As we wind down another World Series and begin our journey to the next decade of baseball, it feels appropriate to look back on the past decade of the greatest spectacle in sports, the World Series. Sure, the Super Bowl objectively draws more fans and has more of an overall cultural impact, but that just makes it the most popular. The World Series is a parade of tradition, stretched out over a painfully objective, heart wrenching number of games. Fans hope lasts days not hours, and that precious hope is never fully crushed before the results are final, because there are no knees to take, no timeouts to burn, and no way to run down the clock. You have to do it on your own, to the bitter end.
The World Series brings promise to a fanbase. It gives the expectant ones the nerve to say “OK, time to bring it home”, as if this was the assumed destiny the entire time. It gives the “Hey, we made it this far!” attitude to the underdogs, where every second that their team takes the field is a profit over whatever the expectations were a lifetime ago, in April. It collides these attitudes and can bring about the greatest version of the greatest game ever created. We call these series, CLASSICS.
The Fall Classic doesn’t always deliver on this promise though, and we do end up with some bad series from time to time. When even the best fight that one team has to offer is simply not enough, and the tone of a series slowly shifts from an epic journey to glory, to a joyless march to the inevitable. These series can test not just fans of the respective teams, but fans of the game itself. It brings about a form of contempt for the teams (especially the losing ones) from rival fans, who lament on how things would be different if their team had made it to the big show. These are DUDS.
Using those two distinctions, let’s take a look at the past decade and sort out exactly how we did this time around…
2010: San Francisco Giants def. Texas Rangers: DUD
The Giants made short work of the Texas Rangers in this series, out scoring them 29-12 over the entire series, shutting them out twice in five games. San Fran had rolled in off of a pretty eventful playoff run, and clearly carried that momentum over to the Series, and the poor Rangers didn’t stand a chance.
2011: St. Louis Cardinals def. Texas Rangers: CLASSIC
If you only had one chance to sell someone on the majesty of baseball… One series to convince someone that this truly is the greatest game ever created, this just might be the one to pick. This series had it all. Pitchers duels, an Albert Pujols three home run game, and quite possibly the greatest single World Series game in baseball history. It was the closest thing to Shakespeare you could put on a diamond, and it was awesome.
2012: San Francisco Giants def. Detroit Tigers: DUD
If the 2011 World Series was a true drama, then the following year was like when they make a sequel, and re cast the leading characters. The San Fransisco Giants swept the Detroit Tigers, outscoring them 16-6. That’s right… the best team the American League had to offer could only muster 6 runs in four games against the Giants. It was saved from a total snooze fest thanks to an extra inning effort in the decisive fourth game, but that was about the only redeeming quality in this silliness.
2013: Boston Red Sox def. St. Louis Cardinals: DUD
This one actually straddled the line a little bit. For all of its weirdness, it just doesn’t really stick out in the grand scheme of things. The ’13 series saw some of the stranger situations we’d seen in recent memory in the World Series. Game one marred by an illegal substance accusation against the starting pitcher, Game 3 ending on a bizarre obstruction call, and of course the game four walk-off pick-off…. ya know, normal stuff. Knowing all of that, you’d think that it would be an instant classic, right? Eh, not really, because for all of its strangeness, the actual quality of baseball? Not so great.
2014: San Francisco Giants def. Kansas City Royals: CLASSIC
By this point, the country was obligated to take the Giants seriously, I mean they were playing in their third World Series in six years, and looking to continue their “even year magic”. They had the star power, history on their side, and what many believed was a surprise opponent in the Kansas City Royals. Little did they know, that the scrappy kids from KC would give them a run for their money, and take the series all the way to the final at bat. The teams would trade punches, trading blowouts and shutouts to culminate in a fantastic seventh game, where Madison Bumgarner pitched five spectacular innings in relief to stave off the miraculous triple of Alex Gordon in the ninth inning and take home the third title in six years for the Giants.
2015: Kansas City Royals def. New York Mets: CLASSIC
From the first pitch, you knew this was going to be a good one. Like the opening scene of a Mission: Impossible movie, you got dropped straight into the action with an inside-the-park home run. I mean, literally on the first pitch. Take a game tying home run with two out in the ninth, and you haven’t even made it past the first game yet. From there, the Royals would run rough shot over the Mets, but the thing was, is that the games were competitive. There was wild base running, great defense, not-so-great defense, and drama to boot. This one ranks as my personal favorite, even though it only took five games to complete. My only wish is that it could’ve gone on longer.
2016: Chicago Cubs def. Cleveland Indians: CLASSIC
There’s title droughts… and then there’s the Chicago Cubs World Series title drought. It literally was more than a CENTURY long. Entire generations were born, lived, and died between when the Cubs won a World Series. The ones who were fortunate enough to see it? Were not disappointed. Admittedly, this one started out pretty slow, driven mostly by pitching duels in the first four games. It picked up a head of steam, and culminated in what may be the greatest Game 7 in the history of the World Series. 100+ years AND an epic Game 7? Put it in the classic pile.
2017: Houston Astros def. Los Angeles Dodgers: CLASSIC
I like to call this one “The Home Run Derby Series”, because my goodness there were a lot of home runs. The two powerhouse teams had broken the previous record of 21 in a series and still had another game to play. Damn if it wasn’t an exciting series though. Games two and five in particular seemed to be particularly exciting, both going extra innings and changing leads regularly. The decisive 7th game was sort of a dud, but the rest of the series was truly epic, and deserves the “classic” label.
2018: Boston Red Sox def. Los Angeles Dodgers: DUD
Team with the best record in baseball? Awesome. Defending World Series loser looking for redemption? Fabulous. Put them together? Lame. The only one run game in this entire series needed 18 innings to be decided. Seriously, the only close game in the entire World Series needed another game’s worth of innings to finally settle it. Nate Eovaldi’s performance was pretty cool, but other than that it was just unnecessary and excessively long. The Dodgers couldn’t stand to do much right, and were honestly overmatched by the Red Sox at every turn. Total dud.
2019: Washington Nationals def. Houston Astros: CLASSIC
A series that started off rocky, with rather boring games and an off-field scandal that touched on some sensitive issues took a serious turn for the fantastic in Game 6. Leads were traded, home runs were hit, and heroes were born. Max Scherzer literally pitched with a seized neck, veteran journeyman Howie Kendrick hit a game 7 dinger, and the kid who many thought wasn’t “mentally tough” enough gutted out an epic performance to win the World Series. It was a well earned victory for Washington, who had to take a rather wild and improbable path to the title, having to beat two 100 win teams after winning a sudden death playoff, only to face the best team in baseball for a title. This marked the only series in modern sports history where the road team actually won every game. Congrats to the Nationals on a hard earned win.