Go Figure: Los Angeles is a lock to win World Series
The last time I made a published prediction about the Los Angeles Dodgers' World Series chances, it was a colossal whiff.
In the Oct. 6, 1988 edition of The Daily Northwestern, below my grinning mug, I brashly declared that the Dodgers would get knocked out before the World Series because there was "no stopping the Mets once they get to the Big Show."
Claiming the Dodgers lacked "stage presence," I further opined, "That's why the Mets will run circles around the slick-fielding, toothpick-hitting gang from the West."
In my defense, there were mitigating circumstances: when I made that forecast, the Dodgers had just blown Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. Down 2-0 going into the ninth inning, the New York Mets rallied for three runs.
And I was still suffering residual trauma from the Mets' dramatic come-from-behind triumph over my Boston Red Sox a few years earlier.
As it turned out, the Dodgers prevailed over the Mets in seven games, then shocked the heavily favored Oakland A's, 4 games to 1, to win the organization's sixth World Series. It was the storied franchise's last championship, and the team now wears the "heavily favored" label as it heads into its best-of-seven NLCS with the Atlanta Braves.
During the most irregular of the sport's century-plus of regular seasons, LA cruised to a Major League-best 43-17 mark, and then swept their first two series with five consecutive wins over the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres.
My prediction: after eliminating the solid Braves in six games, the Dodgers will not only will they win it all, but they will have the added pleasure of doing it against the Houston Astros -- my pick to emerge from the American League.
After squeaking into the postseason with a 29-31 record, the Astros have heated up at the right time. But they will not be able to come close to duplicating their seven-game (cheating-scandal-tainted) 2017 World Series victory over Los Angeles.
The Dodgers will win it in five.
Q1. Who was the Dodger whose league-leading eight shutouts and 23 wins in 1988 propelled him to the Cy Young Award?
(Fernando Valenzuela, Bob Welch, Orel Hershiser)
Kershaw on a Roll
Among active pitchers, the one who has the Best to Never Win the Big One tag is undoubtedly Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
In fact, it's not unfair to point to his postseason woes as being one of the reasons why the Dodgers have failed to win the World Series. Time and again, the lefty has gone from dominant to dud when the calendar flips from the regular season to October.
But the past few weeks, he's been clicking. Over two starts, he has struck out 19 batters and given up only three earned runs in 14 innings of work. That has balanced his career postseason ledger at 11 wins against 11 losses, though he still has a 4.57 ERA that is nearly double his career regular-season mark of 2.43.
Here's hoping that when the Dodgers hoist The Commissioner's Trophy, it won't be despite another Kershaw flameout, but because he came through when it mattered most.
Q2. A surefire Hall of Famer with a career record of 175-76, Kershaw's career strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 4.32 is better than every pitcher whose plaque can be found in Cooperstown.
Among these 80 elite hurlers, who currently has the best blend of power and precision, with a career 4.15 K-to-BB ratio?
(Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, Mariano Rivera)
Remembering Whitey Ford
Until his death this past week, former Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford, just shy of his 92nd birthday, was the second-oldest surviving member of the Hall of Fame.
The oldest is 93-year-old Tommy Lasorda, whose induction into Cooperstown came on the strength of his 21-year career as the Dodgers' manager, including that 1988 World Series triumph as well as another shortened season's championship, in 1981.
Q3. Lasorda also pitched in the Majors. How many wins did Lasorda notch during his brief playing career with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Kansas City Athletics?
(0, 4, 11)
1. Orel Hershiser; 2. Pedro Martinez; 3. Zero
• Matt Baron supplements his baseball brainpower with Retrosheet.org for research.