Sunday, October 22, 2017

2017 World Series notes/oddities

By Rick Morris

^ Never before have two World Series teams played more games against each other than the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros, having competed against each other in the National League from the latter’s inception in 1962 until their departure to the American League in 2012 – and keep in mind that the two teams’ membership in the NL West from 1969-1993 additionally.  In a sense, this World Series is the reverse of 1982, when Milwaukee and St. Louis met in the Fall Classic, only to become NL Central divisionmates in 1998 and to meet again in October in the 2011 National League Championship Series (won by the Cards, as they did in the World Series 29 years before).  The Dodgers and Astros were rarely towards the top at the same time in those old NL West days, but from 1977-88, they combined for eight division titles, with the Dodgers at six (1977-78, 1981, 1983, 1985 and 1988) and the Astros at two (1980 and 1986).  Of course, in leaving the National League, Houston became the second franchise eligible to win both the AL and NL pennants and they accomplished what Milwaukee fell just short of in 2011 by making it happen, adding to the 2005 crown that they won from the same St. Louis franchise that would keep the Brewers out of the World Series six years later.  Houston’s 2005 World Series berth is primarily remembered for the Chicago White Sox breaking an 88-year drought against them – and while the Dodgers’ 29-year travails are much smaller, they will be looking to become the second legacy franchise to get off the schneid against the Astros in the World Series.

^ In terms of geographic regions, with the rise of Silicon Valley in the last 30 years, the Bay Area might argue that LA is no longer the undisputed capital of the West Coast, but this Series matches up a city with a legitimate claim to that with the one that is widely regarded as the capital of the Gulf Coast.

^ There’s not much sports history of note between the cities of Los Angeles and Houston.  Perhaps the most noteworthy chapters came in 1981 and 1986; in the former year, the Rockets upended the Lakers in the defending NBA champions in the first round of the playoffs and five years later, they also denied LA a championship repeat, this time by way of a victory in the West Finals.  Certainly Magic Johnson, a member of the Dodgers’ ownership team, remembers these battles well.

^ Since the divisional format came to baseball in 1969, West vs. West battles in the World Series have been scarce.  Here’s the full list of results: 1974 (Oakland over LA Dodgers), 1988 (LA Dodgers over Oakland), 1989 (Oakland over San Francisco), 2002 (Anaheim over San Francisco), 2010 (San Francisco over Texas).  The AL is 3-2 in this spot, with the Dodgers 1-1.  The 2010 World Series also marks the only previous time that teams from the states of Texas and California have met for the championship of any of the big four championships in North America.

^ Houston becomes the first metropolitan area to host the Super Bowl and the World Series in the same calendar year since their state-mates in the Metroplex notched the honors in 2011.  It was also done in Detroit in 2006, in San Diego in 1998 and in greater Los Angeles in 1977 (Super Bowl IX was at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena).  Bad news for Houston: every one of these four cities saw their team lose the World Series that fall.

^ Houston hosting the Super Bowl and World Series in the same year continues an odd trend of cities having a number of extraordinarily newsworthy events in their area in the same year; unfortunately for all involved, Hurricane Harvey was the other big one in the area this year.  Last year, the Bay Area hosted the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, while Cleveland hosted the NBA Finals, the World Series, the Republican National Convention and the rare occurrence of an American-born UFC Heavyweight Champion, Stipe Miocic, defending the title on his home turf.

^ This World Series is the first since 1970 (Cincinnati over Baltimore) to feature two teams who won at least 100 games.  It also feels a bit like the Fall Classic of a quarter century later when Cleveland and Atlanta faced off in an epic hitting vs. pitching duel, although the analogy is imperfect because Houston’s pitching is above-average and LA’s offense is better than that assuming that young superstar shortstop Corey Seager is back from injury.

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