The Astros’ seven-game victory over the Dodgers ranks as the greatest World Series ever that people pretended they had seen.
It was the DVR Series, the catch-up-on-highlights-in-the-morning Series, as dramatic games often stretched too far into the night for anyone with a day job to watch.
Here are the lessons this Series would have taught us if we had been able to stay awake for it:
1. Despite a draft that doesn’t yield immediate help as in football and basketball, baseball’s competitive balance is exceptional. Since the Yankees’ mini-dynasty died in Arizona in 2001, 11 different teams have won titles. The past three champs — Houston, the Cubs and the Royals — capitalized on years of horrific losing and the resulting high draft picks to rebuild.
2. As of a few years ago, the Cubs, Astros and Twins appeared to have the most promising farm systems. The Cubs and Astros capitalized on their young talent. The Cubs augmented theirs with free-agent pitching signings; the Astros made a deadline trade for Justin Verlander. The Twins’ young talent is legitimate. The Twins’ front office might win big with the right pitching additions.
3. Maybe you don’t need great pitching. The Astros won with ace Dallas Keuchel making only 23 starts this season and having a 5.23 ERA in the World Series. The Astros ranked 11th in team ERA this season, and beat the Dodgers, who ranked second. Maybe you can hit your way to a title.
4. Comparisons between this series and the ’91 epic won by the Twins were premature. You can’t call a Series one of the greatest ever when Game 7 was a dud. But the Astros were kings of drama, nonetheless. According to The Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN), the Astros were the 10th team to play a winner-take-all game in both the LCS and the Series in the same postseason. The others: The ’91 Braves, ’72 and ’73 A’s, and ’85 Royals.
5. Baseball has a time-of-game problem. Still. Solutions: Outlaw catcher visits to the mound. Install a pitch clock. Eliminate one-batter pitching changes; a pitcher should have to face two batters, minimum. Start games at 7 sharp instead of 7:20. Cut down time between innings by running more ads on a split-screen during slow moments of the game. The complaint used to be that kids couldn’t stay up to see the end of Series games. Now adults can’t make it to the seventh inning, either.
6. The 2012 MLB draft produced some big winners. Carlos Correa, the first pick, just won a World Series and might be a future MVP. Addison Russell, the 11th pick by the A’s, won a Series last year with the Cubs. Corey Seager, the 18th pick, helped the Dodgers to the Series, and Michael Wacha, the 19th pick, helped the Cardinals to a Series. It’s time for the second pick, Byron Buxton, to follow suit.
7. Baseball outs racism better than American society. Astros slugger Yuli Gurriel made a racist gesture about Yu Darvish. He was immediately shamed and punished and when he came to the plate in Dodger Stadium, Rich Hill walked off the mound so the fans could boo Gurriel at length. Good for Hill.
8. Analytics work when yielded by the right hands. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow helped build the Cardinals and quickly won a title with Houston. He’s both a former scout and a statistical analyst.
9. Having a slugger bat leadoff can work out just fine. Twins manager Paul Molitor has stuck with Brian Dozier as his leadoff hitter even though he again led the team in home runs. George Springer led the Astros in home runs this season, batted leadoff, and became the World Series Most Valuable Player while hitting five home runs. Getting your best slugger the maximum number of possible at-bats isn’t a bad thing, especially if that player runs well.
10. Dodgers fans have our sympathies. The temperatures at Dodger Stadium fell into the 60s last night, and you could see fans behind home plate wearing heavy coats. We Minnesotans would feel your pain if our fingers weren’t numb.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MNSPN.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org