The 2017 World Series: poetic justice

The champagne has stopped spraying by now, one would guess. The victorious Houston Astros and disappointed Los Angeles Dodgers are probably just heading to bed as this is written in the wee hours of November 2. A thrilling, twisting seven-game World Series is barely concluded and the Astros – the Mets’ NL expansion brethren of 55 years past, opponents in that restaging of War and Peace known as the 1986 NLCS – have won their very first world championship. Good news for baseball in general, not only because this is the second consecutive seven-gamer, but the uncertainty of the ultimate outcome drew fresh sets of eyes back to the sport: Sunday night’s game five of this Series out-rated its NFL competition by a significant margin, the first time that’s happened in a very long time. That’s really the idea of the World Series, of course, to draw in the proverbial “casual fan.” Well, if this Series didn’t do that, then that casual fan will stay casual. And as exciting and satisfying as the Series was in general, it was also heartwarming to more than a few Met fans I know.

There’s a phenomenon in sports – and it seems acutely so in New York – in that some players are only be appreciated once they’ve left. A famous example is Roger Maris, who only hit 61 home runs for the Yankees in 1961. The fans raked him over the coals for the rest of his career for A) not hitting 62 home runs in 1962 and B) not being Mickey Mantle. Only in his dotage was he welcomed back to the Bronx as one of their ubiquitous Old-Timers. A looming example in that other sport will be New York Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning, who is having a miserable year, as is the rest of his team. The most memorable recent example, though, was on display in this World Series. Carlos Beltran made it back to the Series, his first such appearance since 2013, when he was a member of the Cardinals and his second overall. As outstanding a regular season player he’s been throughout his career, he always seemed to be able to ramp up his play in the post-season. This year, as a 40-year-old part-timer, he didn’t get a chance to shine, but he contributed. In three games against Boston in the ALDS, he hit .400 with a double. He was eclipsed in the ALCS against the Yankees, and saw limited duty against the Dodgers. His career is close to being done. But in his twentieth big-league season, he finally accomplished something he strove his whole life for.

He got his ring.

On the other side of the field, there are opposing players to whom fans take an instant dislike. Either their constant beating of your own boys, a singular event or simply the uniform they wear can cause an opponent to be despised. Chase Utley managed to combine all three for Mets fans. As a member of that “Team to Beat” in Philadelphia which took full advantage of the Mets’ collapse in 2007, Utley was the living embodiment of the short-lived Turnpike Rivalry. He took utter delight in dropping homer after homer over the right-centerfield wall at both Shea Stadium and Citi Field, causing some New York broadcasters to name that area “Utleyville.” The Phillies were on a roll from 2007 through 2011, winning the NL East every year, taking the World Series in 2008 and the NL Pennant in 2009. The Phillies were as insufferable as the Mets were miserable in that time frame, such that when the ’09 World Series – Phillies vs. Yankees — came around, Met fans were rooting for the apocalypse. Once it was clear the Phillies’ run was over they traded Utley to the Dodgers for the stretch drive in 2015 – just in time to face the Mets in the NLDS. Few of us will quickly forget his rolling block into Ruben Tejada in game two, a move which has effectively ended Tejada’s career.

Utley now has as many rings as Beltran. Ain’t that sweet?

(A tip of the hat to my friend Sam Marcosson for being the inspiration for this piece.)

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

18 comments for “The 2017 World Series: poetic justice

  1. November 2, 2017 at 7:40 am

    But I would of liked to have seen Grandy get his ring. And yet Pederson’s over the top remarks came back to bite him in the proverbial ass. Classy response by Verlander changed my opinion about him. Better to be humble in the long run.

  2. Jimmy P
    November 2, 2017 at 8:01 am

    So many takeaways, and no time to write about them. But quickly:

    * Kershaw spit the bit.
    * Darvish just lost a lot of money. Worst WS ever? By anyone?
    * Love Morrow, Bregman, Forsyth.
    * Bellinger: 17 Ks. Posterboy for baseball in 2017. It makes me want the player who Dominick Smith is “supposed” to be.
    * Charlie Morton just made a lot of money.
    * Turner didn’t do enough.
    * Managers over-managing. At same time, credit to Hinch for getting long appearances out of unexpected relievers — riding the hot hand, getting distance. It’s weird how a WS brings out the creativity, when everything is on the line, but managers are afraid to try anything new in a game in May in Milwaukee.
    * Amazing that Springer started WS with an 0-4 game with 4 K’s.
    * The SS’s were terrific.
    * Puig is just awful, he must be unbearable to be around. Yuck, gross.

    Got to run!

    • November 2, 2017 at 8:47 am

      It’s unfortunate how true the seventh star, the one about managers, is.

      • Jimmy P
        November 2, 2017 at 5:07 pm

        Yeah, when I typed that out I was like, wow, it’s true. They manage afraid of being second-guessed all season long. We just never hear them say, “I’ve been thinking about it for some time, I know it’s unconventional, but I wanted to try it out, so how it went.”

        No. They just do what they imagine every other manager in baseball would do.

        • November 2, 2017 at 6:02 pm

          It’s that CYA mentality that’s so disgusting. It’s why TC putting Conforto in CF and batting leadoff was so wonderful. It was an unconventional fix to two separate problems.

          Just for the record, the last thing I want to see is a guy who just plays hunches. I want a guy who identifies a problem and when a standard fix doesn’t work, isn’t intimidated to try a different approach that has some logic behind it.

          • Metsense
            November 2, 2017 at 7:39 pm

            Like batting Geoge Springer first.(Which is easier to do in the AL) . The idea works.

            • Jimmy P
              November 3, 2017 at 9:34 am

              To me, it’s 90% about bullpen usage. This is the area where a bold manager, along with the right pitchers and coach, could make the biggest difference.

              The more I think of it, the more I like Brian’s idea of building a bullpen of multiple-inning guys. Personally, I’d still have a closer — my 9th inning “ace” — but I wouldn’t reflexively go to him in every situation. I think to implement change as a manager, you’d need a bullpen filled with guys who understand the “new” role, who buy into it, and have the ability to succeed. You can’t have a tender-armed guy like Goeddel back there who can’t pitch consecutive days. You go away the LOOGY idea. And so on. It’s got to be an organizational shift; a manager alone can’t do it (and succeed) in isolation.

              Roger McDowell was a great example of this kind of arm and role usage.

    • DED
      November 3, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      Couldn’t agree more as regards to Puig.

      Watching Games Two and Five I thought: this is when the practice of limiting a reliever’s pitch selection comes back to bite the team that ordered it. Most relievers are in the bullpen because they don’t have a third pitch, of course; but at some point the limiting factor became the desirable outcome. I can name two such projects in Mets history: Jason Isringhausen, what became of that knuckle curve you flashed as a rookie? And years later Aaron Heilman showed up with I believe four decent offerings; when he was assigned to the pen four became two.

      And that becomes a drawback when the reliever finds himself facing the same batters twice or three times in the same series. I heard Mike Stanton, Mister Pink himself, on radio talking of how he felt at a disadvantage in those situations. Just a little more variety from the pitcher could make a difference.

  3. November 2, 2017 at 8:21 am

    Puig is in the Cespedes mold. It’s about them not the team. Happy for Beltran but I can’t erase that final pitch against the Cards in the playoffs. Bellinger was awful. I wonder if Gonzalez is enjoying his vacation even more now

    • Jimmy P
      November 2, 2017 at 8:44 am

      I don’t see the similarities between Cespedes and Puig.

      Big fan of Yoenis, very much dislike Puig, who I don’t believe can see beyond himself. Constantly starring in his own movie in his imagination.

      • NormE
        November 2, 2017 at 10:46 am

        Puig may be a head case, but as a defender I’ll take him over Cespedes. He hustles and is willing to give up his body in RF—-a position Cespedes refuses to play.

        • Jimmy P
          November 3, 2017 at 9:42 am

          Cespedes has always been clear about that. He doesn’t want to play RF. The Mets signed up with that knowledge. You either accept it or find another guy.

          He’s a plus-defender in LF, though he’s been hobbled by leg injuries. Given the health situation, I’m positive that the message to him has been to be careful out there, don’t bust it too much, and so on. It’s very difficult to play the OF with pulled hamstrings, quads. I don’t see any of that as a reflection of his heart or hustle.

  4. MattyMets
    November 2, 2017 at 11:06 am

    When Beltran pinch hit with two outs in the 9th of game 6 every Mets fan knew there was no way he’d go down looking. So did Kenley Jansen, who struck him out on a chin high fastball.

    Anecdote aside, I’m happy for Beltran that he can go out on top. And if he should make the HoF, I hope he enters in a Mets hat.

  5. Metsense
    November 2, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    I am glad to see Carlos Beltran get his ring.He was a great Met.
    The only flaw for Houston was their bullpen and only because Giles faltered.
    Darvish pitched like a 2017 Met starter. He should not be paid to become a 2018 Met starter.
    The Astros defense was impressive.
    Bellinger struck out too much just like Judge did with the Yankees.
    The Mets are way behind in talent compared to the ten playoff teams but they will start off even next March.

    • Jimmy P
      November 2, 2017 at 5:05 pm

      Darvish could be an interesting one-year sign for somebody. It could be that he’ll prefer to post a strong season to re-establish himself if he hopes to get the big multi-year payoff. There might be an opportunity here.

      • Metsense
        November 2, 2017 at 7:27 pm

        Jim, MLBTR lists him as the #1 free agent and estimates that he could get a 6 year 160 MM contract. There is no bargain there.

        • Jimmy P
          November 3, 2017 at 9:47 am

          Did MLBTR just see the World Series?

          A team would be insane to make that kind of commitment to him. Six years at $160 million? He made two WS starts and couldn’t make it out of the second inning in either one! He’s had arm problems in the past. I think those numbers are absurd.

          If he finds the market is more like 4 years and under $90, he might try for an “out” option or, if things go particularly poorly, a single-year deal.

          I’m not saying it absolutely will happen. But I think it’s in the realm of possibility.

  6. Sam Marcosson
    November 2, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    Thanks for the shout out! If I inspired this piece with my FB post on the Utley v. Beltran issue, I’m very happy to have done it.

    As for Grandy, I’d have been more torn about it if he’d been on the Dodgers’ World Series roster. If the Dodgers had won, his getting a ring would have been the consolation for knowing that Utley gets one, too.

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