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The Disinterested Phillies fan’s guide to the 2019 World Series

The Astros and Nationals will play for baseball’s ultimate prize, if you happen to care about that sort of thing

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MLB: World Series-Workouts
Like it or not, the World Series is here
Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

While the Phillies’ season came to an uneventful close weeks ago, the baseball postseason has continued on. Many Phillies fans have long since turned their attention to the Flyers, Sixers, and (gulp) Eagles, but a few of you might be vaguely interested in which team is going to come away with a shiny trophy this year.

The field has been reduced to just two teams, and starting on Tuesday night, the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals will square off for the right to hold a parade. Here’s a brief primer that will tell you the bare minimum you should know, and which team you should be pulling for.

Houston Astros

It still seems strange that the Houston Astros are a member of the American League (can’t we swap them and the Brewers?) but for the second time in two years, they’ll be representing the Junior Circuit in the World Series.

How they got here

They won the American League West with an MLB-best 107 wins. They defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS, and then prevailed over the New York Yankees in the ALCS.

What are they good at?

As it happens, teams that win 107 games tend to be good at quite a few things. The Astros led the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. The pitching staff was nearly as good, posting the league’s second lowest ERA, while leading the league in strikeouts and fewest walks allowed.

What aren’t they good at?

Providing reporters with proper access for press conferences, not offending their female fans and reporters covering the team.

Former Phillie alert

Unless I’m missing a connection somewhere, the Astros do not have any former Phillies on the team. This isn’t especially surprising since the Astros are very good, and most recent editions of the Phillies have generally not been.

On the other hand, we can hope that maybe they have at least one future Phillie on the team. Ace pitcher Gerrit Cole is due to be a free agent, and much like any other team with money and sense, the Phillies will probably be in pursuit of his services. If Cole becomes too expensive (and let me assure you, he’s going to be expensive), Wade Miley might be a more reasonably priced mid-rotation option.

Embrace the tank

If baseball wants to eliminate tanking from the game (there’s no indication that they do), the Astros aren’t going to help convince anyone. The Astros went through a massive rebuilding project that saw them lose 100+ games for three straight seasons. They didn’t even pretend to be competitive during that time, but it’s certainly paid off for them.

Why we should like them

There’s something to be said about watching very good baseball players play baseball at a high level, and the Astros are loaded with very good baseball players. Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Justin Verlander, and Zack Greinke are all among the best at their positions, and they’re surrounded by a great supporting cast as well.

Why we shouldn’t like them

See the above “What aren’t they good at?” section. Beyond that, if you’re the type of fan who thinks that the hyper-analytical approach to team-building is bad, the Astros are definitely not the team for you.

Washington Nationals

After years of losing in the NLDS, apparently all it took for the Nats to succeed was getting rid of Bryce Harper. Because as we all know, his absence is the ONLY difference between this year’s team and the failures from years past.

How they got here

They earned the National League’s top wild card spot, and surprisingly, that play-in game might have been their toughest test of the postseason thus far. They moved on to take advantage of the Dodgers’ habit of perennially choking in the playoffs in the following round.

They faced off with the Cardinals in the NLCS, and to say the Cards rolled over in that series is a bit of an understatement. For you Eagles fans out there, the Cardinals’ put up about as much of a fight as Nelson Agholor going after a deep ball.

What are they good at?

Pitching at the beginning of games. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin are an excellent top of the rotation, and Anibal Sanchez flirted with a no-hitter in his lone NLCS start.

What aren’t they good at?

Finding effective relievers, getting over the fact that their former star player left.

Former Phillie alert

Howie Kendrick didn’t do all that much as a member of the 2017 Phillies, partly because he spent much of that time on the disabled list. Naturally, he’s found his way to the Nationals where he’s become perhaps their best player during the playoffs.

As far as future Phillies go, if Nats ownership wants to make below-market offers to Anthony Rendon or Strasburg like they did to Bryce Harper, the Phillies would be glad to pay them what they’re worth too.

Can they keep this up?

In order to compensate for their not-so-stellar bullpen, the Nats have frequently called on their starters in relief situations. You wouldn’t think they could keep that up for an entire postseason, but we’re now three series deep, and the Nats are still here.

I can’t really blame them, considering how shaky the Nats’ bullpen was for most of the season. Besides, Max Scherzer isn’t getting any younger, and Strasburg might be on a different team next year. This might be the team’s last best chance to win a title, so you might as well use those guys until their arms fall off.

Why we should like them

Even though they’re a division rival, the Nats’ players don’t rank all that highly on the unlikeablity scale.

Why we shouldn’t like them

It’s always tough to see a division rival succeed. Thankfully the Braves helped us out by pulling another choke job, but it’s a very real possibility that a National League East team is going to be celebrating a title, and it won’t be the Phillies.

Also, it’s a little annoying to see the Nationals’ “fans” celebrating. The unspoken secret of Nationals’ fandom is that at least 50% of the people cheering for the team right now consider the Nats to be their “other” team. If this series had been against the Yankees, many of the same people you’ll see at Nationals Park this week would have been wearing blue and rooting against the home team. You shouldn’t get to wildly celebrate when your “other” team wins.

Also, fanbases who basically abandoned the team after a slow start and don’t even sell out playoff games don’t deserve a title.

So who should we cheer for?

The Nationals. While we may not want to see a division rival and their fickle fans celebrate, they already have their “National League Champions” shirts, so what difference does another round make? And it’s much better than seeing a garbage organization like the Astros get rewarded.

Who’s going to win?

The Nats have relied heavily on their starters, but unfortunately, the top of the Astros’ rotation might be even better. If the Nationals lose that advantage, the rest of their team doesn’t measure up. Unfortunately, the Astros are going to win it.