* Future Mailbag presents one weekly Q&A from years beyond the present. With the benefit of hindsight, the columnist provides a comprehensive answer alongside context for sporting events that have transpired.
Q: Mark Sherman; Boise, Idaho 2021 – The most recent World Series was a disappointing four-game sweep after several epic showdowns in a row. How would you rank the last five Fall Classics?
Before ranking the last five World Series, here’s a chronological rundown of what happened in each one.
2017 Series: Chicago Cubs 4, Houston Astros 2
The Chicago Cubs spent most of the 2017 season in a funk after the massive burden of history had been lifted off their shoulders the previous year. They flipped the switch for a streaky enough second half to win the anemic NL Central. Although the Cubs finished with the fifth best record in the National League, all they needed was a shot. Chicago dismantled the Nationals before squeaking past the world-beater Los Angeles Dodgers in seven. The Astros weathered an unfortunate handful of midseason injuries. The team’s huge division lead afforded them patience with players such as George Springer and Carlos Correa. After coasting through the playoffs by drowning opponents in a sea of runs, MVP Jose Altuve and the Houston Astros reached their second World Series in franchise history. Unfortunately, their offense fell stagnant for a few too many games. Chicago’s pitching rotation surprisingly held up, and Anthony Rizzo starred in the batter’s box with 9 RBIs in six games. The Cubs allayed any fears of another century-long World Series slump, but the victory could never be as charming or special as the magical 2016 season. Opposing fans turn against feel good stories once a team wins too much.
2018 Series: Cleveland Indians 4, Washington Nationals 3
So much was made about the Chicago Cubs victory in 2016 that some forget about Cleveland’s plight. The 2016 Indians, a team that hadn’t won a championship since 1948, had the unenviable task of facing the lovable Cubbies. The Cubs’ victory meant Indians fans had to accept another painful year of falling short. After losing in the opening round of the 2017 postseason, Cleveland returned in following year with renewed purpose under Terry Francona. The Indians posted the best record in the American League and eliminated the Astros and Rays on their way to another World Series birth. The Nationals amassed a ton of victories like they always seem to do. This time, finally, Washington played with enough tenacity to reach the Fall Classic. The two teams traded wins back and forth up to the deciding game in Cleveland. Bryce Harper was everywhere and did everything, including becoming the first individual ejected from a World Series game since Bobby Cox in 1996. It wasn’t enough in the end. The defeat convinced Harper he must look elsewhere for a ring in free agency.
2019 Series: Los Angeles Dodgers 4, New York Yankees 3
Reports for years suggested Bryce Harper might be seduced by the big lights of New York City. Instead, Harper went west. His arrival convinced Clayton Kershaw to re-sign with Los Angeles after the Hall of Famer initially opted out of his contract. Although the Dodgers fell short of their 2017 113-win season, this iteration did something far more important. They made it to a World Series. The New York Yankees competed for playoff spots earlier than expected, but a return to baseball’s biggest stage occurred right on schedule. Brian Cashman pulled a classic Evil Empire move during the 2018-2019 offseason by giving Manny Machado a monster contract to solidify the hot corner. The Yankees and Dodgers, World Series foes for an absurd twelfth time, provided plenty of fireworks. After the Dodgers got off to a three-game lead, New York stormed back to tie the series at three apiece. Looking to flip the script from their 2004 ALCS collapse, the Yankees fell short on a Cody Bellinger blast in the bottom of the eleventh.
2020 Series: Atlanta Braves 4, Chicago White Sox 2
Two incredible farm systems finally came to fruition in an out-of-nowhere World Series matchup. Washington’s decline and the Mets being the Mets left a void in the NL East. The Braves stepped up to fill it with contributions from a mixture of veterans (Mike Foltynewicz, Ender Inciarte) and budding stars (Ronald Acuña, Ozzy Albies). The Chicago White Sox utilized a similar strategy with slightly less success. The Sox caught fire after winning their wildcard game on the road, and then scrapped their way through the American League playoffs with a roster that was still considered a year or two away. The White Sox saw a chance to steal momentum from their crosstown rival Cubs, but Atlanta proved far more prepared for the big stage. Three of the Braves’ four victories were blowouts. Regardless, Chicago’s rapid selling off of veteran assets in 2017 and 2018 has resulted in a bright future.
2021 Series: Boston Red Sox 4, Los Angeles Dodgers 0
The Angels wasted Mike Trout’s talent. That’s why he joined the Boston Red Sox, who had been on the brink for years. Bryce Harper’s decision to pass on New York robbed the baseball world of a storyline that would rival the New York/Boston Williams and Dimaggio years, but the two did meet in the World Series. Unfortunately, the hype the media built fell laughably short. Harper found base only twice the entire series while Boston’s vaunted outfield trio of Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Mike Trout ravaged LA’s pitching staff. Only one game in the series appeared close, and it took a massive, late-game comeback effort by the Dodgers to make it look that way in the first place.
5. 2021 Series (Red Sox, Dodgers)
4. 2020 Series (Braves, White Sox)
3. 2017 Series (Cubs, Astros)
2. 2019 Series (Dodgers, Yankees)
1. 2018 Series (Indians, Nationals)
A sweep is obviously a letdown for everyone other than the Boston faithful. The 2020 and 2017 Series both went six games. 2017 ultimately boasted bigger stars and much closer games. The real competition is between 2018 and 2019 for best Fall Classic in the last five years. Although the Yankees and Dodgers provided slightly more excitement, 2018 has to take the cake. The Indians winning their first championship in 70 years changed the landscape of Major League Baseball by kickstarting Harper’s departure from Washington.
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Header Photo: Chicago Tribune