By Terry Lyons, Editor-in-Chief
BOSTON – “Baseball has marked the time,” said actor James Earl Jones in the motion picture Field of Dreams. “This field, this game is a part of our past. It reminds of us of all that was once good.”
Welcome to Fenway Park!
Major League Baseball is filled with such glorious history and we rely heavily on the past as we try to predict the future. No one enjoys that more than the geeks in the analytics department who make a living out of crunching all kinds of numbers from the past to try to predict better match-ups and their outcomes.
The pre-series game notes reflect that trend as the statisticians delight:
- The Red Sox are making their 13th World Series appearance, having gone 8-4 in the previous 12
- This is the Red Sox’ 4th World Series appearance in the last 15 years (2004-18), tied with the Cardinals for the most in that time
- Boston’s three World Series titles since 2000 are tied with the SF Giants (2010, ‘12, ‘14) for the most this century
- The Red Sox are 12-2 in their last 14 World Series games and could join the New York Yankees of yesteryear as the only teams ever to go 13-2 or better in a stretch of 15 World Series games
- The Red Sox are facing the Dodgers in the World Series for the 2nd time, having earned a 4-games-to-1 victory over Brooklyn in 1916
- The Red Sox are 7-0 this postseason when scoring the game’s 1st run (0-2 when they don’t)
For the Sabermetrics-inclined, pitch counts begot slash lines of OBP, SLG and OPS (on-base percentage, slugging percentage and the combination of the two) begot Exit Velocity begot WAR (wins above replacement) begot, well, you get the picture. Crunch every number you can think of and they’ll all get tossed in the blender and laid over miles of what used to be called video tape, but now is simply 1000 GB of digitally stored highlights and lowlights of every single pitch, recorded from every single angle.
The analytics try to forecast the possibilities, and most good managers consider it all in their decision-making.
There are more statistics to be recited, but truth be told, every stat from the past is worthless. As much as we love the past and feel comfortable in it, like Ray sitting with his family in the bleachers alongside his picturesque field in Iowa, we must come to terms with the future.
For those who call Boston or New England home, the Fenway Park experience is something extra special. The park holds memories from generations of Red Sox fans and their families. Fenway’s charm and past seems so important as this series begins but in this ‘what-did-you-do-for-me-today’ world, it’s only about the next four victories. Victories in the future.
That future, for the Boston Red Sox and the Dodgers of Los Angeles, begins with a first pitch to be tossed at approximately nine minutes after 8 o’clock on Tuesday night, just as the thermometer at Fenway Park heads south from 50 towards 44-degrees with an 80% chance of rain to accompany the chill.
A Chris Sale fastball will check the box many players never, ever get to check on their “bucket list” of goals as a big leaguer. Yet, for these two teams, merely participating in the World Series as pennant winners does not come close to satisfying a goal set last winter.
“To get to this point it’s hard,” said Sox manager Alex Cora. “We have plenty of opportunities, but I only made it once in ’07. In ’08 we lost in Game 7. But it’s tough. It’s really tough.
“You start this journey in February in Spring Training, and you talk about it and all the details and all the stuff that you have to go through, and then you have to play 162. And then, if you make it, now you have two rounds before you make it to the World Series.
“I know those guys in that clubhouse they’re very excited to be back,” added Cora. “Some of them, like David (Price) and Pedey, (Dustin Pedroia), although he’s not playing, he’s loving it. And Xander (Bogaerts), he thought he was going to be in the World Series all the time after ’13, and it doesn’t work that way. (Raphael) Devers last year, thought, yeah, we’re almost there, and it doesn’t work that way. It takes a lot of work. And we’re very happy that we’re here. We’re loving it.
“For me, this is tough,” Cora continued. “Being a manager and trying to navigate a season and get them to this point, and try to put them in positions to be successful, it’s not that easy. It’s not that easy.
“To deal with those guys in the clubhouse is a challenge, a challenge that I love,” he said. “I love doing it. But, the other day I sat down I was like, whew, we made it. Especially here (Boston). We knew about the division and record-setting season and all that stuff, but in this town everything started after October. And we’re glad that we’re here. I’m happy to lead this group of men and we’re ready for the challenge.”
Across the diamond, the Dodgers were settling into Fenway after a trip eastbound from Milwaukee where they advanced past a very good Brewers team that just might take some notes from Cora’s words of wisdom today. The Dodgers, however, are primed for a repeat performance in the World Series, a year after bowing to the Houston Astros.
“Obviously, for me personally, I have a lot of fond memories of the Red Sox and Fenway Park,” said Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts, once a member of the 2004 Curse of the Bambino-erasing Red Sox. “To be wearing another uniform going in there playing for a World Series Championship is going to be special for me.
“It’s great for baseball. Two storied franchises going head-to-head. It’s going to be a great series,” added Roberts.
Let’s all see if the Red Sox can “go the distance?”