Flexibility breeds winners: how two MLB teams seasons shaped their World Series accomplishment

Molly Crouch ‘24, Social Media Manager

As the MLB season comes to an end, there is one common goal amongst the baseball teams on the horizon: the World Series. With impressive records, stellar plays, and team commitments, everyone has a fighting chance. But as the Atlanta Braves outbeat the Los Angeles Dodgers four to two, and the Houston Astros beat the Boston Red Socks five to zero in the final game, it is clear that the Braves and Astros have sealed their fate in the Oct. 26 MLB World Series matchup. But what did these teams do throughout the season to get them to where they are now?

With a rough start to their season, the Braves had to deal with major injuries of key players on their team. Pitchers Mike Soroka, Grant Dayton, and Tucker Davidson all had their seasons cut short, having been sentenced to a minimum 60-day game suspension due to their injuries. This was also the case with right fielder and dominant hitter Ronald Acuna Jr.. “[I] think after Acuna Jr. left, the team began to lose hope and they had to push themselves even more to make up for his lost talent. They also had to have personal goals to strive for better success of the season,” freshman Maggie Badrak said. With a fighting chance, the Braves had to come together and had to battle against the benching of their teammates.

With a reduced number of pitchers, and their star player out for the season, the Braves had a low chance of making it into any qualifying rank positions. Nevertheless, they had to act fast when realizing that they did not have a solidified team for the National League Division Series (NLDS) and the later National League Championship Series (NLCS) These are composed of game intervals of five and a victor is determined by the team with the best record of those games.  Both of these series are cornerstone events for being entered into the World Series. So with losing not being an option, the Atlanta Braves made a last minute trade of players Jorge Soler and Richard Rodriguez. 

With these new editions, the Braves found victory and were approaching their first World Series nomination since 1999. The Braves have conquered teammate changes, negative expectations, and physical limits when entering 2021’s World Series, but how will they match up against the Houston Astros?

Unlike the Atlanta Braves, the  Houston Astros have a more developed winning streak in their community. With higher rankings and better league records, the Astros have grown accustomed to making a name for themselves. But some questions about the team’s winning arose this season after the surgery of one of their starting pitchers, Justin Verlander. 

Last October, Verlander had Tommy John surgery. Commonly done amongst MLB pitchers, Tommy John surgery is when a healthy tendon is used to replace a torn ligament. Other players and positions are eligible to get this surgery, but the constant strain and fast mile per hour balls pitchers throw daily, their arm gets  weaker more quickly. Though rehab has been a constant practice for Verlander, General Manager James Click confirms he will not be pitching this season. Verlander’s absence could have a big impact on his future in the MLB and the status of the team’s rank. 

With this starting player loss, officials begin to narrow in on the success of this team and the inner workings of the team. While looking into previous charges against the Astros, comes the notorious sign stealing scandal. After former manager of the Astros Alex Cora’s playbook was found with other teams’ signs written in it, he was then suspended and later fired from his work on staff. This cheating scandal was reintroduced into the game during the Houston Astros versus Chicago White Socks showdown at the NLDS.

During the third game of the series matchup, White Socks pitcher Ryan Tepera proposed the accusation of sign stealing against the Astros because of the different competitive environment of the team. Tepera felt the Astros were always one step ahead of him, and the game was not equal for both teams. He was also arguing the team seemed to play differently now that they were away from their home field. Dusty Baker, manager of the Astros, was quick to shut these allegations down, by providing past statistics to help support the reason that the game was fair for both teams. With no further ruling from these apprehensive accusations, the Astros won both the NLDS and NLCS.  

Both the Astros and Braves have been pitted against each other based on game winnings and records throughout the season, but there is only one winner. Sophomore Dominic Clark said, “[I] think the Braves have seen great troubles throughout their season and it would be very encouraging for their organization to see them win because of their lack of attendance in the World Series. But the Astros have a more likely chance of pulling ahead because of their past records.” Even though these teams bring up a clear winner, there is always room for surprises in the sports season. 

When these teams look back on their past accomplishments, it is clear to see that both have overcome difficulties within their season to affect the way they play in the World Series. Whether an amazing final showdown between these two deserving teams, or a dominating win for a skilled organization, they can both be proud of what they have given to the 2021 MLB season. 

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