No matter who plays in the World Series, it’s going to be compelling and eternal. But let’s face it: Some matchups are inherently more compelling than others. There isn’t a single World Series matchup that would be an absolute dud. But which ones would melt your face off? Here are your possible 2021 World Series matchups, ranked.
And one thing to remember as we think about the World Series matchups is how home-field advantage will be determined. For the World Series, all that matters is regular-season record, so the Dodgers will get home-field no matter what if they advance, and the Braves -- despite having home-field in the NLCS by virtue of winning their division (when the Dodgers did not) -- cannot have home-field in the World Series.
Remaining 2021 postseason teams, by regular-season win percentage:
1. Dodgers: .654
2. Astros: .586
3. Red Sox: .568
4. Braves: .547
(In each matchup below, I’m listing the home team second like we do on a scoreboard.)
OK, on to the rankings!
It’s not much of a surprise to see this atop the list, is it? Joe Kelly just stood up and ran through a brick wall the exact moment he clicked on this story. An Astros-Dodgers World Series would be an incredible story, featuring two teams that met in the World Series just four years ago -- a Fall Classic won by Houston but tainted by the discovery of illegal sign-stealing by members of that team.
Sure, this World Series would bring up the unpleasantness of the whole Astros scandal in a way that maybe not everyone would love having front and center on the sport’s largest stage, but it is undeniable that the scandal, and the rivalry (and often quite-legitimate rancor) between the two teams that result from it, was a crossover media event: Even your football fans were talking about it. The Astros would see this as a chance to vindicate their approach and prove that they can win a championship without the “banging scheme.” The Dodgers would see it as a chance to bury the Astros once and for all and get their long-awaited revenge. Every second of it would be unmissable in every possible way.
2. Red Sox-Dodgers
No offense to the Braves here, but the Dodgers -- along with their rivalry against the Giants -- have been one of the biggest stories in baseball all season, so it’s fitting that the two most compelling World Series matchups would involve them. These two teams met in the World Series just three years ago, with the Red Sox victorious in five games and Game 3 being the longest game in World Series history (and L.A.’s only win).
The obvious top storyline would be Mookie Betts going up against the team who traded him prior to the 2020 season, and, for that matter, Alex Verdugo trying to show the Dodgers what they lost getting rid of him. Betts has yet to play at Fenway Park since the trade: Even at the World Series, it’s tough to imagine him not getting an ovation. Also: Albert Pujols would get to play at Fenway Park in the World Series for the first time in 17 years; Red Sox fans may have some vague recollection of how that series turned out. These are two signature baseball franchises, playing in iconic stadiums, in a way they have never faced each other before. It’d be baseball at its finest.
3. Braves-Red Sox
Surprisingly, considering the history of these two teams -- the Red Sox have been to the World Series 13 times, the Braves nine -- they have never met in the World Series. There aren’t a lot of crossover players on either roster, either. They did meet four times this season, with the Red Sox winning three of them, the most exciting of which was a June 16 game in Atlanta where Christian Arroyo hit a seventh-inning grand slam to give the Sox a lead they would not relinquish.
This would be a fun battle between two storied franchises, and it’d be fun to watch Freddie Freeman try to wrap homers around the Pesky Pole and bounce doubles off the Monster. Perhaps for one game, Atlanta could wear the Boston Braves throwbacks?
The Astros and Braves actually have a deep postseason history, playing each other five times in eight years from 1997-2005. That was when the Astros were in the National League, of course.
In 2004, the Astros went into Turner Field and rode Roy Oswalt in Game 5 -- along with two homers from Carlos Beltran and one from Jeff Bagwell -- to a 12-3 win to clinch the series. (They’d lose to the Cardinals in seven in the NLCS.)
A year later, the Astros famously beat the Braves in an 18-inning affair in Game 4 of the NLDS, when Chris Burke hit a walk-off homer.
A Braves-Astros series would also feature Charlie Morton going against the team he threw the final out for in the 2017 World Series.
Again: Every one of these matchups would be a blast. And we’re so close to finding out which one we get.