The Dodgers put the Brewers away in Game Seven of the NLCS on Saturday and guaranteed themselves a trip to the World Series for the second straight year. After losing to the Astros in 2017, they’ll look to get over the hump at the expense of the Red Sox in 2018. Obviously, it would be neat if that does not happen. One of the big discussions around this matchup is how happy TV executives are that these two teams have advanced, and I have to be completely honest with you. I could not possibly care less if TV executives are happy or not. Something tells me they’ve had enough breaks along the way, ya know?
That being said, they are going to milk this matchup for all its worth, which is simultaneously expected, a good idea and preemptively annoying. The Red Sox and Dodgers, although they don’t play each other often and haven’t matched up in the World Series in over a century, have quite a few connections that will be exploited over the next week. To be fair, I’m actually really psyched about a lot of these storylines and connections as I write this. In a few days, we’re all going to be super sick of all of them, though.
Of all the storylines heading into this series, the fun of this reunion is going to be ruined the fastest. So, I’m going to enjoy it for as long as I possibly can. Roberts was obviously among the biggest heroes on that legendary 2004 team, and having him come in as an adversary on the biggest stage 14 years later is almost unfathomable. Roberts has developed into a good manager out in L.A. who juggles a lot of talent and manages to (mostly) keep everyone happy. I know he’s going to get cheers when he’s introduced in pregame introductions on Tuesday — if he doesn’t, there is something seriously wrong — but I’m interested to see how the reaction will be if/when the series heads back to Boston for Games Six and Seven once some animosity would presumably build between the two sides. This city can’t ever turn on Roberts under any circumstances, right?
Red Sox fans hate Machado, obviously dating back to his days in Baltimore. He was never really liked much, but it all came to a head in 2017 with his controversial slide into second base in which he seemingly spiked Dustin Pedroia, exacerbating a knee injury that affected him for the rest of that year and really the entirety of the 2018 season. It led to some brawls with the Red Sox, and his spot in Boston lore was cemented. Now with the Dodgers after a midseason trade, he’s done nothing to make any friends around the league and had the entire city of Milwaukee against him this year. On top of all that, there is a lot of smoke around the idea of Machado signing with the Yankees this year, so this series can be a prelude to a decade of hatred for Red Sox fans towards the infielder. While Sox fans will cheer Roberts, expect loud boos for Machado in pregame intros.
This, to me, is the most underrated storyline of this series. Rich Hill wasn’t in Boston for a long time, but he is one of their best stories in recent memory. There wasn’t a whole lot that went right in that 2015 season, and I still remember mocking the Red Sox for giving Hill a start down the stretch in that season. A 35-year-old who hadn’t had a successful season as a major-league starter since 2007? Get out of here. Well, all Hill did was pitch like the best pitcher in baseball over a short four-game stretch and the baseball world noticed. There was a lot of talk of small sample size — I honestly don’t remember my stance but I’m sure I didn’t believe much in Hill even after that season — despite the 1.55 ERA, 11 strikeouts and 1.6 walks per nine innings. The Athletics took a chance on Hill, and he kept it up. The lefty is starting to fall off a bit now as a 38-year-old, but he’s been a big part of the Dodgers for two-and-a-half years now and all of this started in Boston. Andrew Miller’s resurgence in Boston gets a decent amount of attention here, and I’ve always thought it’s weird that Hill doesn’t get that reception. Him playing in the National League is certainly part of that. Oh, and on top of all that, Hill is a Boston native. If you’re at Fenway on Tuesday, give this man some cheers.
Boston and L.A. are, at least based on stereotypes and general perception, are about as opposite of cities as you can find in this country. I have no idea how true that really is — I’ve left the East Coast once in my life and it wasn’t to Los Angeles — but that’s the perception. There is also an attitude of animosity between the two cities, largely due to basketball. If you don’t know anything about basketball, well, Celtics-Lakers is the biggest rivalry in the sport on a historical level. Expect a lot of Beat L.A. chants during this series, and a lot of clips of 1980s NBA games.
The Punto Trade
I’m actually not sure how much this is going to be brought up during this series, but it should be a storyline. This is the biggest connection between these franchises in recent memory as they made a trade that altered both franchises. The Punto Trade was, of course, the one that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, James Loney, Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus. Not a lot in that trade worked out for either side, with Gonzalez really the only one providing value for their new team. However, it was a massive moment in Red Sox history as it allowed them to really reset their roster and eventually build the 2013 championship team. We should forever be grateful to L.A. for that trade, and it would be awesome to get Nick Punto to throw out a first pitch as a reminder of that deal.