Obviously, whichever of the four teams in the League Championship Series ends up winning the World Series, it will be a breakthrough moment for them and their fanbase. You never forget a World Series title. But what exactly would it mean to each team? Historically? Personnel-wise? Emotionally? Here’s a look at three big things a championship would mean to each of the four teams remaining, which are listed in alphabetical order.
1. Dusty Baker gets his long-awaited ring
Baker is the winningest manager in baseball history not to win a World Series. It has been quite a journey for Baker, who was once skewered by sabermetric analysts but has become universally beloved as the years have gone on. You might not necessarily be happy for the Astros if they won the World Series. But everybody would be happy for Baker.
2. Zack Greinke wins his first championship
This summer, we looked at the Dan Marino All-Stars, the best active players who had never won a World Series. Greinke topped that list. It’s unclear what his role will be (starter, long man or something else), but he’s still a part of what the Astros are doing, and a World Series is essentially the only thing left he doesn’t have on his Hall of Fame resume.
Whether or not you believe the Astros would have won the 2017 World Series even if they were not illegally stealing signs, it is undeniable that they did win the title the same year the scheme was going on. You can’t say that this year. The Astros have clearly been determined to silence all the doubters and booers since the scandal occurred. A World Series title wouldn’t do that, exactly. But it would provide some proof for what the Astros have been saying all along: They win because they are good at baseball -- full stop.
1. The end of the Atlanta curse
The city of Atlanta has the most underappreciated, tortured fanbase in the United States -- even if they undervalue Atlanta United winning the 2018 MLS Cup. Other than Atlanta United, no Atlanta team has won a title since 1995, despite coming close quite a few agonizing times. (And don’t get them started about Georgia football.) If the Braves break through, that could be the end of that … and perhaps the start of an Atlanta resurgence. Fourteen teams in baseball have won a title since the Braves last did, three of which are in these LCS with them.
2. The ultimate Ewing Theory championship
I’m a longtime skeptic of The Ewing Theory, a postulate put together by Bill Simmons that argues teams often get better when they lose their best player. This is overtly untrue, but there’s no question that a Braves title, the year they lose Ronald Acuña Jr. to a season-ending knee injury, would be a strong historical argument for the theory. Of course, Acuña will then have to spend the rest of his career trying to win a World Series so everyone stops bringing up this one.
3. The pressure to keep Freddie Freeman will only grow
It’s still difficult to imagine Freeman leaving the Braves in the offseason as a free agent, but then again, most said the same thing a decade ago about Albert Pujols and the Cardinals. Freeman’s massive homer off Josh Hader in the NLDS won that series for Atlanta, and a World Series title would surely feature more Freeman feats. He's already a Braves hero. Winning a title, and then re-signing, would make him a legend.
1. The Dodgers become what the Yankees once were
There is a non-zero possibility that there will be as many as six or even seven Hall of Famers from this 2021 Dodgers team. This is the sort of team of All-Stars that we haven’t seen in a long time -- one with names like Betts, Scherzer, Turner (and Turner), Seager and even Pujols -- that will resonate throughout baseball history. Lots of teams win World Series. But how many are stacked like this Dodgers team? Not many.
2. They’ll go down in history as one of the best teams ever
Because the Dodgers, somehow, finished in second place in the NL West this year, we haven’t spent a lot of time discussing this as one of the best teams in baseball history. But we should. They did, after all, win 106 games. 106! Just five teams since the divisional era began in 1969 (the 1970 Orioles, 1975 Reds, 1986 Mets, 1998 Yankees and 2018 Red Sox) have won 106 games or more and gone on to win the World Series in the same season. The Dodgers would join that ultra-exclusive club with a title -- even though they finished in second place.
3. Remove any asterisk talk
Despite some grumblings you might hear, last year’s title was absolutely legitimate in every way. (You can make a strong argument it was actually harder to win the World Series in 2020 than it would have been in any other season.) But we can probably all admit it wasn’t quite as much fun, right? In a neutral stadium, in a shortened season, with limited capacity, with a pandemic hanging over everybody’s head every minute of every day. The Dodgers now have a chance to win a World Series in front of a stadium full of fans, perhaps even their own fans. It was great last year. But it would be better this year.
1. The Chaim Bloom era, uh, blooms
When the Red Sox fired Dave Dombrowski just two years ago (and replaced him with Bloom), the rationale was that while Dombrowski had won them a World Series, he was limiting them with big contracts and hamstringing the farm system moving forward. For Bloom to win a World Series two years later, while cutting costs and replenishing the Minors along the way, would be an achievement no one saw coming this quickly.
2. Alex Verdugo will never have to hear Mookie Betts’ name again
Verdugo seemed doomed as the guy traded for a potential franchise legend in Betts, but he has been fantastic for the Red Sox, especially this postseason. Winning a title as one of the key players on the team should allow him to finally just be the excellent player he is without any of the external headaches.
3. They’re the team of the century so far
They probably already are, but the Dodgers have clearly been trying to make a run at the Red Sox for the mythical crown. But this would be the fifth Red Sox World Series championship of the last 17 years, which is has many as they’d had in the previous 100-plus years. You can’t ask for much more than that. It would also snap the Red Sox's tie with the A’s at nine titles all-time, and it would put them only one behind the Cardinals for second most (behind the Yankees, of course).