The baseball gods really outdid themselves this time.
Two of baseball’s most storied franchises will square off in the 2018 World Series, as the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers meet in the Fall Classic for the first time since 1916, back when the latter went by the Brooklyn Robins.
This series has it all: The backdrop of a long-standing Boston-L.A. sports rivalry, two of Major League Baseball’s largest payrolls, a pair of managers with deep connections on both clubs and a shortstop who’s on record absolutely bashing his current opponent.
And that’s not even going between the foul lines, where two very talented rosters should make for a thrilling series — featuring plenty of air travel.
Game 1 at Fenway Park begins Tuesday, so to get you in full World Series mode, here are the five most tantalizing storylines to watch in Red Sox-Dodgers.
1. A Hollywood-worthy manager matchup.
It’d be hard to find two managers anywhere who have more history with the teams they’re facing. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts played just one season in Boston but is a permanent Red Sox legend for “The Steal” in Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series. In fact, he’s so revered in these parts that some believe he should throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway ahead of Game 1 — even though he manages the other team.
Cora, meanwhile, was drafted by the Dodgers and spent his first seven seasons in L.A. from 1998 to 2004. This also is the first World Series featuring two minority managers, as Cora is Puerto Rican and Roberts was born to a Japanese mother and African-American father.
2. Rich Hill’s homecoming.
Hill should have no trouble finding his way to Fenway. The Dodgers left-hander was born and raised in Milton, Mass., just outside of Boston, and had two prior stints with the Red Sox which both were huge for his career. His three years in Boston from 2010 to 2012 helped him reinvent himself after a rocky start to his career, and his return in 2015 at age 35 helped put him back on the map as a legitimate MLB starter.
The 38-year-old also has a career 1.65 ERA in 25 career appearances at Fenway Park, so L.A. could call on Hill to start Game 2 in his old stomping grounds.
3. Manny Machado turns heel.
The Dodgers shortstop takes a lot of criticism, but he had plenty to send Boston’s way during the 2017 season while with the Baltimore Orioles. Seriously: Machado flat-out said, “I’ve lost my respect for that organization, that coaching staff and everyone over there” after Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes threw at him in retaliation for his take-out slide on Dustin Pedroia.
Sox fans don’t forget, so expect Machado to be booed very loudly right out of the gate in Boston.
4. A Gold Glover switching positions???
Games 1 and 2 should be awesome, but the real fun begins in Game 3, where the Red Sox have some lineup decisions to make in L.A. without a designated hitter. Cora hasn’t ruled out moving All-Star right fielder Mookie Betts to second base (where he played in the minors) to keep J.D. Martinez in the lineup.
Martinez should play every game at the National League park — likely in right field — so one lineup regular will have to sit, whether that be Jackie Bradley Jr. or an infielder.
5. Starting pitcher intrigue.
Game 1 presents a fascinating pitching matchup on both sides: Chris Sale back on the mound for the first time since a mystery stomach illness sent him to the hospital, and Clayton Kershaw pitching at Fenway for the first time in his brilliant career.
The fun doesn’t stop there, as David Price should have the chance to follow up on last week’s historic playoff performance, while Hill gets the opportunity to stick it to his old mates.
Thumbnail photo via Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports Images