The 2018 World Series has come to a rather quick end, with the Boston Red Sox capping a dominant march through the summer with a relentless run for the title. Not only did they lead all of baseball in wins, the Red Sox march to the title was historic in a very legitimate sense. Their 119 total wins are the third most in MLB history. They became the first team in history to beat two 100-win teams in one postseason and beat both teams that played in the previous year’s World Series in succession.
But despite the brevity of the World Series, it was still a very entertaining one. It was also a series that was not defined solely by big money, big name players on two of baseball’s largest payrolls and markets. It was defined by the role player, up-and-comers and journeymen. Where pitchers that had much to prove snatched the opportunity at hand, while others let it slip through their grip again. Where regular season MVP candidates were usurped by little-known utility infielders whom Las Vegas didn’t even set odds to give a chance at becoming World Series MVP make an unpredictable yet undeniable impact.
With the 2018 MLB season officially in the history books, here’s a look at who emerges from the World Series with the most improved image, and those who took some of the most damage along the way.
Stock shooting through the roof
Price entered the postseason with a hazard sign around his neck and left it with a pair of victories, a ring in hand and a completely overhauled image. Price won his final three October outings, including the ALCS and World Series clinchers. It was a performance that could have (and perhaps should have) been World Series MVP worthy, but Price will happily settle for quieting the dissenters and justifying his tenure in Boston.
It is a turn of fortune not lost on Price either:
— David Price (@DAVIDprice24) October 29, 2018
Back in late July, as trade deadline discussion was running hot, it is safe to say that few to none would have anticipated journeyman extraordinaire Pearce would mean more to the outcome of the World Series than, say, Manny Machado. But that ended up being the case, as Pearce slugged four postseason homers – including two in Game 5 — in route to claiming World Series MVP honors. Pearce became the first player ever to be traded midseason and claim Series MVP honors, and does so ahead of yet another foray into free agency.
Eovaldi entered the Hall of Fame of Gutsiness (if there isn’t such a place yet, we need to get to work on it) with his incredible pair of showings in the series. Another in-season, in-division acquisition that paid off major dividends in both the postseason and in real life, as Eovaldi has positioned himself to reach the open market as one of the most exciting arms available now.
Not to be lost in the mix of the journey that Game 3 became, Buehler made his presence known on a national stage in Game 3. The fireballing 24-year-old wrapped up his rookie year in a resounding fashion, shutting out the Red Sox over seven innings. Regardless of the career accolades of Clayton Kershaw, Buehler is both the present and future of Dodger baseball.
It was quite a first year on the job for Cora, to say the very least. His World Series victory capped his right to be mentioned among the most unique managerial victories in history, as he became only the fifth rookie skipper to ever bring home a title and the first to win consecutive World Series against the same team after being a coach on a different championship team the year before.
After already entering the game on one leg, Nunez did his best to try to sweep his remaining limbs out of action as well in Game 3. Between diving into the stands for a Cody Bellinger foul ball, colliding with Yasmani Grandal and taking a head-first dive into first base, Nunez defined the ‘leave it all on the field’ demands of the Fall Classic.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Although his offensive exploits have often left something to the imagination in recent years, Bradley turned into clutch contributor extraordinaire during Boston’s October run. Each of his 10 postseason RBI came with two outs, providing a well-needed punch to accompany his always stifling defense.
Joe Kelly/Matt Barnes
The biggest question surrounding the BoSox coming into the postseason was how much confidence Alex Cora could have in his non-Craig Kimbrel bullpen choices. But in the end, his setup options were the least of his concerns, as Kelly and Barnes formed a dominant duo to lean upon. The pair combined for 8.1 innings, zero runs and 14 strikeouts in World Series play, including Kelly’s work in the series penultimate frame which set the table not for Kimbel, but for Chris Sale to close things out.
Say what you will about Puig, but he simply makes baseball about as fun as it possibly can be. His three-run homer, complete with elite level bat flip, was peak-level Puig. The enigmatic outfielder continued to prove himself worth the trouble, hitting .300 (15-for-50) with eight postseason RBI.
Muncy was MIA in World Series play with Boston’s dynamic duo of southpaws taking to the hill to start the series, however he soon would make his mark when the series turned to L.A. Well, perhaps that would be better stated as ‘eventually’ made his mark, as he didn’t get his first hit until the 10th inning of Game 3… before waiting another eight innings to connect for a merciful walk-off shot to seal the Dodgers’ sole victory of the series.
Mookie Betts/J.D. Martinez
After such a dominant romp through the regular season, it is excusable if Martinez and Betts – both of whom are likely to be AL MVP finalists — it’s impossible for a somewhat underwhelming World Series to undo what they have done this summer. So despite hitting a combined .243 in the Series, it was symbolic for the final at-bats of the year for both to be a pair of home runs to put a final shiny touch on the Red Sox season.
Jansen wasn’t asked to do as much as he was a year ago against Houston, but still stood in as an important stopping point in an otherwise horrid Dodger bullpen. Jansen let up only two runs, both coming as solo homers over 10.2 postseason innings, striking out 13 and scattering seven baserunners.
Mr. Consistency did what he always does, hit and hit and then hit more. In 16 games, Turner had 20 hits. Ho-hum, the usual.
Kershaw checks in among the steady simply because he did little to nothing to change his well-known reputation for leaving his best behind by October. He checked in with a pair of brilliant outings in both the NLDS and NLCS, but bottomed out again in the Series, allowing nine runs over 11 innings and losing the bookend games of the Series. Perhaps no all-time arm has provided a less imposing presence in October than Kershaw has.
Reaching the World Series ideally should have been the icing on the cake of a successful run of being perfect plus one for Machado in Lala Land, but in many regards, it was anything but. Sure the Dodgers reached the World Series again, but Machado often came up underwhelming at the biggest moments, ranging from a nastily ordeal with spiking Jesus Aguilar in the NLCS, to literally becoming the final out of 2018, failing at a Chris Sale slider that took him down to one knee.
All will soon be forgiven with a lucrative offseason ahead, but the 2018 postseason served as an inexcusable black eye for him.
Another big-ticket name that has experienced his fair share of postseason struggles has been Kimbrel, who had another round of issues this fall. He went from being a desired destination reliever, to preferably avoided by the end of the World Series. Kimbrel’s ERA reached north of five, while allowing just two fewer walks (eight) than strikeouts (10) this fall. Not the best final impression before heading into the open market this winter.
Sale was far from 100% this fall, working only 15.1 innings throughout the Red Sox October run. His longest outing was 5.1 innings in Game 1 of the ALDS and appeared only three times in the final two rounds. While he was pumped up enough to work the final frame of the World Series, the condition of his shoulder is a worrisome issue going into the winter.
Cody Bellinger/Joc Pederson
There are plenty of Dodger bats who deserve blame for the quick ending to their season, but chiefly among all are both Bellinger and Pederson. The young sluggers disappeared off the map, with Bellinger going 6-for-52 (.115) with one home run in the postseason, while Pederson went 1-for-12 (.083) against Boston.
Corey Seager can’t come back fast enough.
After coming up short for a second consecutive time in October, it was inevitable that Roberts would catch some flack. However, he did himself no favors by having a slow trigger finger on yanking his starter too often and then calling on the wrong arm too often from the pen when he did. Roberts’ position is far from on thin ice, but the returns were disappointing all the same.
Crashed and Burned
Combine history’s worse pinch running stint with one the World Series’ most costly errors and you have a disastrous World Series stop for Kinsler.
Sometimes the biggest stage of all can provide the chance for a resurrection of one’s stock before heading into free agency. And in other cases, it can simply be a chance to pile on further amid a frustrating enough season as is. Dozier’s situation is the latter, as he compiled a grand total of two hits in October, with the last one coming in Game 4 of the NLCS, as Dozier went hitless over his last 13 plate appearances.
It seems annually at this point that Grandal has less and less business behind the plate. His oft-disastrous stints behind the dish this postseason (which created further issues by forcing Austin Barnes into play) should be pushing him towards the American League and reprieve of the DH role this winter.
I’m a firm believer that the closest I’ve gotten to Heaven is Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. In the meantime til we cross paths again, I’ll pass along the gospel of the Field of Dreams here, Cheap.Seats.Please, I70 Baseball, and ‘Live From The Cheap Seats’.