The 2016 World Series will go down in history as one of the most incredible matchups of all time. The Chicago Cubs look to reverse the curse and end a 108-year World Series drought. Though not as long, the Cleveland Indians will attempt to end their own drought, a 68-year one to be exact. There are a number of reasons that make this series so special and so historic, but naturally I’m going to make it about the Red Sox. This Cubs Indians matchup gives us a total of nine former Red Sox players and front office guys. Cleveland presents us with Mike Napoli, Coco Crisp, Andrew Miller, and Terry Francona. Chicago adds to that with Theo Epstein, David Ross, Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester and John Lackey, providing me with both an exciting and heartbreaking World Series. With all the former Sox guys competing for a ring, I started thinking about which one of them I’d most want back and who would make the biggest impact on the current team. You could make a case for taking back almost any one of the guys, but some more than others. So let’s break down who’s doing what, and who’d be most valuable to the Sox now.
At this moment, you’d have to think anyone would take Miller back in a hot second. If I’m stepping up to the plate in the World Series, there’s only one thing I’d want to see staring me down less than Andrew Miller, and that would be death. Miller has faced 78 batters in his postseason career, striking out 34 and allowing zero runs. Zero. That’s good right? If you’re not convinced, here’s some more proof that Miller is a monster. In twelve bases loaded situations, he’s allowed just one run. And the scariest part is how he’s only speeding up. Prior to Game 1 of the WS, the highest number of batters he had faced in a single night was eight. In Game 1 he faced ten, striking out three. Really makes you want to return to the dugout if you’re a Cleveland batter, and hit your head against the wall if you’re a Sox fan.
Mike Napoli embodied the spirt of the beard and most importantly the spirit of the 2013 Boston Red Sox. His three years in Boston were in no way stellar years for Nap, and his various injuries and sleep apnea could be to blame. Nap’s biggest contribution to the 2013 ring was his solo homer off Justin Verlander in Game 3 of the ALCS. Well that and the amount of #content he provided with his shirtless fireball guzzling pictures. The Party at Napoli’s has continued in Cleveland, where Nap was hitting .239 in the regular season, with a career high 34 homeruns. As much as I love him, Napoli wouldn’t be my first pick to return to Boston.
Speaking of the 2013 Red Sox, let’s talk about Jon Lester. After beating cancer in 2007, Lester went on to pitch 5 2/3 shutout innings in Game 4 of the World Series and lead the Sox to a ring. Fast forward to 2013, Lester pitched the Sox to two victories in Game 1 and Game 5 of the World Series. Today, Lester has pitched 26.2 postseason innings for the Cubs, with 21 strikeouts.
As much as we’d all want Lester back, he still wouldn’t be my first pick out of the 2016 WS Red Sox alum. Starting with the ALDS, I’ve become more and more confident every day that the Boston Red Sox need Terry Francona back. Admittedly, about 80% of my reasoning for bringing Tito back is to see him and Don Orsillo wrestle in the dugout again. The other 20 (or so) percent is obvious. The Indians were counted out of the postseason from day one by everyone, me included. Francona then lead the Indians to sweep the Red Sox as underdogs, and then nearly sweep the Blue Jays just days later. Must have been a fluke though, wait till they face a young Chicago team with ace pitching all around. Nope. Game 1 of the World Series, Indians smoke the Cubs 6-0.
Baseball aside, Tito’s an incredible person. Cracking jokes as his starting pitcher is taken out of a playoff game for dripping blood on the mound, losing teeth in the dugout and visiting Canadian dentist office’s at 1 am, and flipping the bird to NESN cameras. He’s proven himself as an all-time great manager, and his personality is unbeatable. We got one good phrase from Farrell at the end of the season, meanwhile Tito does something laugh out loud funny every game of the playoffs. Francona was the third Red Sox manager to reach 500 wins, and finished his Boston career with a 744-552 record, which was just second to Joe Cronin and first in winning percentage among managers of 750 or more games. Great, let’s get rid of him. That was Boston’s logic, as they declined his option in 2012 and Sox fans watched from the window as Tito went over to Cleveland, where he’s led the Indians to four consecutive winning seasons, and now a shot at the World Series (which, by the way, Tito is undefeated in).
And then there’s Theo Epstein. As the youngest GM in in MLB history, Epstein played a heavy role in snapping Boston’s curse, bringing in guys such as Curt Schilling and Kevin Millar who were key players in that 2004 World Series. Not to mention a good chunk of the current Sox starting roster are all credited to Theo. David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, and Travis Shaw-all Theo.
So in a perfect world, which former Boston guy would benefit us most if they could return? For me it’s a toss-up between Epstein and Tito, but luckily it’s a perfect world so I’m bringing both of them back, and taking Napoli, Lester, and Miller while I’m at it.