World Series Game 1 features matchup of old school aces

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The Red Sox won 108 games, their appearance in the playoffs was never in doubt and they have cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Dodgers, meanwhile,  stumbled to a terrible start to the season, found themselves in third place in the NL West as late as September, had to play a Game 163 to win the division and then were taken to seven games by the Brewers in the NLCS.

Yet, as our comprehensive World Series preview from yesterday revealed, these two teams are a lot more evenly matched than the previous paragraph might suggest.

While anything can happen in the World Series, I expect this one to be a drawn-out battle. The battle begins with a two old school aces taking the hill.

World Series Game 1

Dodgers vs. Red Sox
Ballpark: Fenway Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
Pitchers: Clayton Kershaw vs. Chris Sale

In an age of bullpenning, Game 1 of the 2018 World Series will give us one of the best ace vs. ace matchups we’ve had in some time when Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers takes on Chris Sale of the Red Sox.

Their resumes are pretty well known at this point. Kershaw has three Cy Young Awards and, if he hadn’t had a couple of midseason injuries in the past few years, might’ve had five. Oh, and he has an MVP Award too. Sale has yet to pull in that kind of hardware but he was on pace for the 2018 Cy Young before being sidelined late in the season. He’ll likely fall just short of Blake Snell for that honor, but his 2.11 ERA and 1.98 FIP show what he has been when healthy. Both Kershaw and Sale are seven-time All-Stars. Between them they have led their respective leagues in one pitching category or another 80 times.

But for all of that career dominance, each is a bit diminished coming in to Game 1.

Kershaw’s 2018 season was not bad by any stretch — he posted an ERA+ of 142 — but it was his worst season since he began his run of dominance in 2011. His velocity and strikeout rate took a significant dip this year too. While he’s certainly capable of looking like the Kershaw of old — He shut the Braves out for eight innings in Game 2 of the NLDS and held the Brewers to one run in seven innings in Game 5 of the NLCS — he’s a bit more capable of a clunker these days, like the one he turned in for NLCS Game 1. Greatness still surrounds Kershaw, but one cannot expect it every single time out lately.

Meanwhile Sale hasn’t pitched in ten days due to a stomach ailment that put him in the hospital during the ALCS, ruling him out for any potential bullpen work Alex Cora had devised for him. He and Cora say he’s fine now and, if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be getting the ball in the World Series, but it’l be worth watching to see if he’s rusty.

One of the better parts of this matchup: in an age of interleague play, Kershaw and Sale are basically strangers to the opposition and the opposing fan base. Kershaw has never once faced the Red Sox and Sale has not faced the Dodgers for several years. Between that, the venerable ballparks in which they’ll pitch and their status as old school starting pitchers, Game 1 will have something of a throwback atmosphere.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.