We are ready for the American and National League Championship Series.
We can celebrate a wild baseball season and we can question how some of these people got there and others didn’t.
The ache over the demise of the Dodgers, the failure of the Cubs to get back there, the erosion of the pitching staff in Boston, the up and down chaos of the Mets, the dismantling of the Indians and the underachieving season of the Phillies are all part of the end of season storylines. Minnesota’s and Tampa Bay’s great runs earned respect.
But the survivors deserve to be there.
A quick look at Baseball’s version of the Final Four.
WASHINGTON….It’s been a long time since Washington went to the World Series and won it. The old Washington Senators did it in 1924, the era of Walter Johnson. The Nationals earned this trip, rallying from a (19-31) start, and showing patience to let Manager Dave Martinez solve the teams issues. It took them awhile to overcome the emotional trauma of losing Bryce Harper to free agency. It took awhile for them to figure out if the kid hitters, Victor Robles-Juan Soto and others would become solid major leaguers. It took a summer’s worth of aggravation as to whether they could trust their bullpen. But the young star SS-Trea Turner, the old hand 1B-Ryan Zimmerman and the kids really came around. Of course, a big three rotation led by Max Scherzer, the emergence of Stephen Strasburg to superstar status, and the arrival of Patrick Corbin gave them quality starts every week. Only concern going in, will the rotation be operating on fumes, and can the bullpen really be trusted?.
ST LOUIS…No one could have imagined this team would still be playing this late into the fall. It took Paul Goldschmidt time to adjust to playing in a new Stadium, but his second half of the season was superb. Yadier Molina got healthy and got hot the second half of the season. Marcel Ozuna has become a star since coming from Miami. Dexter Fowler had a really strong bounce back season. , Paul DeJong, Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter might not beat you everyday, but they really make things happen. Pitching was to be a concern, the age of Adam Wainwright, the spring training injury to Carlos Martinez, the in season hurt of Michael Wacha. But could anyone have imagined that Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson would become cornerstones of the rotation. A better team than anyone thought possible, especially with Martinez’s move to the bullpen. .
YANKEES…18 players, including virtually every star on the roster, spent time on the disabled list. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton cannot hurt you from the injured list, but so many other players stepped up and had hot streaks. Journeyman Cam Maybin and Gio Ursula contributed. Gary Sanchez fought back from multiple injuries to hit again. Luke Voit had a strong year till he got hurt late in the season. Didi Gregarious got hurt early but hot late. Miguel Andujar went down never to come back. Brett Gardner had a career power year. The Yankees might not be there were it not for the acquisitions of ex Rockies star DJ LeMahieu and longtime power hitter Edwin Encarnarcio. The pitching staff is battered, at least the rotation is, the bullpen will get a lot of work in the series. Wha an accomplishment though, not just the 100-win season, but the ability to have so many players make so many contributions.
HOUSTON….The beat goes on in the Lone Star State. Enormous starting pitching, a Cy Young season from Gerritt Cole, Justin Verlander being Justin Verlander, and the late season arrival of Zach Greinke. Find me a better starting three. And the Astros had a great season eventhough everyone of their superstars spent time on the DL. Alex Bregman became an established star, joining the likes of George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. What an acquisition Michael Brantley turned out to be. And they got months of productivity from Yander Alvarez power bat. Streaky Yuli Gurriell had hot spells and cold segments, but there was always someone to step in. The only glitch might be do they have enough relief pitching, but maybe with those starters you don’t need much out of the bullpen.
Bring it on. This will be a superb two weeks of baseball.
Oh by the way, look for a Houston-Washington World Series.