Reflections on the 2019 World Series — good, bad and disturbing
This year’s World Series was, in a word, incredible. Any time a seven game series goes the full distance, it’s likely to be filled with magical moments, a few misgivings and delirium for the winning team and its fans.
Let’s take a look back at this memorable World Series. We’ll look at both teams, the umpiring and of course, the second guessing.
Home Field Advantage. Perhaps the most notable feature of this rendition of the Fall Classic was the fact that the visiting team won every game. Never in the history of major league baseball, or the NBA or NHL for that matter, has a team won a championship by winning all of their games on the road.
Maybe this feat is not all that impressive, as only one team can accomplish this in any given series. Your opposition has to have that home field advantage so that you have the opportunity to achieve this goal.
But let’s not make light of it, either. It is hard to go into an opponent’s own lair with a hostile crowd screaming for their team and against yours. To win on the road in any sport is difficult. To do so each time you played in a World Series is, again, incredible.
Washington Nationals. Credit has to be given to the gutsy wild card entrant. No one expected them to even make the playoffs, particularly after losing star Bryce Harper to free agency in the offseason. The Nats happen to be the oldest team in baseball, despite the fact that Juan Soto is so young. He is a legitimate talent and likely will be the franchise player for years to come. Seeing him play so well in the World Series would be heartening to Nationals fans even if they had not won it all.
Stellar pitching from MVP Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer, combined with timely hitting from Anthony Rendon, Adam Eaton, Soto and Howie Kendrick took the Nationals to the trophy. I would be willing to say that Washington earned the title as opposed to the Astros losing it.
Houston Astros. The well-balanced ‘Stros played well, but the Nats were just a little bit better. Gerrit Cole pitched well in Washington, Alex Bregman had some key hits and the Astros defense played decently.Again, I don’t think they lost it as much as Washington earned it.
Elimination Games. Throughout the playoffs the Washington Nationals faced elimination in five games. They fell behind in all of them, only to claw their way back. Staving off elimination that many times is — dare I say it — incredible.
The Umpiring. During any playoff the umpires will come under scrutiny. This World Series was no exception, but I’m not likely to be very critical. The strike zone seems to vary from batter to batter, inning to inning and it also depends on the count. Anything close on a 3-0 pitch is likely going to be a strike; likewise a 0-2 pitch better be right down the middle to get the punch out. Despite that, I think it’s a difficult job calling balls and strikes.
As fans we have the luxury of seeing that rectangular box on the TV screen. The umpires don’t have that ability. Should an electronic strike zone be adopted? I don’t think so. If it is, people will still complain. The worst strike call may have been the punch out of Carlos Correa in Game 7. That ball was clearly inside though if you saw the replays it looked a lot closer from the centerfield camera than it did on the overhead shot from behind the hitter.
Again, the umpire has to make a judgement call immediately, and that is indeed difficult.
The most controversial play occurred in game 6 with the interference call on the Nationals Trey Turner. Again, I don’t blame the umpires on the call which seemed dubious. In my opinion, the rule needs to be changed.
How a runner can be expected to be to the right of the foul line and then hit the base which is on the other side of that same line is beyond me. Perhaps Cub outfielder Kyle Schwarber’s tweet that baseball should do like softball and incorporate an orange bag beside the actual base for the runner seems to make a lot of sense.
The call, that included a lengthy review delay and the ejection of Nationals manager Dave Martinez, could have been huge had not Anthony Rendon hit the homer a couple of batters later. It took the sting out of the call though it didn’t take the anger out of Martinez.
Second Guessing. Questioning a manager’s moves is part of all sports and A.J. Hinch was not immune to this phenomenon. His decision not to bring in Gerrit Cole in relief in game 7 was widely denounced. One baseball analyst even suggested that the Astros would have won the game had he inserted Cole rather than Will Harris, who promptly gave up a game changing home run to Howie Kendrick.
Why do I get the feeling that had he done just that and Cole had given up the home run, Hinch would still be feeling the heat?
A couple of things happened during this year’s postseason that bothered me as a baseball fan. The first involved the firing of Houston’s Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman.
He had a profanity laced rant about the “correct” wisdom of signing closer Roberto Osuna to a group of female reporters. Osuna’s signing widely was criticized because he had just served a 75 game suspension for domestic violence. Even some of the Astros players were not thrilled with the signing.
The Astros bungled the aftermath of the Sports Illustrated story that ran about his conduct, calling the reporting irresponsible. They later recanted and dismissed Taubman, suggesting his thoughts did not match the values of the organization. They should have done that in the first place.
As bad as that situation was it was not as disturbing to me as a tweet that was put out briefly by major league umpire Rob Drake. I won’t quote it here, but suffice it to say that I thought it was wholly inappropriate and I will be interested to see if major league baseball will take any action against him.
From a baseball fan’s perspective the 2019 World Series was a “classic” and the last two things, as disturbing as they were, cannot take that fact away.