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MLB Roundtable -- How will we remember the 2018 World Series and more?

ESPN.com | Updated: 2018-11-01 20:50:13

The 2018 World Series ended four days ago, but there's still plenty to look back on. We asked three of our baseball experts to share some of their thoughts on the Red Sox win.

One moment you'll always remember from this World Series?

Sam Miller, ESPN.com writer: Eduardo Rodriguez slamming his glove to the ground after allowing a home run. We've seen, in the past few years, the gradual acceptance of, even celebration of, players showing their happiness on the field (bat flips, post-win dances in the outfield, dugout memes after home runs, the weird things Puig does). What I noticed a lot in this World Series was that there were a lot more instances of players on the field showing their disappointment. Rodriguez was the most memorable example, but there were bats smashed, bats flipped in disgust, etc. Some people won't like it, probably. But as a viewing experience, the game probably gets better the more honest the emotions we see are.

David Schoenfield, ESPN.com senior writer: Yasiel Puig's home run trot in Game 4 deserves an Oscar. Puig has his detractors and I understand why many think his celebration was over the top, but it does come from a pure joy of playing the game. Alas, the Dodgers lost the game, so I'll go with Steve Pearce's second home run in Game 5. The journeyman first baseman's trot was a little less subdued, but he hopped on home plate like a kid in T-ball scoring his first run.

Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information: David Price running out of the dugout so fast after the final out of Game 5 that he was by far the first player to reach Christian Vazquez and Chris Sale for the postgame celebration. Even more than that, just Price's redemption story. It began in the ALCS, but it became cemented here. Starting the clincher in the ALCS and then in the World Series -- and winning those games opposite Cy Young winners (something nobody had ever done before, according to Elias Sports Bureau research) -- is something that nobody except maybe Price and Alex Cora could have dreamed of entering the postseason. I picked Price to be World Series MVP going in simply for the narrative -- and even though he didn't win, he got the storybook ending.

Bradford Doolittle, ESPN.com writer: When Jackie Bradley Jr. homered off of Kenley Jansen to tie Game 3, that's when I became fairly certain Boston would win the Series even though L.A. eventually won that game. It was Jansen's first appearance of the Series and by that point, we already knew that Dave Roberts didn't have great middle relief options. The Dodgers' formula for winning was great starts and Jansen putting down the hammer, and when it became apparent that his regular-season long-ball problems had followed him into October, Los Angeles was in trouble.

How would you sum up the 2018 World Series in 50-75 words?

Miller: The Red Sox got the hits when they needed to. They scored almost six runs a game while hitting .222/.303/.386, which only makes sense when you see that they hit .309/.397/.485 with men on base. We spend a lot of effort on the GMing parts of the game-putting the roster together-but GMs can't really go out looking for "a ton of big hits in the World Series." That's just the players playing, and one team playing better.

Schoenfield: The best team in baseball won in five games -- even though Mookie Betts didn't really do much in the Series, Chris Sale didn't do much, Xander Bogaerts didn't do much, Craig Kimbrel was shaky. The Red Sox won not because their stars dominated, but because the entire roster contributed -- a reminder that baseball, in many ways, remains the ultimate team game.

Langs: The 2018 World Series reminded us that this Red Sox team won 108 regular-season games and deserves to be in the conversation with some of the greatest teams ever. They demonstrated the ability to rally, strong offense, dominating pitching and that they were led by an outstanding manager. And even with all of that, the Dodgers reminded us how dramatic baseball can be -- Max Muncy's home run will not be soon forgotten.

Doolittle: We deserved better. I blame the Red Sox for this -- for being too good. Here we had two marquee franchises and iconic venues and we really only got one drama-laden game. And that game lasted so long, a lot of people missed the best moments. Boston simply overwhelmed the Dodgers in what on paper looked like it would be a more competitive Series.

Will either team -- or both -- be back in the World Series next year?

Miller: Both teams will be exceptionally good next year, so there's no reason to make any bold statements about them not getting there. It'll still be a top-heavy league, though, and it also wouldn't be right to make any bold statements against the Yankees, Astros or Cubs-and that's without seeing how the offseason plays out for Atlanta, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and everybody else. -- Miller

Schoenfield: Sure, both teams could return. The Red Sox probably have the tougher road since the Astros and Yankees should be loaded once again and the Indians will have that great rotation. The Dodgers' toughest task may be remaining motivated for 162 games. -- Schoenfield

Langs: The Dodgers face a lot of offseason questions, including about the future of ace Clayton Kershaw, who could still opt out of his contract. Their bullpen showed that it needed help, so I'm not quite ready to put them back into the World Series yet. The Red Sox, however, seem poised to return. They have decisions to make on Nathan Eovaldi and Joe Kelly, among others, which would shape the direction of their pitching -- but with a strong core that's going nowhere, I think they could repeat as AL pennant winners. -- Langs

Doolittle: Both will be back in the postseason so, sure, they could both get back to the Fall Classic. I think Boston's margin for error is a little thinner, if they lose some arms out of the bullpen during free agency. It's a little bit older group as a whole and the organizational depth is thinner, which makes them more susceptible to an injury-related disappointment.

Dave Roberts got criticized a lot (fairly or unfairly) -- what's the one move you think he'll regret the most?

Miller: Bringing in Alex Wood in Game 1, allowing the Red Sox to counter with Eduardo Nunez, who put a close game away with a three-run homer. It's not that the move was (or is) obviously wrong, but it wasn't his boldest option (that would have been bringing in Kenley Jansen) and, after it didn't work out, the pressure was in a lot of ways off the Red Sox for the rest of the Series. Boston had a margin for mistakes from that point on; the Dodgers had none. -- Miller

Schoenfield: Pulling Rich Hill and then going with a string of relievers in Game 4. The weird thing is his explanation after the game didn't really make sense. He said he brought in Scott Alexander, in order to avoid Rafael Devers or Mitch Moreland coming off the bench, or at least create a lefty-lefty matchup if they pinch hit. But then he removed Alexander after one batter and brought in Ryan Madson, which gave Moreland the platoon advantage when he pinch-hit and drilled the three-run homer that made it 4-3. -- Schoenfield

Langs: It was a statistical anomaly and made my job a lot of fun -- but the all-righty lineup in each of the first two games of the Series kept the team's top four home run hitters out of the starting lineup. No team had ever done that in even one World Series game, let alone two, according to Elias. I think that really hampered their offense and in many ways set the tone for the Series. I'm not saying all four of those individuals -- Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal -- all should've been there, but at least Muncy, who did well against lefties throughout the season, could have really helped. -- Langs

Doolittle: When it came to bullpen management, which was the source of most of the Roberts-related criticism, I just don't think he had great options. If Jansen wasn't performing like Jansen, who exactly did Roberts have to pick up the slack? That said, for most of the playoffs, Pedro Baez was throwing the ball as well as anybody in October. When Roberts pulled him from Game 1 in favor of Alex Wood, it just didn't make any sense. He chose in favor of a Wood-Eduardo Nunez matchup instead of Baez-Rafael Devers. It would have been a mistake even if Nunez hadn't hit a three-run homer that broke that game open.

Was the seven-hour epic of Game 3 good, bad or both for baseball?

Miller: I liked it, but probably bad? It fits the negative narrative people tell about modern baseball (too long, too late, too all-or-nothing, not enough action) more than it fits any positive narrative. The most lasting legacy of it might depend on how players felt watching it. If they saw a bunch of their peers limping, straining, exhausted and putting their bodies at risk -- which is what it looked like to me, by the end -- they really might decide that the open-endedness of extra innings is a workplace safety issue and endorse rules changes.

Schoenfield: It was certainly fascinating to watch in some regards, but it wasn't necessarily all that exciting and I'm not sure seven hours of baseball that featured 18 hits and 34 strikeouts and ended at 3 a.m. ET is the best advertisement for the sport.

Langs: Those kinds of games take on a life of their own. They become so iconic and memorable that I have trouble saying it was bad for baseball. I know there have been grumblings about the time games start -- but that would've ended late even if it started at 5 p.m. (which it did on the West Coast)! I think the excitement that the ending generated, and the attention the game got as it went on and on across social media, is a good thing for baseball. People may remember the 18-inning game more than how the rest of the Series played out. That might not be fair to the Red Sox, but I would argue 'at least they're still remembering something from the Series.' It was epic. It was good for baseball.

Doolittle: Definitely a little of both. When a game ends at past 3 a.m. at the East Coast, you're not going to get an ideal audience watching the end of that game. That it plays into current narratives regarding postseason game length didn't help. I heard people in the press box start to talk about things like the hokey idea of putting a runner on second base. We need to tighten the game up. We don't need to make it into something new. However, if you were able to stick it out for that entire game, you got to see a contest unlike any that had ever been played in the World Series. And there were some great moments in there. Incidentally, last night here in Chicago, I ran into a guy who was at that game. I asked him if he made it all the way through and he told me, "When Magic Johnson left, so did I."

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