Image credit: (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
BOSTON—When the Red Sox trace back how they got the 2018 World Series, many critical moments stand out. Drafting Andrew Benintendi in 2015. Trading for Chris Sale in 2016. Signing J.D. Martinez as a free agent in 2018.
All those moves and more were crucial, without which the Red Sox would not be preparing to host Game One of the Fall Classic at Fenway Park.
But the process started well before that, in a room with scouts and front office officials debating the professional merits of teenagers and college kids. Specifically, it started with the 2011 draft.
All four would rise through Boston’s system together. All four would reach the majors in relative proximity to each other. And all would grow to play a critical role in their own way in the Red Sox’s run to the World Series, cementing Boston’s 2011 draft haul as one of the best this decade.
“I think we talked about this in 2015 with Kansas City,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said prior to Game One. “They all came up together. They won a lot in the minor leagues and they knew each other. It really helps in the clubhouse.”
Betts, Bradley, Barnes and Swihart all mixed playing with one another at various stops up the ladder, but the first time all four played for the same minor league team in the same year was at Triple-A Pawtucket in 2014.
Another future big leaguer from that Red Sox 2011 draft—ninth-rounder Travis Shaw—was on that Pawtucket team too.
In a sign of things to come, Pawtucket won International League championship in 2014, with that group helping lead the way.
“For them to come up together, I bet there were some great conversations in A-ball, eight-hour trips, about playing together in the World Series and winning the championship for the city and the Boston Red Sox,” Cora said. “Now they have the chance.”
FLASHBACK TO GOLD
Hyun Jin-Ryu was left off the Dodgers World Series roster last year. That means his scheduled Game Two start will be his first start in a championship round at any level since he pitched South Korea to gold at the 2008 Olympics.
Ryu was the star of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He went 2-0, 1.14 in the tournament, including pitching 8.1 innings in the stunning 3-2 upset win over Cuba in the gold-medal game.
He’s pitched in the postseason for the Dodgers since, but never in a final round.
“Obviously there are some differences,” Ryu said. “The most drastic difference between the two is (in) the Olympics it all came down to that last game to win it all. But obviously the World Series you have to win the first four out of the seven. So with that difference in mind, I think it’s different. It’s really hard to say that such experience would help me, because we’re talking about two different competitions and events.”
Ryu followed the Olympics with another star turn at the 2009 World Baseball Classic, but he did not start the gold-medal game against Japan. That honor went to Jung Keun Bong, although Ryu did enter as a reliever in the eighth and pitched a scoreless 2/3 of an inning in South Korea’s 10-inning loss.
Price, the No. 1 overall pick out of Vanderbilt in 2007, watched closely as Buehler rose to prominence at the school and started the opening game of the 2014 College World Series finals as a sophomore.
The two progressively forged a relationship bound by their common love for their alma mater. Now, they find themselves on opposite sides in the World Series.
“I know Walker very well. We keep in contact,” Price said. “For him to pitch with the (elbow) injury that he did his junior year at Vandy and to still be drafted in the first round, and to be able to have surgery and to come back and to throw the baseball the way that he has, that speaks volumes of Walker’s work ethic.
“I see his highlights on TV and stream him a message about that. But I’m happy for him. I’m very happy.”
Of course, that happiness has its limits.
“Obviously only one of us is going to win a World Series,” Price said. “Hopefully it goes to the elder of the Vandy guys.”
FACTS AND FIGURES
The meeting of two of baseball’s most historic franchises from opposite coasts naturally yields some interesting historical nuggets. Some of the best:
- This is the first World Series meeting between the franchises since 1916, when the Dodgers were the Brooklyn Robins. The Red Sox won that series four games to one, headlined by 21-year-old lefthander Babe Ruth pitching a 14-inning complete game victory in Game Two.
- The 2,588 miles between Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium is the longest distance ever between any two venues of World Series opponents. The previous longest was the 2,568 miles between the Yankees (Yankee Stadium) and Giants (Candlestick Park) home parks in 1962.
- The World Series will be played at the oldest active MLB ballpark (Fenway, 1912) and third-oldest (Dodger, 1962). Wrigley Field (1914) is the second-oldest park.