Now that Major League Baseball's final four have been determined, it's only a matter of a little more time until but two remain.
With the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers in the American League and the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League, there are four possible iterations of World Series matchups. But which pair of teams would make for the most compelling showdown?
To be sure, drama and intrigue would come right along with any of the four possibilities. But strictly from a between-the-white-lines angle, one head-to-head battle would set itself up for particularly compelling competition...
Tigers vs. Dodgers.
Certainly, there's a strong case to be made that Red Sox-Dodgers would be a matchup for the ages, a made-for-television showcase, as fellow MLB Lead Writer Zach Rymer wrote recently. That one comes complete with roster subplots galore, big-market juice, East Coast-West Coast rivalry and more. It's hard to argue that wouldn't be best for the sport or for ratings. (And in the interest of full disclosure, it's the Series I would most like to watch from a pure entertainment factor.)
But Tigers-Dodgers? That would have much of the same—big names, big personalities, big markets—but it would also have two elements that no other potential matchup would. (Again, in the interest of disclosing information, I'll point out that this was the matchup I picked, so there is that.)
First, these great franchises are the only two of the remaining four who have never faced each other in the World Series.
We saw the Red Sox break the Curse of the Bambino and end their 86-year drought by beating the Cardinals in 2004. Only two years after that, the Cardinals toppled the Tigers to win it all in 2006. And the Red Sox and Dodgers is another been-there-done-that Series—even if that was all the way back in 1916 when the Dodgers were known as the Brooklyn Robins. (Bonus points if you got that one.)
Second, it's been at least 25 years since either the Tigers or the Dodgers have captured the championship. The Dodgers last did so in 1988, while the Tigers haven't won since 1984.
Tigers-Dodgers would be new, it would be different and it would be a title a long time in the making for either side. But getting back to the actual on-the-diamond aspect of this potential matchup.
Question: What makes for the best competition in baseball? Pitching, of course. Specifically, pitching of the starting variety. And wouldn't you know it: The Dodgers and Tigers have the best rotation ERAs in their respective leagues.
L.A.'s 3.13 starters' ERA was tops in the game, while Detroit's 3.44 was fourth overall (barely behind two other NL clubs) but No. 1 in the AL.
And my goodness, imagine the possibilities when it comes to pitching matchups with names like Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in the mix to be on the mound for as many as two games apiece. Whatever permutation you pick, the hype, anticipation and buildup of the showdown could only be matched by the mastery, artistry and must-watch theater of each actual performance.
With that much elite starting pitching, runs would be at even more of a premium than they are amid the postseason in this pitching-dominated period. Every single at-bat with a runner on would be a rare event, occurring perhaps only slightly more frequently than Halley's Comet. It would give that much more meaning to all other facets of the game, like the managers' strategies, the defenders' focus and the hitters' execution.
There are reasons why other possible Fall Classic matchups would be fun, dramatic and compelling, too. But for pure competition, the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers could be one giant pitchers' duel of a World Series.
And good pitching beats, well, everything else.