Most people didn’t get the World Series they wanted to see. All throughout the playoffs, everyone talked about the potential for a “classic” Cubs-Red Sox World Series. Two teams cursed by fate with one guaranteed to win a title for the first time in ages. This weekend saw the sports world, minus Marlins and Yankees fans, bemoaning the fact that the dream matchup was only a combined 10 outs away from the Apocalypse.
Instead, they’ll have to settle for two teams that have each brought home championships within the last six fall classics. Is this the right way to conclude what has been the greatest postseason in Major League Baseball history? Absolutely. While a Marlins-Yankees battle might not look the best on paper, the World Series is filled with asymmetries that will make this matchup memorable.
First, there are the obvious differences between the two franchises. Payroll seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue. The Yankees’ pre-luxury tax payroll is about $160 million, while the Marlins are dishing out only $52 million.
Then, consider the history of each team. The Yankees are celebrating their 100th anniversary, while the Marlins are on number 10.
The average age on the Marlins is 28.9 years; the Yankees’ average is 30.8. That isn’t the real story. The average age of Florida’s starting pitchers for this series is only 26; the Yankees’ aces are more than 10.5 years older.
The contrasting styles of play for the two teams will be fascinating. The Marlins are the quintessential “small ball” team. They led baseball this year with 150 stolen bases. As Game 1 demonstrated, they can bunt, hit and run, or steal to move runners efficiently around the bases. Florida managed to split the first two World Series games it played at Yankee Stadium without a single extra-base hit.
The Yankees only had 98 stolen bases this year, but they hit 230 home runs to the Marlins’ 157. New York has really struggled to get key productive outs to bring in runs all season long. This trend was evident in Game 1. But the Yankees responded in the next game with huge dingers from Hideki Matsui and Alfonso Soriano.
Another distinction between the Marlins and Yankees is the differing defensive abilities of each squad. The Marlins were one of baseball’s top defensive teams this year, with only 78 errors. The Yankees were near the bottom with 114 errors, but they allowed only 24 more runs this season because of dominant starting pitchers. This difference of 24 runs should basically be a wash when the designated hitter factor is taken into account.
Speaking of the DH, forcing pitchers to bat in Florida will give the Marlins an interesting edge. The Yankees will certainly be at a disadvantage because their pitchers don’t have as much hitting experience as Florida’s staff. Additionally, the Yankees will be forced to weaken their lineup by having Nick Johnson sit out. Johnson had three hits in Game 2, but the Yankees won’t leave slugger Jason Giambi out of the lineup. As a result, the Yankees will play a weaker defender at first base against a team that puts a lot of pressure on defenses.
All of these differences will make the World Series fun to watch, but this World Series could turn out to be memorable for another reason. In one sense, this Series is a matchup of rising stars against the established and fading legends.
In 1951, the New York Giants met the Yankees in the World Series. The victory that the Yankees captured is remembered today for the Hall of Famers that the six games brought together. The Yankees had Phil Rizutto and Yogi Berra in their peak years. Joe DiMaggio was playing his final games in center field, while Mickey Mantle was a rookie. For the Giants, Monte Irvin was a star in the Series, and rookie Willie Mays was making a name for himself. If you count the aging Johnny Mize on the Yankees, there were seven Hall of Famers in that World Series.
This year’s 100th anniversary of the World Series provides quite a parallel. New York has likely Hall of Famers in Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Roger Clemens will be taking the mound for the last time, and Alfonso Soriano has been pegged by many as a great player. On the other hand, the Marlins have a star in Pudge Rodriguez and potential greats in Dontrelle Willis, Josh Beckett and Miguel Cabrera.
This World Series may one day be seen as a talent showcase on the same level as the 1951 version. It will certainly be much better than what we would have had with the much-prophesied Cubs-Red Sox series.
You may not have gotten your fire and brimstone. But trust me, you won’t miss it a bit.