New York: Alex Cora managed the Red Sox to a World Series championship last October and Wednesday night Dave Martinez became the second Latino manager in two years to do the same with the Washington Nationals. But this Nationals championship defied all odds and will live for the ages.
Because the Nationals, a team that overcame adversity all year, was the sports and baseball story of the year, and why the Martinez managed team deserves more accoldades than the win up In Boston.
“There’s no better place than this right now,” Martinez said and moments after his team clinched the seven-game deal with their 6-2 win over the Houston Astros.
And, yes, when talking about this Nationals team in the coming years, it definitely was historic. A seven-game World Series that saw the road team win every game in the home ballpark.
Martinez and the Nationals were not supposed to win this darn thing. Then again, no team that saw their season slipping away on May 23, 19-31, was not supposed to take it all at the end of October.
They defied all odds with the job security of Martinez, injuries, and were supposed to be looking at next year.
But then it happened. The Nationals, and credit to Martinez, had the best 80 games in franchise history and made their way to October as the top wild card team in the National League.
They proved that the wild card in baseball has once again become a good thing and winning your division, though the right way to do it, does not necessarily guarantee being one of the final two standing. The Nationals overcame the NL West division winning Dodgers in the NLDS and swept the Central winning Cardinals in four games.
And Juan Soto emerged as that star and could have been the World Series MVP had Stephen Strasburg not won two games in this World Series and go 5-0 in the postseason.
So why is the Dave Martinez win more significant than the Alex Cora World Series win last October? Simple. The Cora Red Sox were the best team in baseball and expected to take it all.
The wild card team Nationals, well they were not the team baseball was talking about when this World Series commenced a week ago. They overcame a 3-2 series deficit.
The Dave Martniez Nationals won their first World Series and took down the Houston Astros, the best team in baseball with 107 wins. And it took the Nationals an extra game to do it with their wild card and come from behind win over the Brewers.
So this World Series win for Dave Martinez has to be more satisfying than the win for Cora and the Boston Red Sox a year ago.
Give or take with those crucial decisions a manager makes in a decisive Game 7. Astros manager AJ Hinch will live with the decision that will haunt him this offseason.
His bullpen, as reliable as it was during the season, allowed eight runs in Games 6 & 7 at home. Zack Greinke had a 2-0 lead into the seventh inning Wednesday night and Hinch went to the pen.
Last year Cora also had the horses coming out of his bullpen and It worked. But the decisive Game 7, all hands on deck, Hinch has Gerit Cole warming in the pen.
Cole, without a doubt the best pitcher in baseball, and headed to free agency with a historic contract awaiting, remained in the bullpen. Hinch did not go with his best and a decision that will linger until the first pitch is thrown again in March of 2020.
That move may have cost the Houston Astros their second World Series championship in three years. Hinch did not opt to go with Cole. Roberto Osuna, his reliabel closer gave up a run in the eighth and Joe Smith allowed two runs in the ninth.
And from there the Washington Nationals would defy the odds and baseball had a new champion that overcame all the odds that were against them.
“I knew I had Gerrit if need be,” said Hinch. He said it was a matter of matchups that led to the decision to bypass Cole.
Different from Alex Cora, the Astros relied more on analytics at that moment. And though it was explained this was a matchup, of course the analytics came into play.
No, we can’t fault Hinch as analytics may have been the culprit in not going with Cole. Yet, we can look at how Alex Cora depended on analytics last October and say it worked.
In other words the mix and match, it’s what makes baseball different from other sports in those crucial game decision moments.
The Nationals, they depend on scouting reports. Analytics is incorporated in their approach but again these are those decisions that are made in the crucial part of a Game 7 in the World Series.
In the meantime, and for years to come, this championship for the Nationals will be a part of baseball history.
And for Dave Martinez, he becomes a part of baseball history. Alex Cora last year became the latest World Series manager with those Latino roots.
Welcome to the club Dave Martinez even if an analytical move from the other side got you there.
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