So we’ve reached Game 7.
It is amazing how much history changes upon the result of just one World Series Game 7. Imagine how things might have gone differently if some of the ones in the past had flipped. After 2011, the Rangers (and Adrián Beltré, and Josh Hamilton, and Nelson Cruz) win a championship, and Albert Pujols leaves St. Louis with a loss and Tony La Russa retires having lost another World Series (and perhaps known forever for a bullpen phone mishap). After '16, it’s Cleveland who has the breakthrough moment, vanquishing all those historic demons, and the Cubs are still in the wilderness, torturing their fans with Billy Goats. After '17, the Dodgers finally have their reward for all their years of success, and the Astros are still waiting for their first title. One game changes everything moving forward.
As we sit and stare at a wall while rocking back and forth in our chairs in anticipation all day waiting for Game 7, let’s take a look at what it would mean for each of these teams if they win … and what will be taken from them if they don’t.
IF THE ASTROS WIN …
1) Zack Greinke, Gerrit Cole and Michael Brantley will get their first ring, and Justin Verlander and José Altuve will keep adding to their Hall of Fame case.
Greinke, Cole and Brantley are the highest-profile veteran Astros who weren’t around in 2017, so mark their names off the list of “notable players who never won a title.” But it might matter even more than Verlander and Altuve have one more line on their Hall of Fame resume: “Two-time World Series champion.” (And probably won’t hurt Alex Bregman someday to have it on there, either.)
In fact, Greinke might have the most to gain in terms of a Cooperstown case if he pitches well in a Houston win tonight.
2) The Astros will be even more the model of the sport moving forward.
For better or for worse, the Astros’ efficiency-first, efficiency-always model took them from three straight 100-loss seasons from 2011-13 to what would be two World Series victories in three seasons from '17-19. The vanguard franchise from the decade before was the “Moneyball” Oakland A’s -- but, as Billy Beane famously put it, his “stuff” didn’t work in the playoffs. Houston’s model has dominated the regular season and the World Series. It will not go unnoticed moving forward.
3) We will have gone through a whole decade with six teams winning a World Series.
The Giants won three, the Red Sox and Astros won two and the Cardinals, Cubs and Royals all won one. When you are young and imagine cheering for your baseball teams, a reasonable hope is that your team might win a World Series once a decade or so. Twenty-four teams’ fans will be unable to say that. If you’re curious, here’s how many teams won in past decades:
4) AJ Hinch will join an exclusive club.
Only 23 managers have won multiple World Series: Hinch would be the 24th. Hinch would become the youngest to join the club, at the age of 45.
5) We’ll have to discuss the “D” word.
There will be a debate over the final few weeks of the year -- we’ll be writing about it as part of our Data Decade series -- about which team is the Team of the Decade. The Giants obviously have a good case, with their three World Series wins, as do the Red Sox, who won two. But the Astros, after their wretched (by design) start to the decade, have a strong case of their own, particularly with the influence they’ve had over the rest of baseball.
But what about “dynasty?” With a win tonight, the Astros will have won two titles in three seasons while dominating the regular season like few others. For example, the Astros’ regular season run differential over the past three seasons is +739. The Yankees, while winning three straight titles from 1998 through 2000, had a +535 mark in that span.
The Giants, despite winning three titles in five seasons, were never as dominant as these Astros, who are well set up to contend for the next few years. And even without another title in the near future, this might be what a dynasty looks like in the year 2019.
IF THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS WIN …
1) Bryce Harper might never hear the end of it.
We’ve made the argument that it’s totally unfair to point at Harper when enjoying the success of this year’s Nationals, but that doesn’t change the fact that everyone’s going to do it anyway. Harper was the leader of the Nats for nearly a decade, and then the year he leaves, they win the World Series? That’s going to keep coming up for a while.
2) Speaking of Hall of Fame cases …
Max Scherzer will finally have the World Series title that has eluded him, and considering he’s pitching Game 7, he’ll be a large part of the reason why. If there was any doubt about his Cooperstown credentials, that is enough to push him over the top. And look: Almost every player who has done what Juan Soto has done at his age has made the Hall. A World Series puts another notch in that column. But mostly: This guy.
3) One more team will be taken off the board of Teams That Have Never Won the World Series.
There aren’t many left. Looking at you, Tampa Bay, Texas, Seattle, San Diego, Colorado and Milwaukee. The Nationals’ win would emphasize their shortcomings but also give these teams hope for the future: It could happen to them, too.
4) World Series history will be made.
Famously, no World Series has had the road team win every game. If the Nats do it tonight, that factoid will cease to exist.
5) Washington fans will get more payback for its years of suffering.
Washington is a great American sports city, but its sports teams have given them nothing but pain to show for it -- at least until the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018 and the Mystics won the WNBA title a few weeks ago. The Nationals’ playoff missteps are legend at this point, and of course the football team and the Wizards are at the nadir of their sports. But if the Nats did it? Does the struggling Washington football team -- for generations the focal point of D.C. sports -- become an afterthought?