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A World Series Matchup That’s a Long Time Coming

A World Series Matchup That’s a Long Time Coming


BOSTON — There will be no underdogs in the 114th World Series, which opens at Fenway Park on Tuesday. The Los Angeles Dodgers have gone three decades without a title but have spent about $1.4 billion in salaries to claim the last six National League West crowns. The Boston Red Sox, who will try to win their fourth championship in the last 15 seasons, outspent every other team this season, with a payroll of roughly $230 million.

“Asking us to compete against these high-payroll teams is a little unfair, but we’ll do what we can,” the Dodgers’ president, Stan Kasten, said late Saturday in the visitors’ clubhouse in Milwaukee after Game 7 of the N.L. Championship Series. “I’m loving that line. I’ve waited so long to use that!”

At roughly $200 million, the Dodgers ranked third in payroll, trailing Boston and the San Francisco Giants, an also-ran team that proved money isn’t everything. It helps, of course, but for all of their spending, the Dodgers and the Red Sox have gone more than a century since their last World Series matchup.

That was in 1916, when the Red Sox beat the Brooklyn Robins in five games. A young Red Sox left-hander named Babe Ruth — then with just seven career home runs — went 14 innings to win Game 2 at Braves Field. The Red Sox played there to sell more tickets than they could have at Fenway, less than two miles away.

The teams have come close to a rematch many times. Both were in the league championship series in 1988, 2008 and 2013, but they never advanced together. One or the other competed in the World Series in consecutive seasons in 1946-47, 1966-67 and 1974-75.

The teams rarely face each other in the regular season, either. They played three games at Dodger Stadium in 2016 but have not met in Boston in eight years. Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ three-time Cy Young Award winner, has never thrown a pitch in the shadow of the Green Monster.

“I’m so ecstatic to play at Fenway,” said the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor, whose tumbling catch on the left-field warning track at Miller Park preserved the lead in Game 7. “I love that place. I’m sure it’s going to be bumping. Their fans are going to be loud, they’re going to be into it. Boston/L.A. World Series — it doesn’t get any better than that.”

It’s about time, after all. The Boston Celtics have played the Los Angeles Lakers in the N.B.A. Finals 11 times (“Beat! L! A!” are the three of the most famous syllables in Boston.), but baseball’s classic interleague rivalry is different. The Dodgers have faced the same franchise 11 times in the World Series — but that team is the Yankees.

The Red Sox, under the first-year manager Alex Cora, erased an L.A./New York option by thumping the Yankees in a four-game division series. They went on to eliminate the defending World Series champions, the Houston Astros, in a five-game American League Championship Series. The Red Sox have split four home games this postseason but won all five on the road.

“For us to win these three games and even the two in New York, I feel like it says a lot about us and our coaching staff,” Boston starter Nathan Eovaldi said after the clincher in Houston. “A.C. does a great job of preparing us for these games and for the moment, and everybody doesn’t try to do too much.”

Cora — A.C. to his players — won the A.L.C.S. despite getting only four innings from his ace starter, Chris Sale, because of a stomach illness. He will start Game 1.

“There’s no holding back now,” said Sale, who missed much of the second half with shoulder trouble. “My job’s been the same since the first day I got here: You hand me the ball when you want me to throw it, and take it out of my hand when you want me to stop.”

Kershaw has pitched in all but four current ballparks (the others are in Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Texas) and came to Fenway on Sunday to throw off the bullpen mound. The nearby left-field wall does not faze him.

“Usually when I give up homers, they’re not cheap anyway,” he said. “So it probably won’t matter if there’s a fence there or not that’s really close.”

More important will be the deep lineup Cora could deploy, with platoon possibilities at first base (Steve Pearce or Mitch Moreland), second base (Ian Kinsler or Brock Holt) and third base (Eduardo Nunez or Rafael Devers). Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts play high-impact outfield defense, and a relentless lineup blends power, contact and speed.

The Dodgers strike out a lot more and run a lot less, but only one team, the Yankees, hit more home runs this season. A two-run homer by Cody Bellinger and a three-run blast by Yasiel Puig gave the Dodgers all their runs in Game 7 against the Brewers, and Manager Dave Roberts aggressively seeks matchup advantages.

Besides shortstop Manny Machado and third baseman Justin Turner, every Dodgers position player has a hitter from the opposite side who is roughly interchangeable. Roberts used four starting second basemen (Brian Dozier, Enrique Hernandez, Max Muncy and Taylor) in the last five N.L.C.S. games.

“Anytime you have a guy that can play multiple positions and do it well, I think it has kind of a multiplying effect on your roster,” said Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president for baseball operations. “It extends your roster beyond 25.”

Only two of the 25 Dodgers on the N.L.C.S. roster have won a championship ring: first baseman David Freese with the 2011 Cardinals and reliever Ryan Madson with the 2008 Phillies and the 2015 Royals. The Red Sox, likewise, have just two players with rings: shortstop Xander Bogaerts and reliever Brandon Workman, the last holdovers from their 2013 title.

In that way, nearly everyone on the field will be hoping to achieve something new and priceless. For all of the Boston bling and Dodgers dollars, this World Series will play out before passionate fans, on opposite coasts, by franchises steeped in history in two of the majors’ three oldest ballparks (sorry, Wrigley Field).

As Kasten said, sincerely this time, “It’s going to be as pure of a baseball experience as you can have in the modern era.”


The Dodgers were the first team to integrate with their landmark promotion of Jackie Robinson to Brooklyn in 1947. The Red Sox — who held a sham tryout for Robinson in 1945 — were the last, with Pumpsie Green in 1959. On Tuesday, though, Fenway Park will host a first: a World Series with two minority managers. Alex Cora is from Puerto Rico and Dave Roberts was born in Japan, to a Japanese mother and an African-American father. Only two other teams have minority managers: the Chicago White Sox (Rick Renteria) and the Washington Nationals (Dave Martinez).

Both managers also played for both of teams, another first for the World Series. The Dodgers drafted Alex Cora in the third round in 1996, and he spent his first seven major league seasons there. After a brief stop in Cleveland, Cora joined the Red Sox and earned a World Series ring as a backup infielder in 2007.

Dave Roberts, a former outfielder, spent two and a half seasons as Cora’s teammate with the Dodgers before a roster shake-up sent him to the Red Sox in a trade on July 31, 2004.

“He was crushed,” Cora said, adding that he encouraged Roberts to see the positive side. “I told him, ‘Hey, man, you’re going to a great city. They have a chance to do something special.’”

Roberts did just that, with a famous stolen base in Game 4 of the A.L.C.S. against the Yankees, sparking Boston’s comeback from a three-games-to-none deficit. Roberts did not play in the Red Sox’ World Series sweep of St. Louis, but they never would have won without him.

“I’ve got a lot of great memories, even flying into Logan,” Roberts said Monday. “Just this time of year, this city, the leaves changing — it all comes back to 2004, my teammates and coaches, and that energy only Fenway Park has.”

Seven of the eight postseason clinchers this month have come on the road; the Yankees’ wild-card victory over Oakland is the exception. The Astros also clinched the championship in Los Angeles last fall, and if the Red Sox do it there in Game 4 or 5 this weekend, the Dodgers would become the first team since the 1936-37 New York Giants to lose the World Series on their home field in consecutive seasons.

Then again, if the Dodgers can knock out the Red Sox in four or five games, they would celebrate at their home park for the first time since 1963. The Dodgers’ last three titles have come on the road: in Minnesota (1965), New York (1981) and Oakland (1988).


Once upon a time, Craig Kimbrel and Justin Turner were simply ginger-haired baseball players with little to no facial hair. But Kimbrel, the Red Sox closer, and Turner, the Dodgers’ third baseman, now seem to be competing for the unofficial title of bushiest, scraggliest, most unkempt beard in sports. Turner trimmed his for his wedding in Mexico last off-season (Orel Hershiser, the most valuable player of the 1988 World Series, officiated the ceremony), but it’s safe to say he hasn’t touched a razor in a while. As for Kimbrel, he sees no reason for a trim.

“My daughter loves it,” Kimbrel said at the All-Star Game. “My teammates like it. We’ll see how long it goes.” It has kept going, and growing, right through to the World Series.

The Red Sox have plenty of experience in shifting their designated hitter to the field for World Series road games. David Ortiz played first base in all seven of Boston’s road games in the 2004, 2007 and 2013 World Series, handling 45 chances without an error while the Red Sox lost just once.

J.D. Martinez made 57 starts in the outfield for Boston this season and will play there in games at Dodger Stadium, with Mookie Betts possibly shifting to second base, his usual position in the minors. Martinez has fond memories of Dodger Stadium, where he hit four home runs for Arizona on Sept. 4, 2017. No player has ever hit four homers in a postseason game.


The Red Sox led the majors in runs scored this season, and the Dodgers led the N.L. One common thread: Tim Hyers, who became Boston’s hitting coach this season after serving in the assistant’s role last year with the Dodgers.

Hyers — who batted just .217 in a brief major league career with the Padres, the Tigers and the Marlins — described his philosophy like this: “We have some talented players, obviously, but I think it’s just being unselfish. It’s guys trying to win the next pitch. At times, it’s not how far you can hit it, but it’s how hard you can hit it. We talk about, at times, just being compact — big thoughts create big swings, and that’s where the strikeouts come in.”

The Red Sox put that theory into practice by leading the majors in slugging percentage without sacrificing contact; they finished 26th out of 30 teams in strikeouts.

David Price’s first invitation to professional baseball came from the Dodgers, who drafted him in the 19th round in 2004 out of high school in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Price went to Vanderbilt instead and became the first overall pick by Tampa Bay in 2007.

The Dodgers looked to Tennessee again in the first round in 2015, choosing Vanderbilt pitcher Walker Buehler, who starred as a rookie this season and made a strong start in the N.L.C.S. clincher, as Price did in closing out the A.L.C.S. But don’t expect much banter between Price and Buehler this week.

“This is the playoffs, man,” Buehler said. “Price is a good dude, but he’s wearing a different uniform.”


The regrettable reign of Frank McCourt as Dodgers owner had its roots in South Boston parking lots. McCourt, a Boston native and real estate developer, had initially hoped to buy the Red Sox and build a new stadium on his 24-acre waterfront lot. When the Red Sox sold instead to John Henry’s group — essentially saving beloved Fenway Park — McCourt focused on the Dodgers, using the Boston property as collateral for some of the financing.

The debt-laden purchase in 2004 became a fiasco: ticket prices rose, payroll plunged, and after McCourt’s costly divorce, the Dodgers wound up in bankruptcy court. McCourt made out just fine, though, when the team sold for $2 billion in 2012 to a group led by Mark Walter. McCourt now owns Olympique de Marseille, a soccer club in France.

Each team has a starting pitcher who played for the other one: Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi came up with the Dodgers, and L.A.’s Rich Hill revived his career with the Red Sox. Many retired stars played for both teams, including Nomar Garciaparra, Ramon and Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez and Reggie Smith. Two Bay Area icons, Rickey Henderson and Juan Marichal, ended their Hall of Fame careers with brief stints for both teams.

Only one pitcher has won 50 games for both franchises — Derek Lowe — but a different right-hander, Hideo Nomo, pitched no-hitters for both.

The only player with 2,000 at-bats for both teams is Bill Buckner, who homered for the Dodgers in the 1974 World Series and was a such a valued member of the 1986 Red Sox that Manager John McNamara left him in at first base in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 against the Mets, just so Buckner could be on the field when the Red Sox won it all. (This plan did not work.)



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