As mentioned before I want to teach a class (group of 5-10, as usual, by Google Hangouts video chat) on what makes a great team (multiple World Series titles in a decade or consecutvely) as opposed to a very good team (a World Series win and a bunch of playoff appearances, or the like), by looking at baseball literature–Moneyball vs. Eight Men Out, The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty vs. Before the Machine, and so on and so forth. (Contact me via the box below for more details; I need a group of 5-10.) I thought I had it all mapped out, even though one of my great skills–and the reason my students love me–is that I’m constantly learning as I go.
This World Series is changing that. David Ortiz‘s performance suggests that if the Sox manage to close it out, he is the World Series MVP (and I’ll need to get an autographed ball to add to my collection). And–again contingent upon one last Red Sox victory, which is by no means guaranteed–he would be the common link between three World Series teams in a decade. Not only does that suggest something we didn’t know about great teams, in terms of the potential of the Designated Hitter, but it suggests something that we didn’t know about great players. Ortiz would have to be a lock for the Hall of Fame, despite somewhat lackluster career statistics (largely due to time spent on the bench in Minnesota). It is worth noting also that the common assumption about DHs and their defensive skills, or lack thereof, which have set the tone for their general exclusion from the Hall, would be seriously called into question. To win 3 World Series titles, Ortiz would have had to play passable defense, even if only at 1B, several times when the Red Sox played in National League parks.
This is not to discredit the usual reasons for a great team: great pitching, solid defense up the middle, and the ability to hit the ball out of the park. In each run the Sox have had some version of that, though I am not sold on Stephen Drew as a great defensive shortstop, just as I was never sold on Julio Lugo. It is, however, to say that the pitching has changed–it is certainly not as great this year as it was in 2004, with Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez, or in 2007, with Schilling and Josh Beckett (one of the great postseason pitchers of all-time). David Ross has never, so far as I can remember–and I remember him back in his Dodger days–been a great defensive catcher. Neither has Mike Napoli (which is why he’s mostly been playing 1B).
Give it some thought.