By Steve Parkhurst, Senior Editor for US Daily Review
As the radiant sun warmed the air to about 102 degrees, and while the grounds crew put the finishing coats of paint on the World Series logo on the Dodger Stadium grass, inside the stadium players from the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers took part in World Series media day on Monday afternoon.
Players and managers took turns fielding questions from reporters, discussed health and availability, told stories, talked about the opposition and even answered the absurd. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner was asked about how his beard compared to the beard of Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel. Turner said things, but ultimately responded, “The beards aren’t throwing any pitches, or taking any swings. It’s about the man underneath them.”
The Los Angeles forecast measured humidity at seven percent. So while the heat in Los Angeles may resemble a Houston summer, the lack of humidity in the air clearly does not. And at roughly 5:08pm west coast time on Tuesday night, none of this will matter.
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig uttered the understatement of the year when he said, “It’s a big game tomorrow.” Yes. It is. For a man that never stops talking, this is as concise as it gets.
There is no intense dislike between these two teams, no bitter rivalry to speak of. There is also not much recent history between these two teams who have not actually faced each other since August, of 2015. In the age of Twitter dominating our civic discourse, it is almost impossible to imagine, but gasp, the managers are actually very good friends.
A.J. Hinch and Dave Roberts, of the Astros and Dodgers respectively, are both former players, and are only two years apart in age. Hinch stated, “Both of us have high compete buttons. There will be no dilemma on what we want the outcomes to be. But to share this experience with someone who I believe in and have such a personal bond with is really unbelievable.”
The “friends become enemies” that Jake Kaplan labeled the relationship in the Houston Chronicle may be the closest we get to the vitriol we have come to expect from our present-day society. Baseball has always been the great healer, our national pastime. So maybe friends becoming “enemies” for just a week is a perfect way for the baseball season to conclude.
What matters is the here and now. Both teams won over 100 games this year, the first time a World Series has presented such a scenario since 1970. The Dodgers cruised into the World Series by getting by the Cubs in only 5 games. The Astros labored to get past the Yankees, going seven games, one ended in walk-off fashion, they were shut out in another, and won two games by a score of 2 to 1.
The Series may come down to who has the better bullpen, who can best close out games late in the contest. The Dodgers have a clear edge while the Astros has a bullpen by committee, and the committee is both bad and inconsistent. If all the Astros starting pitchers can go seven or eight innings and limit the need for the bullpen, that represents the best chance for Houston to win the Series. Keuchel and Verlander can do this, but the bullpen by committee has also led to a starting staff by committee, and late in the season, most of the Houston staff is likely unable to answer the bell.
The Astros offense is stacked, but playing in Dodger Stadium they will lose the advantage of the designated hitter, which results in more automatic outs, and also results in pitchers being replaced earlier so that A.J. Hinch can get a hitter into the lineup in a crucial situation. When the Series moves to Houston, the Dodgers gain by not having the automatic out in the lineup, and they can pull a slugger off the bench and go toe-to-toe with the Astros.
The talk and the speculating is about to come to an end.
The Fall Classic gets underway Tuesday night, and two great pitchers will square off to start deciding the biggest prize in baseball. The media day will soon seem like a pointless memory. In roughly the span of a week we will know the new champion of the baseball world.