Dan's Dugout: Lessons Learned from the World Series • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Lessons Learned from the World Series


Decisions, decisions.

The second-guessers were out in full force even before the Los Angeles Dodgers took the field for Game 7 of the 2017 World Series Wednesday night.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who guided his team to a best-on-baseball 104 wins during the regular season, was vilified for naming Yu Darvish to start the decisive final game.

Yu Darvish suffered a second-inning exit again

Yu Darvish suffered a second-inning exit again

After all, Darvish had a losing record during the season and was driven from the mound in the second inning of his only Fall Classic start against the Houston Astros.

A better choice, critics chirped, would have been Alex Wood, a lefthander with a funky motion who held the mighty Astros hitless in Game 4 until George Springer hit a home run in the sixth inning. The Dodgers won that game, 6-2, with a five-run ninth.

Wood wasn’t too shabby during the regular season either, finishing with a 16-3 record after opening the season in the bullpen.

By the time Roberts brought him back in Game 7, it was too late: Darvish was knocked out in the second inning again.

“There’s always going to be second-guessing,” Roberts said after it ended. “We felt good with Yu starting the game.”

Wood wouldn’t agree – at least not on the record. He went 5 2/3 innings on October 28 and had three full days of rest. Darvish had more but couldn’t deliver.

Alex Wood was ready and rested but bypassed

Alex Wood was ready and rested but bypassed

Even with the Dodger Stadium din supporting him, the veteran righthander was shakier from the start than the California seismograph.

“I was surprised again,” said Roberts in the subdued Dodger clubhouse afterward,. “I thought his stuff was good.”

Statistics said otherwise.

The midseason trade acquisition, who started the season with Texas, yielded all five runs, two of them in a tenuous first that took the air out of the Dodger balloon.

A throwing error by Cody Bellinger, who later set a dubious record for strikeouts by a hitter in the World Series, didn’t help.

Nor did the fact that Astros manager A.J. Hinch circumvented his beleaguered bullpen by using starters as relievers. Charlie Morton, who yielded the Dodger run in his four-inning stint, got the win.

World Series MVP George Springer has lots to smile about

World Series MVP George Springer has lots to smile about

Springer, whose second-inning homer put the final dagger into Darvish, walked off with a well-deserved MVP award. He finished the seven-game set with a .379 average, seven runs batted in, eight runs scored, and a record-tying five home runs – including one in each of the final four games. No one had ever done that before.

By winning, the Astros joined the 1985 Kansas City Royals as the only teams to win two seven-game series in the same year. Houston had also gone the distance against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, rebounding from a 3-2 deficit.

Beating the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers gave the Astros wins over the three clubs with the highest payrolls in the majors – proving once again that it’s not always possible to buy championships.

Good scouting and shrewd player acquisition made champions of the Astros, who lost 111 games just four years ago. In a touch of irony, the 1962 National League expansion franchise won just one pennant, in 2005, but never won a World Series game until winning four this fall – as an American League team.

The Astros score more often and strike out less than any team in the majors. Similar in many ways to the Dodgers, they prevailed by making contact. Even starting pitcher Lance McCullers, Jr. knocked in a run with a slow ground ball to second with a man on third.

On the other hand, the Dodgers were dead on arrival, deflated when the Astros plated a pair in the top of the first. Justin Turner, arguably the team’s most valuable player during the season, would have been invisible in the Houston series without his ragged red beard. And Bellinger, the cleanup man, was almost as dreadful – at bat and in the field.

Justin Turner's bat went silent during the World Series

Justin Turner’s bat went silent during the World Series

Facing its final hurrah, Los Angeles went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 men. World champions don’t do that.

Historians looking back on the 2017 World Series will remember it as home run derby – record numbers of long balls were hit during the regular season too – and the first full-length Fall Classic in which starting pitchers won only twice (Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 and McCullers in Game 3). Even Justin Verlander, whose late-August acquisition powered Houston pitching down the stretch, failed to pick up a win, stretching his lifetime World Series mark to 0-4.

The biggest win of the World Series was earned by Carlos Correa after the game. He proposed to his girlfriend on national television.

She is now his fiancee.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

Recommended for you