The American League Championship Series matchup is set: the Boston Red Sox will take on the Houston Astros. Please, hold your excitement.
I’m betting most New York fans are like me and can’t bring themselves to root for either team, and that’s more than fair. But we want to watch some baseball too, before the season ends. To that end, here are some thoughts on the players and storylines that could make this Villain vs. Villain series somewhat palatable.
The Houston Astros
Hooray, the Astros have theoretically proven that they didn’t even need to permanently sully all their names by banging trash cans to win baseball games. That makes their general attitudes even more annoying. Still, there is something interesting about a heel, a villain that knows exactly that’s the role they’re playing in a story.
And there are two members of the Astros I could be okay with getting a World Series ring: manager Dusty Baker, and Zack Greinke. Baker, at 72, seemed like the last of a dying breed when he was hired by the Astros to replace the vanquished A.J. Hinch, yet his success could be partly why old schoolers like Ron Washington and Buck Showalter are being floated for the San Diego Padres’ managerial opening. With his toothpicks and latex gloves, he strikes an interesting figure at the dugout steps.
Despite managing for 24 years across three decades since being hired by the Giants in 1993, Dusty still hasn’t won a World Series ring. His tactics have received flack over the years — primarily for his use of pitchers back in his Giants and Cubs days — but he’s won loads of games with several talented ballclubs. This is remarkably his 11th time at the helm of a playoff team; it has to be a little heartbreaking to have been a leader in the game for that long and never be the one holding the Commissioner’s Trophy.
And then there’s Greinke, who has had longevity as a starting pitcher that is rare to see. It does seem like his years of excellence might have come to an end, but even so. FanGraphs had his WAR this season at 1.3 (at the age of 37). A longtime character, his talent and the frequency with which he was traded to contenders made it seem like he should have won a championship a long time ago, but it hasn’t happened for him yet. When he’s up for Hall of Fame voting, it would be a shame to see some reporters discount him for never winning a ring, and an Astros win would fill a spot on an already-outstanding résumé.
The Boston Red Sox
Old friend Adam Ottavino could get a World Series ring if they advance? That’s a pretty big stretch of a silver lining, I know.
I have to say, I do like Kiké Hernández, who hit the ALDS-winning sac fly for the Red Sox and generally tortured Tampa Bay through that whole series. He always seemed funny and charismatic back during his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Yankees would have had a more successful season if they had more talented role players like him. He put up 4.0 fWAR and many big hits after signing a one-year deal with Boston last winter.
And, of course, one of these two teams will have to lose and see their dreams shattered right before the World Series. We will be so sad, won’t we? And then, hopefully, the pennant winner will get absolutely clobbered by the National League champion. Until then, Yankee fans will simply have to grin and bear it. And if New York can ever get over the ALCS hump in 2022, all of this will be a whole lot less annoying.