There should be an expectation that we’re in for an entertaining high drama World Series. After all, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers are two well-matched underdogs who got here off their grit, some bulletin board material, and some well-channeled anger following a benches clearing brawl in Houston. And yet, despite those ingredients, there are some that are down on the matchup.
You’ve likely seen and heard the complaints. “This year’s World Series lacks star power!,” a strange critique considering it includes the likely AL MVP runner-up in Corey Seager, a likely top-3 NL Cy Young finisher in Zac Gallen, guaranteed NL Rookie Of The Year Corbin Carroll, and two stars in Adolis Garcia and Ketel Marte who are having historic postseasons. What I’m saying is, there are plenty of reasons to look forward to this specific World Series matchup, which is why we wanted to reach out to the Intentional Talk crew for a World Series preview.
While Kevin Millar is the stalwart “Baseball Ambassador Of Fun,” he’s been joined this season by Ryan Dempster and Sierra Santos for a show that’s long been a go to for player interviews that showcase more than a little personality. And for the World Series, they’re each bringing a unique connection to the teams involved. For Dempster, a champion with the 2013 Red Sox, that connection comes from his experience playing for the Rangers near the end of his career. Santos is from Arizona and was at Game 7 in 2001 when Luis Gonzalez blooped the Diamondbacks to their first title. Millar? He’s got his own ring from his time with the 2004 Red Sox and once regaled us with tales about the legendary 2-foot long Boomstick hamburger that the Rangers serve at their stadium. In other words, this is the crew.
Before they come to you live at 5 p.m. every day from the site of the World Series as a part of MLB Network’s wall-to-wall coverage (and before they debut the pretty serious Barbie and Ken Halloween costumes that they teased), we’re talking with them about the players that can carry each team, whether there are weaknesses on these rosters, the value of underdog stories, and why we should all stop stressing and enjoy the series.
The underdog nobody ever believes in us mentality, both these teams have a degree of this. Can that take you all the way to a title?
Kevin Millar: I think that’s the whole thing, right? I think (Rangers manager Bruce) Bochy and these guys grinded this thing out the last month of the season. Their bullpen was not very good. They were almost going to fall out in the playoffs. You saw the Seattle Mariners making a run. You saw the Astros. It was one of those stressful things, but they fought their way into the dance, and now you just go on ahead and get yourself a nice looking girl for the dance and do your thing. It’s really awesome to see.
This game’s not played on paper. That’s what’s great about baseball. It goes the same with (Diamondback’s manager) Torey Lovullo, right? They fought their way in and beat a great Dodgers team. The Phillies beat a great Braves team, just not the favorites going into that. But the bottom line is, it’s just believing in your clubhouse.
Ketel Marte and Adolis Garcia really carried their respective teams (in the previous round), can these guys keep this up?
Millar: Marte, obviously 16 straight postseason games with a hit. There’s no doubt in my mind that he is a player who can keep this up. Garcia, you don’t want to boo him. If I’m Arizona, I’m standing up, and giving him an ovation, because he feeds off that.
Ryan Dempster: It takes a team. We keep talking about that. This is a team. What Torey Lovullo said, for the Diamondbacks, “A connected team is really hard to beat.” You know? It’s not their turn. It doesn’t have to be their (Marte and Garcia) turn, is what I’m saying. Can they do it? For sure, but now it’s somebody else. Now it’s somebody else who is out there and they carry the team. That’s what a championship team does. Very few times is it the same NLCS MVP, or ALCS MVP, and then the World Series MVP. Somebody else’s turn. You got us here. I got us from here now.
What is each teams biggest weak spot going into this?
Dempster: They don’t got one.
Aw, come on. They’ve got to have something.
Dempster: That’s why they’re there. They don’t have weak spots. That’s why they’re the last two teams playing.
Siera Santos: I think anyone probably would’ve said, for the Diamondbacks, it was their starting pitching. And I think we can all put that to bed now. I mean, look at what Brandon Pfaadt has done through this postseason. It’s been nothing short of shocking. You’re looking at a rookie pitcher who has stepped up to the challenge, and he’s done everything the Diamondbacks could’ve asked him to do. I think what Demp said is 100 percent true. There are not a whole lot of weaknesses in this. I think one of the other focal points, before we started this postseason as well, was the Rangers bullpen. We buried that very quickly as well. The biggest question mark would’ve been Dbacks starting pitching, and the Rangers bullpen. We’ve all been proven wrong.
Respectfully, there have to be questions with some things, like Scherzer. Is Scherzer going to be able to be relied upon? I mean, I know he’s done it, posted up time and time again, but he hasn’t looked exactly crisp, which, he’s been off for a month, so obviously he wouldn’t be. But he was not been incredibly crisp in the ALCS. Chapman’s a question mark.
Millar: I don’t think they’re question marks, because I think Chapman’s stuff plays. Yes, he has command issues, but when you’re watching a 102 mile an hour fastball, the stuff’s there. Scherzer, obviously not as tight as, probably, he’d want to be, because he hasn’t thrown, and the command of his slider, or breaking stuff … But I wouldn’t bet against these guys. I don’t think anybody wants to make a living against these guys. Right now, at this time of year, I think Bochy trusts all of his guys, and obviously, he has a pecking order, but I like those two guys on a stage like this. Two veteran guys, and that adrenaline starts going. As long as Scherzer’s arm feels good, we should see the numbers. I wouldn’t bet against them.
Speaking of betting against a team, your colleague, Chris Russo. Would you guys ever put your jobs on the line, and say you’re going to retire if a team won? Would you ever go that far out on a limb?
Millar: I got $1,500 bucks in my checking account, so I couldn’t afford to even make that bet.
(Laughs) What do you guys say to people who are down on this series because they’re not the highest profile teams? It’s not the Dodgers, not the Braves, not the Mets, or the Yankees. What do you say to people that say this isn’t an exciting series because of that?
Millar: Those are just fans talking.
Santos: Here’s the thing: If you are a small market team, if your team has just racked up 100 losses this season, this should be inspiration to stand behind your team and back them all the way. You’re looking at a couple of teams where no one even gave them a single shot a couple years ago, and look at where they are now. This is baseball. Anything can happen, and that’s what’s so beautiful about this game.
Dempster: You don’t know what you’re going to see. You can’t predict it. You can’t write it down on a piece of paper, and then hand it over and say, “All right. That’s it. We’re good.” We don’t know. Something special is going to happen. Somebody’s going to have a moment. Why would you want to miss that? The Phillies aren’t in it, or the Astros aren’t in it, and the Yankees aren’t in it, and the Dodgers… Who cares? This is greatest game in the world, the biggest stage. Tune in. Otherwise, you’re just going to miss something really great, and that’s the truth.