Every couple of postseasons, a seemingly inevitable World Series matchup emerges. Some combination of big markets, shared history and recent interactions occasionally make a potential matchup so appealing that everyone magically assumes it’s going to happen.
The 2013 Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers are this year’s example of the trend. Located in the second and third largest markets in baseball respectively, the Dodgers and Red Sox are both historically significant teams and stars Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford in a blockbuster that proved to be the largest salary dump in baseball history.
As of Tuesday, Oct. 8, both the Dodgers and Red Sox have secured spots in the League Championship Series and are awaiting their opponents. No matter who prevails from the upcoming rubber games of the League Divisional Series’, the dominant question of the next two weeks will be whether or not this Dodgers-Red Sox World Series can be prevented.
So, in the spirit of conjecture, let’s take a closer look at two players who would define this dream series. These two men exhibit a special kind of baseball brilliance that shines brightest in October.
The Dominance of Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw is the most underrated player in baseball, and most people acknowledge that he’s the best pitcher in the league. His 1.83 ERA tells the story of one of the most dominant pitchers of the past decade. He’s reached a point at which every run the opposing team scores is a gift and the idea of scoring two or three is ludicrous.
This variety of complete control has proven largely unsustainable; Randy Johnson, Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay have reached this point for a season or two at a time, but only Pedro Martinez, in the heart of the PED era no less, could inspire such fear for a period as long as five years. Having won three consecutive ERA titles, Kershaw is enjoying an unparalleled run of near-perfect pitching for someone so young.
Perhaps the most promising takeaway from Don Mattingly’s decision to pitch Kershaw on short rest despite a 2-1 series lead is the potential for Kershaw to achieve the exceedingly rare three games started in a series. The few times that it has happened are considered among the greatest performances in playoff history, most notably Christy Mathewson in the 1905 World Series and Bob Gibson in the 1968 World Series. Thanks to the unreliability of the rest of the Dodgers rotation and the reactionary tendencies of Don Mattingly, Kershaw will start as many games as humanly possible.
The Fundamental Excellence of Shane Victorino
Shane Victorino is your high school coach’s favorite player. He’s the guy who may not have been the most physically gifted player on the squad, but hustled the most consistently so everyone hated him out of envy.
The Boston right fielder just completed one of the most technically perfect series’ of baseball one can ever hope to see. He beat out a pathetic ground ball to short to give the Red Sox the lead in Game Four; he took out the second baseman twice (!) with a slide to break up a double play; and he continued to play Gold Glove-caliber defense. Adding to the degree of difficulty is a hamstring injury that has the former switch hitter batting exclusively from the right side.
He’s the one whom washed up sports writers and bitter ex-players are referring to when they say “a real ballplayer.” Loving Shane Victorino makes me love baseball more.
I recognize how ridiculous it is to profile two players who will probably define a series that might happen. But if FOX’s ratings dream unfolds and we’re served with a Dodgers-Red Sox World Series, Clayton Kershaw and Shane Victorino will likely be your October heroes.