is stellar, and his power swing is a tightly coiled beauty. His speed is elite, as is his range in right. His throw to nab Tony Kemp in Game 5 of the ALCS was one of the most unholy things I’ve ever seen on a baseball field.
Then there’s sixth tool. Dude has fun and it seems like he likes baseball. When he’s broadcasting a World Series game in 30 years, I don’t think he’ll spend a ton of time talking about golf. Like Ichiro and McCutchen before him, and like Lindor and maybe a couple of others today, there’s a sense of wonder that goes with his all-time talent. It makes an eminently watchable player just that much more watchable.
Oh, also, there’s a seventh tool: People my height or shorter get bonus points. Betts would still be the Most Watchable Baseball Player Alive if he were as big as Carlos Correa, sure. But putting him in a body that would absolutely fit on the front of a 1959 Topps card is a very nice touch.
Game 1 is Chris Sale vs. Clayton Kershaw
I plan on returning to this idea at some point this World Series, so I’ll save most of my bullets, but we’re in an era where the starting pitcher doesn’t have to be the story of the game. Five-and-dive used to be a slanderous way to describe the wink link in a rotation; now it’s the organizational expectation in a lot of cases. Just get us through five, and we’ll take it from there.
With Game 1, though, we’re getting a treat. Both of these pitchers are expected to go deeper into the game, just like the old-timey days of 2013. Both of these pitchers will bite off his manager’s ear if he thinks he’s being taken out too soon. There’s a chance -- maybe a one-percent chance -- that both pitchers will throw so well and economically that they’re still pitching in the eighth inning. There might be a half-percent chance that they’ll still be there in the ninth, and I can’t express just how incredible that kind of World Series game would be.
It would be the kind of World Series game we would still remember years later. I can’t really tell you an awful lot about Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, which I both attended and wrote 3,000 words about, but I can sure wax rhapsodic about Game 5. I’ve probably forgotten more about the 2014 World Series than I remember, but I can almost give you a play-by-play of Game 7.
Sale vs. Kershaw has a chance of being that kind of game, even if it’s a little unlikely.
(And there could be a Game 4 and maaaaybe a Game 7, too.)
To see Yasiel Puig take a bite out of third base like it was a big ol’ marshmallow
That is, you should always watch to see if Puig does anything that will make you call someone in from the other room.
It doesn’t have to be Puig taking a bite of a base. That’s just the likeliest scenario. He might also put the tarp over the entire infield after attempting to catch a foul ball. Don’t ask how, just know that it’s entirely possible to read the following in Joe Buck’s voice:
Puig gives chase, but he’s out of room. And now ... the tarp is covering the infield, and I gotta say, I think Justin Turner is still under there. Everyone is scrambling, trying to figure out what’s going on, and, oh god, is that blood?
Close your eyes. You can hear it. But, fine, if you’re looking for realism, what we’re really looking for is one of the following:
- A double on an infield hit
- A bat flip that goes into the stands
- A throw from the outfield wall that reaches home plate on the fly, even though there’s no runner on base
You don’t have to like Puig. You do have to enjoy watching him, though.
So you can pretend you are intimately familiar with every single member of both bullpens, and developing strong opinions based on this
Oh, heck yes, this is very much my jam. Two weeks ago, I was squinting at the name “Ryan Brasier” as if it was the name in a wallet I found on the street. In two days, though, I’ll be like ...
Yeah, Brasier can’t really get away with that kind of mistake. He needs to let that movement work for him and saw bats off.
It will be completely affected and irritating! And it is also a constitutional right. Come and take it from me.
The violent swings of Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger
There are other violent swings in baseball, but the Dodgers have a pairing that’s notable for the lefty-righty symmetry. Both Taylor and Bellinger swing like they’re trying to win a carnival prize, selling out with each and every swing. It’s fun to watch, but it’s also a fantastic way to explain how the modern game has changed.
Taylor and Bellinger represent a class of players who have dramatically improved their career prospects through the magic of a horrifically violent swing. Taylor was a non-prospect with the Mariners before the Dodgers got a hold of him, and Cody Bellinger lasted until the fourth round of the 2013 Draft. Any team could have had either player. Nobody knew they were going to swing hard enough to push the Moon out of orbit.
Neither player is having the success they had last year, so for now pitchers and scouts have at least partially figured out the paper to their rock. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a treat to watch them force-whip their bats through the zone fast enough to affect the weather in a different county.
The controlled perfection of J.D. Martinez’s swing
Oh, Martinez swings hard, too. But there’s a difference between flipping a table over and calmly taking the table over to the window and defenestrating it. They’re both violent acts, but one is calm and calculated. Martinez is one of the most fanatical swing dorks in the game, going so far as to recording his batting-practice sessions and re-watching them when convenient.
Martinez probably has a name for is swing. Lucille, or something. He probably talks to it, as if it were a dog or old car. When it works, it’s an intensely smooth swing.
The hook-armed gnarliness of Craig Kimbrel
Craig Kimbrel throws hard, and it’s the setup that makes it even better. He hunkers down with his beet-farm beard, squints, and crooks his arm out to the side before coming set and annihilating hitters. All pitchers who throw 99 mph are fun in their own special ways, but give me a guy who can do it with some theater. It’s great when he’s rolling, but it might even be more entertaining when he’s in a bind.
And about that last part ...
Both the Red Sox and Dodgers have bullpens that are just a li’l bit sketchy
To be fair, the Dodgers’ bullpen has been amazing so far.
Dodgers relievers had a 1.45 ERA in the NLCS, with 40 strikeouts and 12 walks in 31 innings.— Eric Stephen (@ericstephen) October 21, 2018
So far this postseason the LA bullpen has a 1.30 ERA with 51 K, 13 BB in 41⅔ IP
However! Kenley Jansen allowed twice as many home runs this year has he has ever allowed in a season. Kimbrel’s outings have made hearts stop consistently this postseason, as if they were a phone ringing in the middle of the night. Behind the two closers, both teams have a mixture of quality and above-average arms, all complemented with regular-season starters in the grandest of postseason traditions. Both teams can go deep.
But Josh Hader isn’t coming through that bullpen door. The Red Sox and Dodgers have two utterly dominant bullpen arms between them, and both of those pitchers have looked mortal at times this year. It all suggests we could be in for at least one or two chaos games, and if there’s anything that we learned last year, it’s chaos games are the best.
Dodger Stadium is a marvel in its own right, but it can’t compete with screwy dimensions. Fenway comes equipped with a giant wall that goes “WHUMP” or “CLORNG” when a ball ricochets off it, often in an unexpectedly haphazard way. It’s also the park where home runs look the absolute best, offering the unique aesthetic experience of watching the ball sail over an enormous structure and into the abyss at the end of the world. At least, that is what I’ve always believed is behind the Green Monster. Please don’t correct me.
The Red Sox have been successful enough in recent years that Fenway Park isn’t an October anomaly, so it’s not exactly a novel idea to watch a World Series there. But there is “WHUMP” and “CLORNG,” and there are left fielders playing the balls off the wall perfectly, and there are left fielders who ... don’t.
Plus, there’s a hilariously tiny wall on the other side of the field, which allows players to dive in, combined with a right-field foul pole that’s about 38 feet away from home plate. There is no ballpark in baseball better at inserting itself into the game than Fenway, and one of the best reasons to love baseball is because it’s a sport where the stadium is supposed to insert itself into the game.
What I’m getting at is the Super Bowl needs to be played at a stadium with a moat in the middle of the field. A big ol’ moat.
The outfield defense of the Red Sox
The superlative “three center fielders” can be overused as shorthand for “three athletic, speedy dudes,” but it’s pretty rare to find a true three-CF outfield. Not just today, either. It’s hard to find a lot of them throughout baseball history.
The Red Sox have one of them, though. We’ve already talked about Betts, but one of the reasons he’s not in center is it’s just as satisfying to watch Jackie Bradley, Jr. glide around. Andrew Benintendi is the weak link of the bunch, except he’s absolutely qualified to start in center field for a contending major-league team, and he also happens to be the one who made a remarkable pennant-winning catch that will be shown in highlight reels until society collapses. So, two months, then.
But it will be a wild two months, and contrast between Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium means you’ll get to watch them shine in a couple of different formats. You’ll get the acoustic and electric sets.
Yasmani Grandal, wyd
Most of these blurbs have been about the reasons why these two teams are here and 28 other teams aren’t. But there has to be one that’s for the ghouls out there, the people who revel in pain and suffering. These twisted folks will find a compelling storyline with Grandal, who is usually a sweet-swinging catcher who can field his position perfectly well.
Something happens to Grandal in the postseason, though. Or, if you want to be a proper stathead, you can hedge with something appears to happen to Grandal in the postseason, but the sample sizes are small.
They aren’t that small. Over 85 plate appearances, Grandal is now hitting .100/.250/.200 in his postseason career. Out of the eight postseason series he’s played, his best batting average came in the just-finished NLCS against Milwaukee. To be more specific, his .182 average in the last series was the best of his fairly extensive career.
This is all before you get into Grandal’s fielding. It’s the kind of fielding that’ll make Mary Hart yell at you.
Mary Hart has not had any Entertainment Tonight from Yasmani Grandal.— Ryan Walton (@RyanWaltonSBN) October 16, 2018
Here she is yelling at him for another passed ball. pic.twitter.com/Ljl5vaFqmO
And that’s a special kind of fielding. This postseason, Grandal has let wild pitches sneak by and has also allowed some of the most egregious passed balls of the entire 2018 season. Will it continue? Don’t see why it should, but ... you should probably be a little curious.
Manny Machado, acting the heel
I wrote about this in great detail, but the main thrust is Machado is perfect at being a completely oblivious villain. When he kicked Jesús Aguílar in the ankle, I don’t think he was thinking, “Yeah, screw THIS guy.” He was just looking for an advantage. Maybe if he does this, the umpires will just give him first! It’s an almost endearing brand of optimism, except for all the parts that are irritating.
Also, it would appear as if Boston fans have ... let’s see, hrmm, yeah, it says right here they’re aware of him and have opinions to share. That’s great. Opinions are great. Manny Machado is great. Everything is great, y’all.
Do I like the fire-spitting rookie because he spits fire and throws baseballs hard? Yes. This is a great reason to watch him.
Do I like the fire-spitting rookie because it can be incredibly intense to watch a rookie realize he’s pitching in the World Freaking Series and grip the ball just that much tighter? Yes. This is a great reason to watch any preternaturally talented rookie.
Both the positive and negative outcomes would be a story. Rookies are great in that respect. I would also like to take this time to note Walker Buehler’s start on the 163rd game of the season won me $150 in my fantasy league, and I used that money to buy an Instant Pot™. I have cooked some absolutely fantastic white-bean chili and chicken noodle soup so far, and with every bite, I was thinking about both Buehler’s unmistakeable talent and the fact the dummies in my league didn’t have the vision to pick a top prospect in a well-run organization that plays in a pitcher’s park.
I mean, come on.
Also, it’s fun to watch Buehler pitch.
Because if FOX references Dave Roberts’ steal of second base over 100 times, you get a free taco from Taco Bell*
Did you know Dave Roberts stole a base in the 2004 American League Championship Series? It’s true. It was in the ninth inning of Game 4, and it helped spark a ninth-inning comeback against Mariano Rivera.
Dave Roberts is the manager for the Dodgers now, you see.
The Dodgers are playing the Red Sox.
Which means Fox is developing the technology to make you acknowledge you have seen the highlight of Dave Roberts stealing a base in the ALCS.
Wait, but my TV doesn’t have a touch screen ...
Doesn’t matter! Push the button. Puuuuuush the button. Confirm you’ve seen this message. Well, too late, you were too slow, so here’s the highlight again.
There are David Price and Clayton Kershaw narratives to settle
Both pitchers sure ripped some monkeys off their back in their respective LCS, and you would think that would be the end of all the close scrutiny for the postseason careers of both pitchers. Ahahaha, that’s not how this works. Easy narratives only ask us to consider the bare minimum of information with which to form an opinion. That means I don’t have to remember those LCS performances if I want to grumble about either pitcher. I’ve already forgotten about them, suckers! Going straight back to “David Price and Clayton Kershaw can’t win in the postseason”!
Which is unfair. But, yessir, this adds spice to the postseason narrative. Last year, in Game 5 of the World Series, Kershaw had a four-run lead and was looking invincible. Then there was that nagging voice in the back of all of our heads that reminded us that there were still demons to slay. The demons were not slain. There was a piece of demon still embedded in the skin, and those suckers regenerate quickly and without mercy.
I’m not sure how a Price-Kershaw matchup would actually happen, so we’ll take them a la carte for now. These extremely talented and great starting pitchers have something of a reputation. I think baseball is better if they shed it, but one of them probably won’t. Them’s the odds.
Specifically, I want two things:
1. Shots of celebrities in the Dodger Stadium crowd. Specifically, I’m talking about actual celebrities -- Mary Hart, hello, follow me on Twitter -- and the celebrities who are starting in the new FOX sitcom Gizzards, Wednesdays at 9:00. These celebrities are endlessly entertaining to me, because I’m someone who doesn’t actually consume entertainment that isn’t baseball. This is because they block all non-baseball content from being transmitted to the cell they keep me chained in PLEASE CALL FOR HELP IF YOU CAN READ THIS MESSAGE so I’m living vicariously through these FOX shots.
2. Shots of drunken Fenway bros screaming, “AND ‘ERE COMES A PIZZER” but not referencing the actual incident. They’re just saying, “AND ‘ERE COMES A PIZZER” unironically because they’re actually trying to convey that a pizza is, in fact, on its way to its destination.
Both of these are great. I’m also very much into some crowd-noise shaming if you have some. I’m guessing Fenway will be louder than Dodger Stadium, but I’m also guessing that Fenway isn’t as loud as usual because the World Series is when the Corporate Dinks come out. They got tickets from Cody in outside sales. Don’t ask how, ha ha. They’re looking forward to watching the crowning event for The MLB. They totally know who Mookie Best is, just ask them.
The Dodger Stadium organist
This isn’t the main reason to watch the World Series, but, seriously, the Dodgers’ organist is awesome. Dieter Ruehle puts a tremendous amount of effort into his craft, doing his best to subtly dig at opponents with his mid-at-bat song choices. Will Chris Sale get an organ version of the Scissor Sisters? Or will he get Belly’s “Feed the Tree” as a nod to his belly button infection? Don’t know, but I do know that Ruehle is busy researching stuff right now.
He’ll play “Brass Monkey” when Max Muncy is up, unless he’s playing the overworld theme to Legend of Zelda. Don’t you worry. But he’ll also needle the other team juuust a little bit.
Think of him like a partisan college crowd doing oppo research, but ... much, much gentler and light-hearted.