Owen Boxer ‘25
After 31 intense, electrifying postseason baseball games, the MLB is finally down to two teams left in the hunt for the 2021 World Series. As the 117th Fall Classic begins this week, let’s take a look at the two remaining contenders for the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Who would have thought the Braves would have stood a chance against the MLB’s best with only 132 regular season games from superstar outfielders Ronald Acuña Jr. and Marcell Ozuna, and a season-long absence from ace pitcher Mike Soroka? The answer, one could suppose, is their general manager, Alex Anthopolous, who instead of punting at the Trade Deadline and hoping for a healthier 2022, decided to acquire a quartet of outfielders to replace the offense lost from Acuña and Ozuna; Joc Pederson (he and his famous pearl necklace are currently sporting a .909 OPS in the postseason), Eddie Rosario (NLCS MVP), Adam Duvall (led the NL in RBIs this year), and Jorge Soler (14 home runs in 55 regular season games with the Braves).
Those guys have been great, but one of my key stories of this series is whether or not first baseman Freddie Freeman, one of the greatest to ever put on the Braves uniform, will capture his first ever World Series ring. The 2020 National League MVP has once again been great, as have Ozzie Albies and breakout star Austin Riley. I wouldn’t call Atlanta a pitching powerhouse, but Max Fried has been an extremely reliable ace, Ian Anderson has shown flashes of brilliance in his young career, and 37-year old Charlie Morton is back in his third World Series in the last five years. The bullpen has been solid, but it wasn’t their finest moment when they blew a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning of Game 3 at Dodger Stadium.
Let’s face it; unless you’re from Houston, you’re likely rooting for the Braves. The world may be behind them, but no win is guaranteed against their opponent.
No trash cans? No problem! The Astros are back for their third World Series in the last five years, but perhaps most notably, this will be their first Fall Classic appearance since their sign stealing scheme of 2017 was revealed in the winter of 2019. I know it won’t be a popular opinion, but after going to Game 7 of the 2020 ALCS and now making it to the World Series this year, it’s safe to say that the Astros are, indeed, for real.
I mentioned earlier that the Braves have missed key parts of their team this year, and so have the Astros. Postseason hero George Springer left for Toronto last off-season. Gerrit Cole was paid $324 million to lose Wild Card games with the Yankees two years ago. 2019 AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander is still under contract, but he’s missed the whole year recovering from Tommy John surgery. Their new ace, Lance McCullers Jr., has been out with a forearm injury since Game 4 of the ALDS and will not pitch in the World Series. Just like their World Series opponents, though, this has not stopped the Astros from winning. A new cast of characters (Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Christian Javier) have worked with renowned pitching coach Brent Strom to make Houston a pitching factory once again. Zack Greinke is still pitching, although his age is catching up to him, causing him to go shorter in games. And relievers Ryan Pressly, Kendall Graveman, and Ryne Stanek have all been clutch for the Astros out of the bullpen this year.
The offense, though, is the story for the Astros this year. They’ve scored 45 runs with two outs, the most by any playoff team before the World Series. The top seven in the lineup could feasibly pass as an All-Star team; Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez (the MVP of the ALCS, hitting .522 in the series), Carlos Correa, Kyle Tucker, and Yuli Gurriel (who led the American League in batting average this year). Like them or not, they’ve been fantastic for the Astros once again.
I understand that the Braves and the Astros may not be the desired matchup of most baseball fans, but I think it will be a fun one nonetheless. Both teams have a lot to play for; a lot of the Braves players have never won a World Series (only Morton, Pederson, and Soler have World Series championships to their names), so the motivation is obvious, especially for Freddie Freeman, who is getting up there in age (32) and will be a free agent at the end of the series. The same is true for the Astros; you may think that a large portion of their roster would have rings from 2017, but the only players from that team remaining are Altuve, Bregman, Gurriel, and Correa. Nonetheless, the Astros would love nothing more than to silence the haters and win a World Series title that is completely untainted by cheating.
As for me, I think this will be a close series, but the Braves’ bats will be far more consistent than the Red Sox’s or the White Sox’s were. The pitching for Houston is probably better than the Braves, but I have a gut feeling that the Braves’ rotation will be able to churn out a few superior starts. Therefore, I’ll say Braves in 6, and I’ll take Austin Riley as my World Series MVP.