LOS ANGELES -- Legends are made in October.For every great player with a World Series ring, there are hundreds who never experienced the thrill of being part of the last team standing. Many Hall of Famers ended their careers without winning it all, leaving a championship-sized hole on their lengthy
LOS ANGELES -- Legends are made in October.
For every great player with a World Series ring, there are hundreds who never experienced the thrill of being part of the last team standing. Many Hall of Famers ended their careers without winning it all, leaving a championship-sized hole on their lengthy list of accomplishments.
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At some point in the next 10 days, 25 players will swarm on the mound or at the plate, completing a journey that began back in February and has taken them all the way into late October. A manager and his coaching staff will hug, a general manager will feel the jubilation of having put together a championship club, while thousands of that team's fans will feel like they were a part of the ride -- because they were.
Every person involved with both the Dodgers and Astros has something at stake during this World Series presented by YouTube TV, but here are 10 who stand out among the rest.
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With three National League Cy Young Awards and one NL MVP Award to his credit, Kershaw is undoubtedly the most accomplished pitcher of his generation. Things haven't always been so good for him in October, however; he's 6-7 with a 4.40 ERA in 21 career playoff appearances, all six of his postseasons ending in the same fashion: with a Dodgers loss.
Kershaw has been solid this postseason (2-0, 3.63 ERA in three starts), but he was extremely emotional after the Dodgers clinched the pennant against the Cubs. Adding that elusive World Series title to his resume -- while erasing his reputation as a less-than-clutch postseason performer -- would move Kershaw into the conversation of the greatest pitchers the game has ever seen.
"Clayton is very unselfish, very driven as we all know," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "For him, to win a championship for the only team he's known, I think that's the final piece for him."
The 40-year-old Beltran is nearing the end of his career, and despite posting numbers over the past two decades that could land him in the Hall of Fame, a championship ring has been the missing piece for the veteran.
Beltran reached the World Series with the 2013 Cardinals, falling to the Red Sox. He signed with the Yankees the following offseason, hoping to get back to the Fall Classic, then was traded to the Rangers last summer, falling short once again.
When he signed with the Astros last offseason, it was with one goal in mind. Beltran and his teammates are now four wins from that goal.
"To be at this position where I am in my career, and to have the opportunity to go to the World Series once again, it's a blessing," Beltran said Saturday night.
Presented with a chance to waive his no-trade clause and join the Astros on Aug. 31, Verlander agonized over the idea of leaving Detroit, the only baseball home he had known. In the end, the chance to join a talented team that had a legitimate shot to win it all was enough to convince him to make the move.
He responded with a 5-0 record and 1.06 ERA in five September starts, then went 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA through two rounds of the postseason, including an MVP performance in two starts against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World.
Verlander went to two World Series with Detroit, but he didn't pitch particularly well either time. Like Kershaw, the former Cy Young and MVP winner would love to add a championship to what has already been a legendary career.
The three-time AL batting champion had his finest season in 2017, one that could result in an AL MVP Award for the 27-year-old. But nothing would be sweeter for Altuve -- who endured three consecutive 100-loss seasons from 2011-13 to start his career -- than helping bring the Astros their first World Series title.
"Since Day 1 in Spring Training when I got to the clubhouse and I sat around, I saw Carlos Beltran and I saw Brian McCann," Altuve said Saturday night. "We didn't have Verlander by that time, but it was a lot of talent with a couple veteran players, and we did it. I don't know what to say right now. I'm nervous, but I'm happy."
The Astros' general manager knew his job would be difficult when he took over after the 2011 season, and while Luhnow took a lot of grief during the rebuilding process, he stuck to his beliefs, trusting the process all along the way.
Luhnow knew the losing years -- and the Astros lost plenty of games during his first three seasons -- would provide the opportunity to make Houston an annual contender. Three years later, the analytically inclined Luhnow celebrated the Astros' second trip to the World Series, leaving his team four wins from its first championship and every executive around the Majors wondering how a former businessman built a powerhouse that figures to be a force for years to come.
"He makes good decisions; he's done a great job," Astros owner Jim Crane said after his team clinched the AL pennant. "He came in here with a plan when I hired him, and he's pretty much been on the money and exceeded the plan."
Only two minorities have ever guided a team to a World Series title from the manager's office: Cito Gaston of the 1992-93 Blue Jays and Ozzie Guillen of the 2005 White Sox.
Roberts, who is best remembered for stealing a huge base for the Red Sox against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, has an opportunity to add his name to that exclusive list this week.
"It would definitely be great," said Dodgers outfielder Curtis Granderson. "You want to start to see diversity and inclusion in everything. ... You look at where the players come from, I think we're represented by 30 countries at this point in time."
Keuchel struggled during his first two seasons (2012-13), one of the many reasons the Astros lost 100-plus games each year. But as he began to turn his career around, his team's fortunes began to mirror that performance.
The 2015 season saw Keuchel win the AL Cy Young, helping lead the Astros to a postseason berth and a shutout win for the lefty in the AL Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium. This year, Keuchel posted another brilliant season, and thanks to two strong starts in his three postseason outings, he'll make his World Series debut in Game 1.
"You cherish every moment; I honestly didn't know after the 2012-13 seasons if I'd ever be a part of something like this," Keuchel said. "There's not a lot of us left from those years, but the guys who are left showed some grit, showed some determination."
Turner's career took him through the Reds, Orioles and Mets organizations before he landed with the Dodgers in 2014, a stop many assumed would just be the latest for the journeyman infielder.
But Turner, a Southern California native, found a baseball home in Los Angeles, becoming one of the primary performers on a Dodgers team that has been to the postseason in all four of his seasons with the club.
"You see his path, utility [player], trying to survive from Cincinnati to Baltimore to the Mets, a guy who played once a week, playing against left-handers to being an All-Star, signing a multiyear contract and being the glue to our ballclub, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone that had that similar path," Roberts said. "JT, he's one of those guys that deserves everything that comes his way."
Darvish was the biggest name moved at the July 31 Trade Deadline, adding an All-Star arm to an already superb Dodgers rotation. Darvish posted a 3.44 ERA in nine starts with Los Angeles, saving his best for October. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in two postseason starts, striking out 14 and walking just one over 11 1/3 innings.
Just as he dominated headlines this summer, Darvish's name will be a popular one in the weeks ahead as the top pitcher available on the free-agent market. A big performance in the World Series would make him even more attractive to teams looking to add an ace to the top of their rotation.
McCann was part of the Yankees' 2014 spending spree, signing a five-year, $85 million pact. With the addition of free agents Beltran, Masahiro Tanaka and Jacoby Ellsbury to go along with McCann, expectations in the Bronx were enormous.
It didn't pan out the way McCann and the Yankees had hoped, and when New York approached the catcher about waiving his no-trade clause last offseason -- the Yankees planned to move forward with Gary Sanchez as their catcher, relegating McCann to DH duties -- he leaped at the chance to join the Astros team that had eliminated the Yankees in the 2015 Wild Card Game.
McCann has been impactful on his young teammates on and off the field, and after a slow start to the postseason, he delivered some key hits as the Astros ousted the Yankees from the ALCS. His decision to approve the trade to Houston has paid off, and with four wins over the Dodgers, he would fulfill a goal he's had his entire career: World Series champion.
"You have to put the time in; you have to interact, you have to hang out, you have to truly care," McCann said Saturday. "You have to come together as a collective unit and really want it. What I witnessed this year is 25 guys showing up on a daily basis trying to win that game, that day."
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.