Mr. Stats Notes: The Bryce Harper/Juan Soto matchup

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On Sunday morning, the Philadelphia Phillies play at Washington in a game that can be streamed on Peacock starting at 12pm ET. It’s a great chance to check in on two of the premiere talents in the game, Bryce Harper and Juan Soto.

Harper is the reigning National League MVP, coming off a season that he slugged .615 and had an OPS of 1.044.

Harper’s slugging, OPS, and OPS+ is a touch higher this year. Still not 30 years old, his career .920 OPS and OPS+ of 144 puts him in the stratosphere of players. Entering Thursday, Harper is batting .364/.444/.675 with 6 HR, 19 RBI over his past 20 games.  And this weekend, Bryce will bat against a Washington pitching staff that has allowed the most home runs in baseball.

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While his offensive production is still there, he has been limited to being a designated hitter due to his strained right elbow. To say the Phillies need him in the outfield is an understatement.

There’s one thing missing from Bryce’s resume. He hasn’t played in the postseason since joining the Phillies in 2019. Harper has played in four postseason series, and his teams are 0-4.

Worse, the team he left — the Nationals — won the World Series in 2019, the first season after his departure.

One of the main reasons Washington won the World Series was the play of then 20-years old Juan Soto. Soto was second in 2018 in the Rookie of the Year voting to Ronald Acuna, Jr. Soto finished second in the N.L. MVP voting last year to his former teammate Harper.

Juan Soto’s production has fallen this year, and for a good reason. There is absolutely no reason to pitch to him, and let him beat you. He leads the majors in walks. By a lot.  Entering Thursday, Soto had been walked 52 times (pace of 130).  The Nationals’ Kyle Schwarber is second in MLB with 40 walks.

Soto remained out of the lineup for the second game in a row on June 15 after he banged his right knee on the corner of the dugout bench on June 13. What a frustrating season.

RELATED: 2022 MLB on Peacock schedule: How to watch, live stream Sunday morning baseball games online

Maybe the Washington Nationals figure out how to surround Soto with talent, and find the resources to keep him long-term. It is hard to forget how important he was to the 2019 championship. In the World Series against Houston, Soto batted .333 (9-27 AB) with 3 HR, 7 RBI, a .741 SLG and 1.178 OPS.  He had 20 total bases in the seven games. His fifth inning homer off Justin Verlander put the Nats on top in Game 6. He got on base three times in Game 7.

Bryce Harper has never appeared in a World Series. He has never appeared in a Championship Series. Before the 2019 season, he signed a whopping 13-year, $330 million dollar contract. At signing, it was the most lucrative contract in baseball history.

While Harper is committed to Philadelphia for the rest of the decade, Soto avoided arbitration by signing a $17.1 million dollar contract that takes him through 2022.

Maybe it will be Soto that will sign the most lucrative contract in baseball history. For now, the two old teammates will see each other this weekend in D.C.

It must be frustrating for both to see division rival Atlanta win the 2021 World Series. It must be so frustrating to see the Mets jump out on top in 2022 and have the resources to spend whatever it takes to win.

Both are marvelous talents, and they’ll be on display Sunday. And the Phillies have won 11 of 13 after Wednesday afternoon’s victory over the Marlins. Fangraphs has the Fightin Phils’ chances of making the playoffs at slightly more than 35%.

And the Phillies even have a 2.5% chance of winning the World Series.

It would be nice to see Bryce on the biggest of stages. It seems like he’s been around forever.

It’s Father’s Day baseball…and we’re giving you…a tie.

One player averages a HR every 18.16 at-bats for his career. The other player averages a HR every 17.25 at-bats.

One player has a career OPS+ of 140.  The other player has an OPS+ for his career of 137.

The first player is Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero.  The second player is his son, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

When Vlad Jr. finishes his career, there is no reason to think his offensive numbers will look much different than his dad’s, who was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018 in his second year of eligibility.

A tie for Father’s Day.

And what a tie!

RELATED: Father’s Day Gifts 2022: Best ideas for the Sports Fan Dad from Golf to Electronics

Vladimir, the father, was born February 9, 1975 in Nizao, Dominican Republic, where Guerrero played baseball barefoot as a youth, using a stick for a bat and lemons wrapped in rags for balls. There was no roof over his head for awhile, literally, the result of a hurricane blowing the roof off his family’s small home, leaving seven family members sharing two beds in a tiny room.  According to Dan Le Batard’s 2002 feature article in ESPN: The Magazine, the family drank from puddles.

Vladimir, the son, was born March 16, 1999. At the time, the new father was establishing himself as one of the brightest stars in the game, albeit for a bad Expos team. Vlad would finish his Hall of Fame career in 2011, having earned more than $125 million dollars playing in the majors.

The father didn’t have enough money for a bat or ball. The son was born, figuratively, on third base.

Earlier this season, on April 13, Vlad had a signature game against the Yankees in New York.  He went 4-4 AB, including three home runs and a double in a 6-4 victory.

Vlad Senior never did that to the Yankees. But oh boy, could he be a pain to the Bronx Bombers.

Vlad Senior played playoff games against the Yankees in 2005, 2009, and 2010. All he did in the 17 postseason games vs. New York was bat .324. He batted .333 in the Division Series in 2005 for the Angels that eliminated the Yankees. He knocked in 3 runs in the clinching Game 6 of the 2010 ALCS for the Rangers that eliminated the Yankees. He batted .370 (10-27 AB) with a HR and a .985 OPS in the 2009 ALCS, a series the Yankees won.

The Yankees once had to contend with Vladimir Guerrero, an unconventional five-tool player that was electrifying. And now, they have to face his son — in the same division.

RELATED: Manoah, Guerrero power Blue Jays to 11-1 rout of Orioles

When it’s all said and done, I’m not sure there will be much to differentiate between Vlad the father and Vlad the son.

A Father’s Day tie.

Look at the other great father/son combinations in MLB history. Usually, one is much better. On the Blue Jays, infielder Cavan Biggio is in his fourth season. No one would ever confuse the back of his baseball card with his father, Craig Biggio.

Bobby Bonds was a tremendous player (OPS+ 129), but not close to his son Barry (OPS+182).  Even if you discount (or throw out entirely) everything after 1998, Barry was far superior (OPS+ 164 through the 1998 season).

Ken Griffey was a very, very good player, but not close to his son Ken Griffey Jr., along with Barry Bonds the best player in the 1990s.

Dante Bichette had a very good career, which might have been even better if not for injuries.  In 1995, he finished second in the MVP vote to Barry Larkin. Bichette slugged .630 and hit 40 HR that season.  Of course, 31 of the 40 homers came in Coors Field. That season, Dante slugged .755 at home with a 1.153 OPS and slugged .473 with an OPS of .802 on the road. Last year, the Jays’ shortstop Bo Bichette hit 29 home runs. Bo’s power is down this year, and it seems unlikely that he’ll ever hit 40 in a season.

The only father/son combination that each had a 40+ HR season in their career besides the Guerrero’s were the Fielders. Cecil Fielder and Prince Fielder each had a 50 HR season.

Prince Fielder had 50 HR in 2007. Cecil had 51 HR in 1990.

Toronto had a winning April (14-8), a winning May (14-12), and a winning June so far (9-5).  They may not catch the Yankees for the division, but they’ll almost assuredly be a playoff team.

And if the Yankees have to contend with Vladimir Guerrero again in the postseason — this time, the son — then look out New York.

Not all major league players have fathers that played in the big leagues. Obviously, most don’t.  The Phillies’ shortstop Didi Greorius grew up in Curacao. Both his older brother, Johnny, and his father played baseball for the Curacao National Team.

Some fathers don’t play baseball, but pass on their love for the game. The Phillies Rhys Hoskins is from Sacramento, and his father Paul grew up a huge Willie Mays fan.

Not every man or woman working in baseball has a father that is skilled or passionate about the game.  My own dad, Lenny Kalb, is a man of many, varied interests, but baseball is not one of them. He did think it was important to introduce me to the game at a young age. And when he took me to my first game — at Dodger Stadium — probably in the summer of 1970 — it was soon after he and my mom took my siblings and I to Disneyland for the first time. Entering the gates of Dodger Stadium, I had one thought that has stayed with me for all these years. “Why on earth do they call Disneyland the ‘Magic Kingdom.’

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

How to watch the Philadelphia Phillies vs Washington Nationals on Peacock

  • When: Sunday, June 19
  • Where: Nationals Park in Washington D.C.
  • Time: 12:00 p.m ET (live coverage begins at 11:30)
  • Live Stream: Watch live on Peacock

Father’s Day is here and NBC Sports has you covered with gift ideas for this year

On Aaron Judge and 62: As sports evolve, no two records are alike

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A decade ago, I wrote a story for Sports Illustrated about my great uncle, a former Major League Baseball player and member of the Hall of Fame: Johnny Evers, of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance fame. The story was transformative for me in many ways, unlocking a past I had only understood enough to brag about, which is to say hardly at all. The work still lives with me. But here is a tangential point: In the course of researching and reporting the story, I spent time in Cooperstown at the Hall of Fame, a truly magical place (whether or not you have an enshrined relative you never met, but especially if you do). Every museum is a time machine if you allow it to be, and I very much did. And do. Always.

I was given access to the Hall’s research area, a spellbinding backroom full of what seemed like 100 times the material on display to the public. There was a treasure trove relating to my uncle, who was born in 1881, played in the big leagues from 1902-’17, participated in five World Series and most famously, was immortalized in a poem that outlives him significantly. Among the items preserved was a pair of game-worn baseball spikes of indeterminate size, packed carefully in a box. The shoes were made of crusty leather atop a hard sole, with long (scary) metal spikes attached. They looked like perhaps a primitive gardening tool, but certainly not athletic footwear. It was impossible to look at them and not think: Somebody played major league baseball in these things?

Likewise, there were many pictures of my uncle in full uniform, with a tiny mitt stuffed over the fingers of his left hand, barely enlarging it – a wardrobe item designed only marginally to enhance the fielder’s ability to catch balls, and more practically to protect his hand should any catching occur. Again, the thought: Somebody played major league baseball using this glove?

These images returned to conscious thought this week in the roiling aftermath of Aaron Judge’s 62nd home run Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas. Not roiling as to the significance of the moment, or its emotional purity – 62 home runs in a single MLB season is a milestone deserving of sanctity and joy and Judge is a manifestly great – dare one say Ruthian? – baseball player. As ever when it comes to cherished sports (or uncherished sports records, but single season home runs is just about as cherished as it gets), the unvarnished celebration of this moment abated quickly and attention was turned aggressively to comparing it to the marks it surpassed, and those that it did not.

This led to SEO-on-steroids headlines and posts that sucked in some combination of the names Judge, Maris, McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, and Ruth (and even a little Mantle, for good measure) and launched impassioned discussion as to the proper framing of Judge’s record. The New York Times’s Scott Miller wrote a good story describing the issues in this baseball-centric discussion, which are familiar to most fans of a certain age, or possibly many ages. (But it all goes far beyond baseball).

In short: 95 years ago in 1927, Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in a season, a record that stood for 34 years, until surpassed by Roger Maris in 1961. Maris, less popular than his teammate, Mickey Mantle, and thus deemed less worthy by some, hit his No. 61 in the 162nd game of the season, whereas Ruth hit his 60 homers in a 154-game season, prompting baseball commissioner Ford Frick to suggest a “distinctive mark” in the record book to highlight that difference (which was co-opted to mean an “asterisk,” even though there was never an actual asterisk on the books). In 1998, Mark McGwire (70) and Sammy Sosa (66) each shattered Maris’s record and hold five of the top six totals in history, but their dinger spree took place during the so-called steroid era, and before MLB began testing for PEDs. As did Barry Bonds’s, including his all-time record of 73, in 2001. One more complicating factor: Ruth did his work in a segregated sport; baseball was all-white until Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers in 1947, and mostly white for many years after that.

Hence: The number of the real single-season home run record (or for that matter, the career record for homers and many other achievements) comes with room for miles of wiggling and volumes of discussion, with little hope for consensus. There are simply too many moving parts, too much change across time, too little commonality that connects performance from different eras (and sometimes, we now understand, an “era” can be as little as a couple decades).

This is the problem – or maybe it’s not a problem; stay with me – with all sports records. A “record,” exists to perform two fundamental tasks: One, to quantify performance. No problem there. Two, to compare one performance to other performances, both in the present and, historically. Problem. And it’s the word historically that’s being asked to do far too much work in this universe. The paradox is this: As fans and other chroniclers of sports, we lust after means to compare excellence (or the lack thereof) among generations, but the evolution of sports (and humans, not always ethically) makes that almost impossible. A record is a record only in the precise instance, and under the precise historical conditions under which it is achieved. Every future record is set in a different world, altered by the games, the players, and the existence of the previous record itself.

Back to my Uncle Johnny. His place in the Hall of Fame has been hotly debated over the years by people who debate such things (and bless them), and fairly so. There’s little doubt he was an excellent player for his time. But the game he played would be scarcely recognizable as baseball to modern fans, beyond the geometry of the playing field itself (and that, not entirely). I wrote this in 2012:

There are practical differences between major league baseball in the first two decades of the 20th century and the game as it is played today. All of the players were white (Uncle Johnny was born 16 years after the abolition of slavery.) Fielders wore tiny gloves, barely larger than modern ski mittens. The fields were much more uneven than today’s. The period from 1900 (or earlier) to approximately 1919 was called the Dead Ball era for good reason: Baseballs were kept in play, and over the course of games they were beaten to a pulp.”

Whatever my uncle accomplished, he accomplished within the norms of his time, a very different time. He is one small, and to me, very personal example. I would like to see Francisco Lindor field ground balls in the hole with my uncle’s glove, which is very much not Lindor’s problem and not a valid basis for evaluating his work. Keepers of the game over time have developed analytic means to create useful comparison by encasing players within their own era. This is good, but when it comes to records, imperfect. Because records are best when unencumbered by messy complexity. We just want to know: Bonds or Judge?

This is not remotely limited to baseball. Very much the opposite: It’s everywhere in sports.

At the 1964 Summer Olympics, Bob Hayes of the United States won the 100 meters in an official handheld time of 10 seconds flat, extrapolated by statisticians to an electronic time of 10.06 seconds, a world record at the time. Notably, Hayes ran his race in lane one at the Olympic Stadium, assigned by random draw, which is outrageous, but hewed to norms of the time. The track was made from dirt and cinders and Hayes’s lane had been raked just before the final, after it was rutted by competitors in the 20-kilometer walk. Four years later in Mexico City, Jim Hines of the U.S. ran 9.95 on an all-weather track, a record that stood for 28 years.

The 100-meter world record is now held by Usain Bolt, who ran 9.58 seconds at the 2009 World Championships. But the differences between Hayes’s 1964 world record and Bolt’s are myriad and significant: The running surface, the runners’ spikes, training methods, and even their ages. Hayes was 21 years old, concurrently a soon-to-be professional football player who would never run another 100-meter race of significance. Bolt was a 23, a full-time track and field athlete who would become fabulously wealthy over the course of a career that lasted another decade.

(Track and field is nearly as protective of its numbers as baseball: A few years ago I was talking – on background — with an Olympic sprinter about performances and steroids and noted that Ben Johnson had once run 9.79 seconds to win the 1998 Olympic 100 meters, but of course was disqualified when he tested positive for a banned steroid. I suggested that we don’t really know Ben’s personal best. The sprinter said, “Ben’s PR is 9.79. He ran that time.” The subtext is that Johnson may have been running against others with pharmaceutical assistance, much like Lance Armstrong was cycling against opponents are dirty as he was, just not as a good on the drugs. This stuff gets complicated. In sum: If you want to say that Bolt was faster than Hayes because of their difference in their times, that’s fine, and most likely true, but also perilously simplistic. What shoe technology has done to track and marathoning is far more extreme).

Football is less protective of its records than baseball, and more attached to rings and spectacle. But it’s not as if records are cast aside in the NFL. Just last weekend, Aaron Rodgers was celebrated for throwing his 500th career touchdown pass, a category not entirely dissimilar to home runs in baseball. Long balls of a different type. Only five quarterbacks have thrown 500 touchdown passes: Tom Brady (716), Drew Brees (608), Peyton Manning (579), Brett Favre (552), and Rodgers; the longest-retired is Favre, in 2010.

The record had previously been held by Fran Tarkenton (353, retired in 1978), Johnny Unitas (297, retired in 1973) and Y.A. Tittle (246, retired in 1964). But passing records in the NFL have been dramatically neutered by changes in the composition of gameplay. The modern game is significantly tilted to benefit passing offense, with rules implemented over time that empower every entity of the pass game, from quarterbacks (can’t hit them) to receivers (can’t jam them for long) to linemen (they can hold). Twenty-four of the top 25 single-season passing yardage totals have all been achieved since 2007, the only exception being Dan Marino in 1984, a 5,084-yard season that looks more impressive with every flip of the calendar.

But the larger point is that passing records are almost meaningless without significant context. (Rushing records are the opposite, affected by the same shift to passing: Only one active player, Adrian Peterson — technically active, but has not played a down in 2022 — is among the NFL’s top 50 career rushing leaders. Only Peterson, Derrick Henry, and Jonathan Taylor are among the top 25 single-season totals).

Basketball, meanwhile, has undergone steady gameplay progression from lane-widening to shot clocks to the introduction of the three-point line and, foundationally beneath all of that, inexorably improving shooting inefficiency. Yet the hypothetical that seems to arise most often is how records – college or professional — might have been affected if the three-point field goal had been in use during [name the player’s, most often Pete Maravich’s] career. But this is specious, too, because we can’t simply go back, study film, and count imaginary three-pointers, because the presence of the line alters the geometry and strategy of the game. A modern game, dictated by half-court spacing, ball movement and matchups, is wildly different from previous iterations of the sport.

Examples of misleading records are everywhere. Here is a small example from the skiing world: For many years, Austrian skier Annemarie Moser-Proell was the winningest woman in World Cup history, having won 62 races from 1969-’80. She was eventually passed by Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. who finished her career in 2019 with 82 victories. But Vonn’s total included 28 wins in the Super-G, a downhill-giant slalom that didn’t become part of the World Cup until 1983. Moser-Proell would have raced and won a lot of Super-Gs; in her 12-year career, the women’s World Cup averaged 24 races per year, whereas in Vonn’s it averaged 36, although Vonn was frequently injured and missed part of many seasons. None of this diminishes Vonn’s record, it just complicates it ever so slightly. (And Vonn’s record may be broken soon by Mikaela Shiffrin, who has 74 wins and nary an asterisk).

There is another way to consume these record-breaking realities: Records are not just an imprimatur that describes and elevates the record-breaker; they are also a patch of intellectual real estate on which sports’ history is preserved. If Aaron Judge’s record resurfaces Babe Ruth’s segregated past and the complexity of the steroid era, those are good things. If sprinting records preserve Bob Hayes’ memory in some way, that is worthwhile.

Records are incomplete, but not unimportant. They keep the time machine humming.

Mr. Stats’ Notes: Playoff picture starts to take focus

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This is the time of year that baseball turns from a marathon to a sprint. The Toronto Blue Jays are steps ahead of other teams for a spot in the postseason. Toronto finished one game out of the playoffs a year ago. Will this year be different?

On Sunday, in a game streamed on Peacock beginning at 12 pm eastern, the Blue Jays will play the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 2021, the Jays finished one game behind the Yankees for the Wild Card; and 39 games better than the division rival Orioles. Can Baltimore pass Toronto in the final weeks to nab the third and final Wild Card?

It’s time to sharpen up the predictions to pick out some potential October matchups and storylines.

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Wouldn’t it be something if…the Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series?

Well, not the 2022 Pirates.  But several former Pirates.

The 2017 Pirates team had Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon in their starting rotation. By 2018, Cole was gone but Clay Holmes was in the Bucs pen.  If the New York Yankees win the 2022 World Series, it will almost certainly be with heavy lifting being done by Cole, Taillon, and Holmes. Jameson (12-4, 3.97) leads the Yankees in wins. Cole is their ace. Holmes should be the closer.

And if the New York Mets win the World Series this year, they will lean heavily on two other Pirates from those Clint Hurdle-managed teams. The Mets don’t hurdle through the National League without Starling Marte and, to a lesser degree, Trevor Williams.  Marte is slashing .309/.359/.511 with 41 extra-base hits in 93 games since May 1, and for the season his bWAR is 3.7. Williams, meanwhile, has not allowed a run in a career-high 24.0 straight innings. Trevor has a 0.88 WHIP, a .190 opponent’s average and a .483 opponent’s OPS during that span.

Pittsburgh fans can find someone to root for even if the San Diego Padres win the World Series (Joe Musgrove), or the Atlanta Braves (Charlie Morton) repeat.

2022 MLB on Peacock schedule: How to watch, live stream Sunday morning baseball games online

Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals beat the Mets in the postseason (with Adam Wainwright getting the final outs)?

In 2006, the Mets won 97 games. The Cardinals won 83 games. But the two teams met in the NLCS, and in Game 7, the Cards had a 3-1 lead entering the bottom of the ninth. Rookie Adam Wainwright closed it out, slamming the door and eliminating the Mets by striking out Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded to end the game.

Wouldn’t it be something if all these years later, the Cardinals once again eliminated the heavily-favored Mets in the deciding game with Wainwright (9-9, 3.09) on the mound!

And if that happened…

Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals beat the Yankees in the World Series (with Jordan Montgomery eliminating his former team)?

Jordan Montgomery was traded from the Yankees to the Cardinals in exchange for Harrison Bader. Montgomery, in his first five starts for St. Louis, is 4-0, with 1.76 ERA and a WHIP of 0.815. How great would it be for Monty, who started the season as the Yankees’ No. 3 starter, eliminates New York.

Of course, October is a long way away. Perhaps Harrison Bader will run down a long blast by Nolan Arenado or Paul Goldschmidt to save a game for the Yankees.

I know what you’re thinking. Even if the Cardinals make the World Series, the Yankees may fall in the ALCS to the Astros. And if that were the case…

RELATED: Does Pujols deserve more respect?

Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals and Astros meet in the World Series, a rematch of the 2004 NLCS (when St. Louis won) and the 2005 NLCS (when Houston won)?

Albert Pujols was the MVP of the 2004 NLCS versus the Houston Astros. Albert batted .500 (14-28 AB) with 1.000 SLG, 1.563 OPS, and 4 HR in the series! Imagine if he has a surge in the very late stages of his career. In the 2005 series, he hit a ninth-inning blast off Brad Lidge that’s a signature highlight in a career full of them.

I know, the Cardinals are a long shot. The Mets have a much better chance of reaching the World Series. So:

Wouldn’t it be something if…Buck Showalter finally makes the World Series in his 21st year as a Major League manager…and loses the Series when the Yankees bring in a reliever named (check notes…) Zack Britton to slam the door on Buck’s Mets?

Well before Timmy Trumpet, Showalter once had an elite reliever in his stint with the Orioles, Zack Britton. In 2016, Britton saved 47 games in 47 save opportunities. The Orioles won 89 games in 2016, and played in the one-game Wild Card in Toronto. The elimination game was tied 2-2 after five innings. And six innings. And seven innings. And eight innings. And nine innings. And ten innings. Buck kept waiting for his Birds to score a run, to bring in the great Britton to close out the Jays. Trouble is, he never did get Zack into the game, and eventually Ubaldo Jimenez lost the game for Buck in the 11th.

Just a thought. If there’s an opportunity to get Edwin Diaz late in a tie game on the road, do it. If you go down, go down with your best.

RELATED: Rogers: Mets are ‘built for postseason’

Wouldn’t it be something if Buck Showalter finally makes it to the World Series against the Astros and Dusty Baker? One of them has to win, right? Please tell me someone has to win.

Is it even remotely possible that Dusty’s team blows another series lead? Baker shouldn’t have lost the 2002 World Series to the Angels, or the 2021 World Series to the Braves. He shouldn’t have blown a 2-0 series lead to the Giants in a 2012 best-of-five series. He shouldn’t have blown a three-run lead with five outs to go in Game 7 of a 2003 series to the Marlins. And only Dusty — poor Dusty — can have a lead after four innings of a winner-take-all game, bring in Max Scherzer — and still lose the game and series, as Dusty’s Nats did against the Cubs in 2017.

Wouldn’t it be something if the 2022 World Series were a rematch of the 2017 World Series? Only this time, Clayton Kershaw pitches on a level playing field, if you know what I mean. Man, it would be great to see Clayton start a game in Houston.

Remember what happened when Kershaw started Game 5 of the ’17 series in Houston? Clayton was unhittable in Game 1 of that series at Dodger Stadium; but in Game 5, Kershaw blew a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning, and a 7-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth.

I know Kershaw found redemption in the 2020 World Series in Arlington, Texas against Tampa Bay. But I want more. I want Clayton to shut down Altuve, Bregman, and Gurriel in Houston. In a World Series. Wouldn’t that be something?

And if the Astros defeated the Dodgers, I would feel so glad for Dusty Baker, who would have a World Series championship as a player for the Dodgers (in 1981) and as a manager against the Dodgers (41 years later, in 2022).

RELATED: Astros ace Justin Verlander placed on IL with calf injury

Wouldn’t it be something if someone other than the Astros or Yankees made the World Series?  Wouldn’t it be something if the Mariners defeated the Yankees?

Time for a little history lesson. In 2001, the Mariners had a historic regular season, winning 116 games. But they lost the ALCS to the Yankees in five games. In Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, with the Yankees blowing out Seattle 9-0 and eventually eliminating them 12-3, the Bronx crowd chanted “Over-rated” at the Mariners.

Classy, I know. But wouldn’t it be something if the tides were reversed a generation later, and the heavily-favored Yankees fell in Seattle, with the Pacific Northwest crowd serenading the Yankees with the “over-rated” chant?

Wouldn’t it be something if…Rays manager Kevin Cash refuses to take out a starting pitcher that is on his game?

Wouldn’t it be something if…Bryce Harper finally was part of a winning playoff series? Harper appeared been in four Division Series as a member of the Nationals, and lost all four. 

Wouldn’t it be something if…Francisco Lindor makes the World Series against his former Cleveland team and manager Terry Francona?

As the rock group Green Day sang, “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”