The World Series is here, and the Red Sox won’t be involved. Instead, the baseball world will watch as the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks square off to determine this year’s champion.
You know, just like we all predicted.
It’s hard to imagine many World Series matchups as improbable as this one. Entering the year both Texas and Arizona were coming off losing seasons and on multiple occasions each looked like it was cooked. Things were especially dire after the two clubs fell behind 3-2 in their respective league championship series, but then both went on the road and won two straight to deny their opponents a second (or third) consecutive pennant.
It should be an exciting series, but if you’re from New England why should you care?
Even if the Red Sox aren’t playing there are still plenty of relevant storylines that should interest fans. Here are a few to watch as the Fall Classic kicks off.
Old friends on big stage
Nathan Eovaldi is no stranger to the bright lights of October, and after leading the Red Sox on two deep postseason runs during his time in Boston, the right-hander is now playing a starring role for the Rangers.
Eovaldi has been lights out since signing with Texas this past offseason and has carried the Rangers throughout their playoff run. Through four starts Eovaldi is 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA and 28 strikeouts over 26 innings, posting a quality start each time out and pitching the Rangers to a critical Game 6 victory in Houston. He will start Game 1 for Texas on Friday night.
Beyond Eovaldi the Rangers also feature former Red Sox left-hander Martin Perez, who pitched for the 2021 club that reached the ALCS. Perez posted a 4.45 ERA in 35 games (20 starts) this season and appeared in two games out of the bullpen for the Rangers in the ALCS.
On the other side, former Red Sox outfielder Tommy Pham has had an interesting journey since leaving Boston this past offseason. The 35-year-old signed with the New York Mets and was initially expected to be a platoon bat off the bench, but instead he emerged as one of New York’s best bats. He was traded at the deadline as part of the Mets’ midseason selloff and is now a fixture in the middle of the Diamondbacks’ order.
The Diamondbacks are also run by former Red Sox general manager Mike Hazen, who recently signed an extension to remain in Arizona rather than pursue his former team’s head of baseball operations position. Now in his seventh year in the desert, Hazen’s executed an impressive rebuild and now has the Diamondbacks set up to contend for years to come.
Checking out potential new friends?
Besides checking in on former Red Sox players who have moved on, fans might be interested in scouting possible offseason targets who could potentially come to Boston this winter.
The most notable name to watch is Jordan Montgomery. Acquired at the trade deadline from St. Louis, the Rangers starter has been excellent this October, going 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA in five games (four starts). More importantly for the Red Sox, he’s also a proven workhorse who has made 30 or more starts in three straight seasons and just racked up a career-high 188.2 innings this past year.
For reference, Brayan Bello led the Red Sox in innings with 157 this year, and no Red Sox starter has thrown 185 or more innings since Eduardo Rodriguez in 2019 (203.1).
Beyond Montgomery there aren’t any obvious free agent or trade targets, but one other possibility is Diamondbacks outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. The pending free agent hit 24 home runs with 35 doubles this year, earning his first All-Star nod along the way, and would be an option if the Red Sox decided to move on from both Alex Verdugo and Adam Duvall.
A blueprint for Boston?
If it feels like the Red Sox are a long way from championship contention, the Rangers are a good reminder that a club’s fortunes can change in a hurry.
Last year the Rangers lost 94 games. The year before that they lost 102. Texas hadn’t even posted a winning record since 2016, but this year their recent aggressiveness paid off and now they’re four wins from capturing their first World Series in franchise history.
How did they do it? By supplementing an impressive homegrown core with big outside investments. Corey Seager and Marcus Semien have more than lived up to their big contracts, and even if Texas’ big bet on Jacob deGrom blew up, the club doubled down by bringing in Eovaldi and later Montgomery and Max Scherzer to ensure it had the arms to compete.
There’s nothing stopping the Red Sox from executing a similar playbook, so even if it feels like Boston is years away the Rangers should inspire hope that things could flip faster than many fans expect.