To say that this year’s World Series between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers was less than classic is an understatement. In truth, the 2017 Fall Classic took a classic fall, with both the Dodgers and Major League Baseball officials winding up face down on the canvas.
For fans of the Home Run Derby, this was your World Series. During the course of this year’s seven-game series, home runs flew like flocks of geese heading south for winter. In fact, after just the first four games, more round-trippers had been hit than in any previous World Series. But is this record legitimate or not?
Amidst the sailing home runs, accusations also flew from both Astros and Dodgers pitchers, bluntly stating that the balls had been “juiced”, thus accounting for the prodigious home run totals. Assailed from all sides, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred categorically denied each and every claim. The pitchers however, maintained their stance, boldly accusing the commissioner of lying.
On the subject of pitchers and pitching, in all my years I have never seen a more poorly pitched World Series than that authored by the Dodgers. At one pitiful point, over the span of 20 innings, the Dodgers burned 17 pitchers —3 over a stretch of 6 pitches! Their starters,- with the exception of Yu Darvish who failed to get out of the second inning in both of his starts, were prematurely pulled.
That consequently over taxed the bullpen and led to the overuse of closer Kenley Jansen, who was called upon on several occasions to record 6 or more outs. The mismanagement of the pitching staff played a key role in the Dodgers loss.
You may have surmised I’m not too keen on this new era of pitching. I’m old school and will always be. I grew up watching pitchers like Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford, Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, etc. spin their magic on baseball’s biggest stage. When they and their contemporaries were given the ball, there was no question they would go the distance, extra innings included.
Bullpens were for emergency use only, and managers rarely dipped into them. For these legends of the fall, a quality start was 9 complete innings.
In the Fall Classic, if the series went seven games, Koufax and co. could be counted on to hurl 3 complete. Back then this was the norm, and on every Major League ballclub starters were expected to go the distance. And so they did, regular season and post season alike.
Detracting from the splendor of the Houston Astros first ever World Series championship was a particularly distasteful incident. It took place in Game 3 when Astros first basemen Yuli Gurriel made a racially insensitive gesture toward Darvish, who hails from Japan.
Initially, MLB officials stated they would suspend Gurriel for the next two World Series games, but before that took effect, MLB did an about-face. The league chose instead to suspend the Astros first baseman for the first five games of the 2018 regular season, without pay, and so Gurriel was allowed to play, playing a big factor in Houston’s eventual win.
Just what is more important, a ballgame or respect for your fellow man? What sort of message has MLB delivered to society’s youth?
In my humble opinion, MLB really bobbled the ball on this one. Hopefully, both they and Gurriel have by now learned their lessons. Perhaps next year the class will have returned to the Fall Classic.