Look at Prince Fielder! He’s excited!
Tonight the baseball gods move one step closer to naming their champion, whebn the 108th World Series gets under way. If you have even a passing interest in sports, drama, or fat guys named “Prince,” you’re not going to want to miss it.
Hey, I see you giving me the side-eye. “Jack, Baseball is boring. This season’s been going on for 36 years already. Can’t we just ignore it? Basketball comes back next week, and the NFL’s great.” No! Baseball isn’t boring — BAD baseball is boring. This will not be bad baseball. And believe it or not, this season has only lasted seven months. I know, I was surprised too. So no, you can’t ignore it. In fact, here’s five reasons you should make sure to tune in tonight (and throughout the whole series).
1. Two of the greatest players alive lead the Tigers.
Justin Verlander is the greatest pitcher alive. Full stop. The conversation begins and ends with him. Major League Baseball hasn’t seen this kind of dominance in quite some time, and he’s shown little sign of slowing down. Yet despite years of crazy success, when he takes the mound tonight in Game 1, he’ll be looking to redeem one of his greatest failures. The last time Verlander pitched in the World Series was his rookie year, when he got rocked in Game 1 by the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s a must-watch pitcher without any extra motivation. With it? He may literally destroy the Giants tonight. They may not even be able to play a Game 2 after the damage JV delivers to them.
And that’s just on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, Miguel Cabrera is coming off a season where he became the first player in nearly 50 years to win the Triple Crown. The only thing Miggy loves more than crushing baseballs is alcohol, and the winner of the World Series is going to douse themselves in a lot of champagne. Would you want to stand between Miggy and a ton of champagne? I didn’t think so.
2. The Giants are comeback kids.
After trailing the St. Louis Cardinals three games to one, the Giants won back-to-back-to-back games with their, um, backs against the wall. This is a team that most had counted out heading into their matchup with the Reds in the divisional series, yet here they are. They’re underdogs again, and so far that’s been a position they have very much enjoyed. How can you ever tune out of this series? Even if the Giants fall behind, they could, at any time, be about to go on an another epic run.
3. The Barry Zito redemption story is compelling TV.
Barry Zito has long been considered one of the biggest disappointments in modern baseball history. After seemingly dominant seasons* with the Oakland Athletics, Zito signed with the Giants in 2006 for what was at the time was the most expensive contract for a pitcher in baseball history. Zito then proceeded to, statistically, fall off a cliff. His performance went so far into the tank that in 2010, when the Giants would go on to win the World Series, Zito was left off the postseason roster.
This year Zito has been a pleasant surprise for San Francisco and shocked the world with a dominant performance against the Cardinals in the NLCS (7.2 innings of shutout ball). If the Giants win this thing, it’ll most likely be with the help of the guy they’ve been cursing themselves for signing for the last six years. And seeing how Zito and his wife reacted after the team advanced past the Cardinals (pictured above), I hope he dominates. Everyone loves a comeback.
*Advanced statistics like xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching, which separates a pitcher’s performance from the help of his fielders, while adjusting for the inconsistencies of home run rate) that weren’t nearly as prominent when he left the A’s show that Zito was actually out-performing his abilities in Oakland, making his seemingly sudden lack of success in San Francisco less surprising.
4. Nothing is better than October baseball…
Playoff baseball is exciting. It just is. Think of this postseason so far. Think of all the walk off home runs. Think of the controversy in Atlanta. Think of the Giants celebrating their NLCS win in the rain. When the stakes get high, Baseball games are exercises in tension and drama. There’s a reason that all the best sports movies are baseball movies.
And don’t forget last year’s World Series, when a young, hometown kid from St. Louis put the team on his back and hit two decisive, dramatic home runs to bring the title to the Cardinals. It was the type of moment that makes grown men cry. It’s hard not to get romantic about baseball.
5. Except for fat guys running. That’s hilarious.
This series has two hilarious fat-guy runners in Prince Fielder and Pablo Sandoval. At the very least, we’ll probably get one great Three Stooges-esque run from each of them.
Still not sold? Think of it this way. October baseball is so good that millions of baseball fans put up with the shitty, overlong season, just because this part is good enough to justify it. Think of how good that must be. Would you really want to miss it to watch The X-Factor?
- NBC News anchor Lester Holt has the honor (and the burden) of moderating the first 2016 US presidential debate, which will broadcast live tonight.