Finally, a World Series in which Option A (Houston and its history of cheating cheaters) and Option B (Cobb County and its history of … well, its history) are losing in public sentiment to Option C (is there a basketball game I can watch instead).
This is a cruel way to look at a series between the dominant if besmirched team of the last half-decade against a team that makes the 1980s Buffalo Bills whistle and shake their head while tsking, “Those poor unlucky bastards.” It is a dismissive view of Eddie Rosario’s two-month resuscitation from “Traded to Atlanta for Pablo Sandoval and cash” vs. Yuli Gurriel and his full-grown son Yordan Alvarez. It is a mockery of Tyler Matzek defeating a historical case of the yips vs. Kendall Graveman being the subject of that rare deal that works out for both sides.
It is, in short, one of those series that you will have to work hard to love unless you either believe in galvanized trash-can abuse or cultural degradation. It is a series between a team whose nickname invokes dismay and disapproval and one that would have done so if it hadn’t been changed for stadium marketing reasons back in the 1960s. It is, in shorter short, the first World Series between teams that reside in states that once pledged fealty to Jefferson Davis.
More to the point than all of that, though, it is a series that is already been written with the inclusion of the headline, “Lowest Rated World Series Since (Fill In Your Favorite Year).”
In other words, it’s going to be a grand series because it has the lowest possible level of expectations or rooting interest.
The Atlantii are mostly a monument to general manager Alex Anthopoulos’s willingness to run through players like paper towels. Much has been made of the way he started with an outfield of Ronald Acuna Jr., Cristian Pache, and Marcell Ozuna, switched through injury and crime to Abraham Almonte, Ender Inciarte, and Guillermo Heredia at midseason and then finished with Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson, and Adam Duvall, with a side of Jorge Soler. Not enough has been made of catcher Travis d’Arnaud and the five other guys who replaced him while he was hurt. And nothing has been of the 30 pitchers they have used just to get to the point where Matzek’s story of losing confidence in his abilities, creating a four-year gap in his CV, and reinventing himself through his services in Hartford, Modesto, Grand Prairie, twice, and Jackson.
That and five bucks gets you an overly sugared coffee through a drive-thru window.
Then there are the Astros and their human shield manager Dusty Baker, whose job has been to vibe folks into forgetting that the team was easily the most detested in baseball two years ago, so much so that nobody ever stops to mention the fact that the Washington Nationals became the first team to ever win all four World Series road games. That was the story of the Astros and how they got away with everything in plain sight and apologized for none of it.
So do those competing narrative streams make for compelling episodic television? Probably not, though that might be because neither team is the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs or Cardinals, the only four teams the networks ever want to present. Not even the Dodgers move the needle the way the nets would like because almost all their postseason games start while most of their fans are still stuck in their cars and end while most of the rest of the country is in bed. This is also true of the three Giants World Series winners of the last decade; West Coast baseball does not move the East Coast needle.
Do you need to worry about this? Well, do you work for Fox? Do you work for Major League Baseball? Do you fear that the national pastime is losing its grip on the nation’s entertainment choices? If the answer to those three questions is “No,” “No,” and “Man, where have you been since 1975?” then you don’t have to worry at all. If you just like baseball for the hell of it, or because your football team (real or fantasy) sucks, or because basketball and hockey have barely begun, or because you don’t care enough about the Premier League to be couchjacked by Peacock, then this series will find its own goofy level, and amusements will simply issue forth of their own accord. Fun can break out of a vacuum, and you’ll catch it or you won’t.
Just don’t bang the trashcan or do the chop in your house. Your roommate/partner/offspring/dog will beat and/or bite you severely, and you will totally have it coming.