The neutral should support...
MLB moved the All-Star Game out of Georgia because of its voter suppression laws and now Atlanta gets to host World Series games (plus, there’s the awful Tomahawk Chop). It’s also easy to root for Astros manager Dusty Baker. The affable 72-year old, who once played with Hank Aaron, gets another crack at his first World Series ring after playoff runs with the Giants, Cubs, Reds, and Nationals. MJ
After the Astros cheating scandal, Houston hired Dusty Baker, a beloved Hall of Fame worthy manager who has never won a World Series. It was a cheap publicity move designed to win back sympathy, but it would honestly be nice to see him finally win a championship ring. Close your eyes and pretend he’s still managing the Reds. HF
Houston, because they have a manager who we’ve all forgotten treated the press with disdain for years now that he’s now older and cute. Plus, if he wins, he’ll be the first manager in history to win a title wearing black plastic gloves while chewing a toothpick. DL
What the Astros need to do to win...
Framber Valdez needs to be the pitcher we saw in Game 5 of the ALCS, when he allowed just three hits and a run in eight innings. If the bullpen can keep thriving this postseason, those powerhouse batters will give Houston a big advantage. MJ
The Astros pitchers have to repeat what they did in the last few games of the ALCS, where they silenced the Boston Red Sox bats. Astros starters going deep would help: relievers have pitched 57% of their postseason innings so far. HF
The old adage that pitching wins championships is out the window in this Fall Classic: if this was American football, we’d call it a track meet. That means the Astros will need someone besides Yordan Alvarez, the ALCS MVP, to hit. Last round, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman were mostly missing in action, while Carlos Correa hit below his weight. That said, any kind of quality starting pitching would be welcome - Framber Valdez can’t pitch every game. DL
What the Braves need to do to win...
Eddie Rosario, who hit an unbelievable .560 in the NLCS, needs to keep being superhuman. Charlie Morton must set the tone with a dominating performance against his former team in Game 1. And the Braves need to keep riding the magic of being a relative David against the next Goliath. MJ
Not revert back to regular-season form. The Braves won just 88 games in the regular season, and only a late surge (and a spectacular collapse from the New York Mets) got them into the playoffs in the first place. Having said that, early season is irrelevant when it comes to the World Series. The Washington Nationals had a similar route to the postseason in 2019 – and ended up winning the whole thing. HF
Atlanta will have to find a way to keep up with Houston’s bats while summoning ex-Astro Charlie Morton’s dazzling slider and the struggling Max Fried to limit the damage. Atlanta have more quality starters and a better bullpen, especially if Luke Jackson can regain form. Still, it will come down to squeezing more out of NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario and the rest of their surging lineup to keep up with Houston’s juggernaut. DL
The World Series MVP will be …
If you’re picking the Astros which (spoiler alert), I do below, there are so many MVP options considering their slew of elite batters. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Michael Brantley are all viable winners. But I’m going with the sizzling hot Yordan Alvarez who had more hits in the final two games of the ALCS (seven) than the entire Boston Red Sox team (five). MJ
Is it boring to say Houston’s Jose Altuve? Because I’m saying Jose Altuve. A future hall of famer, Altuve is one of the all-time great playoff hitters and has a flair for the dramatic. Expect at least one game to completely turn with one swing of his bat. HF
Charlie Morton. He goes old school and pitches three times to shut down the Astros lineup, leaving Houston fans to wonder why they let him go after he went 29-10 with a 3.36 ERA during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. DL
One bold prediction ...
Houston hitting coach Troy Snitker accidentally drops a cheat sheet at the restaurant where he is dining with his dad, Braves manager Brian Snitker. Brian tosses it in the trash but an enterprising Braves fan finds it and a new sign stealing scandal begins … MJ
The weird thing about modern baseball is its seemingly paradoxical reliance on both strikeouts and home runs. But the two statistics are related as hitters lean harder on power when contact is at a premium, so it would be amusing to see a no-hitter followed by a wild 11-9 slugfest at some point this series. HF
Despite all the naysayers, this World Series becomes a classic for the ages. It’s so gripping that the Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association decide against their plan to completely destroy the sport with the previously inevitable work stoppage, bringing labor peace in our time and an opening day on schedule in 2022. DL
The winner will be ...
Houston’s bats have been on fire this postseason. They’ve scored at least five runs in nine of 10 playoff games and are crushing even the best pitching. And it’s not like the postseason has been an anomaly; the Astros also led the American League in batting average, hits, and runs scored in the regular season. This is a deep powerhouse franchise that is stacked in almost every facet. Astros 4-2 Braves. MJ
Circling back to the first question: in the absence of an obvious “good guy” here, we should be rooting for whatever causes the maximum amount of embarrassment to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. In this case, it would probably be the Astros coming back to win it all so swiftly after the sign-stealing scandal. The Astros also happen to have the more potent hitting lineup – they probably never really needed to cheat in the first place, which made the whole thing more frustratingly pointless – so let’s say they beat the Braves in six. Astros 4-2 Braves. HF
The Braves have mojo coming into this Fall Classic. They rebuilt their outfield during the season, hit on their deadline acquisitions, snuck into the playoffs with 88 wins and knocked off the 106-win Dodgers. There’s an old-school manager in Brian Snitker, who gets an old fashioned three World Series starts from Charlie Morton, and the result is Atlanta’s first title since 1995 and thousands of insufferable Braves fans. Braves 4-2 Astros. DL