BOSTON -- If someone had tapped Dodgers first baseman Player Page for Max Muncy on the shoulder a year ago and told him he would be playing in the 2018 World Series, he might have needed a minute to get his mind around those words. Even his dreams hadn't gotten that far.
Same thing with Red Sox reliever Ryan Brasier. At this time last year, Muncy and Brasier had more modest goals. You know, like proving they belonged in the Major Leagues. First things first, right?
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That's one of the many things that makes this Red Sox-Dodgers World Series so special. Beyond a matchup of two of baseball's iconic franchises, it's about second chances and rebirths. About players who refused to give up on their dreams when pretty much everyone else had.
It's a reminder to all of us -- and to scouts and executives and instructors -- not to underestimate very basic things like work ethic and determination and drive.
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Here's hoping that at some point, one or two of these Dodgers and Red Sox -- hopefully all of 'em -- will take a moment to look around at the sights and sounds and beauty of a World Series and appreciate how far they've come.
Let's consider nine:
1. Chris Taylor, Dodgers OF -- Two years ago, he had a .239 career batting average with the Dodgers and Mariners. He returned to work that offseason and remade, not just his swing mechanics, but his mental approach at the plate. When the Dodgers summoned him to the big leagues early last season, he was ready. He has 69 doubles, 38 home runs and an .812 OPS since in 295 games. He's hitting .360 this postseason and made what might have been a series-saving play in left in Game 7 of the NLCS.
2. Brasier, Red Sox reliever -- This is what happens when a team hires great personnel people and trusts their judgment. Brasier was signed in early March last year after two seasons in Japan, where he reshaped his pitching mechanics and confidence. He was a month away from his 31st birthday and approaching the fifth anniversary of his last Major League appearance when the Red Sox called him up from Triple-A Pawtucket in July. He was mostly lights-out in 34 regular-season appearances and hasn't allowed a run in seven postseason games.
3. Muncy, Dodgers 1B -- They make movies about guys who do what he has done. The Dodgers signed him to a Minor League contract after he'd been released by the A's in the spring of 2017. He spent the entire season in the Minors, and like Taylor, took advantage of every tool and every instructor the Dodgers offered. He led them with 35 home runs this season.
4. Steve Pearce, Red Sox 1B -- He has been so good for so long that it's easy to forget he was released by two teams and that the Red Sox are his seventh organization. His breakthrough came in 2012, when he began as a productive platoon player for the Orioles, but in six seasons since, he's hitting all kinds of pitching. Originally an outfielder, he has also made himself into a very good defensive first baseman. He had a .901 OPS in 50 games after the Red Sox acquired him from the Blue Jays in June.
5. Rich Hill, Dodgers LHP -- This 38-year-old lefty is likely to get nothing but good vibes being back at Fenway Park, because it was the 2015 season with the Red Sox that marked a turning point in his career. He was 35 at the time, and until then, his career had been marked by injuries and frustration. In three seasons since, he has a 3.09 ERA and is part of the reason the Dodgers, his eighth Major League organization, are going back to the World Series.
6. David Price, Red Sox LHP -- He was never the postseason failure he was portrayed to be. His complete-game victory in Game 163 of the 2013 season got the Rays to the postseason. He was tremendous in relief for the 2017 Red Sox and had a string of solid performances for the Rays and Tigers. But he had never been credited with a postseason win and said that until he did that he would accept whatever criticism he received. All that changed on Thursday with six shutout innings on short rest to beat the Astros and clinch the American League pennant. He'll enter the 2018 World Series writing a different script.
7. Matt Kemp, Dodgers OF -- The Dodgers had no intention of keeping their former franchise player when he was acquired as part of a complicated payroll-cutting trade with the Braves last offseason. But he showed up at Spring Training in great shape and began slapping baseballs over the fence. He ended up helping the Dodgers to a sixth straight National League West championship with 25 doubles and 21 home runs.
8. Nathan Eovaldi, Red Sox RHP -- He has been Boston's best pitcher this postseason and seems to have reached a turning point in a career that includes a release by the Yankees and trades from the Marlins and Dodgers. With a big helping hand from Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie, Eovaldi appears to have harnessed all that velocity and is about to become a free agent at an interesting time.
9. Justin Turner, Dodgers 3B -- Long before he arrived in Los Angeles in 2014 and began to establish himself as one of the best players in the game, he spent time with three organizations (Orioles, Mets, Reds), having been traded once and selected off waivers once. Those days are long gone. He has an .889 OPS since 2014 and is one of the best defensive third basemen in the game.