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World Series preview: The many reasons to like the Arizona Diamondbacks-Texas Rangers matchup

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As soon as the final out in the bottom of the ninth was secured at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night, text messages from friends in Philly as well as notifications on social media began to flow.

“This is the worst World Series matchup ever, two mediocre teams.”

“MLB and Fox have to hate this pairing.”

“This will be the least watched World Series in history.”

“So boring.”

To all of that I say, “Hey, it’s playoff baseball. It’s always dramatic. And I’m genuinely intrigued by the Arizona Diamondbacks-Texas Rangers matchup.”

Really, I am.

And not just because I’m a self-proclaimed baseball nerd. There is plenty to like about this battle. In honor of the World Series, here are seven reasons to pay attention.

1. Because it’s been a while since these clubs made it to World Series

World Series
Credit: Paul Sancya/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

    The Arizona Diamondbacks reached and won the 2001 World Series in their fourth year of existence. That was their lone appearance in the October Classic. Since 2001, 11 National League teams have made the World Series, including one, the Houston Astros, who are now in the American League. So, it’s been a minute for the Snakes.

    Then there are the Rangers, who haven’t been to the World Series since making consecutive appearances in 2010 and 2011. They haven’t won since, um, ever. The Rangers began their existence as the Washington Senators in 1961. After 11 seasons – and only one winning campaign – they moved to Texas in 1972. They didn’t reach the playoffs until 1996, and their best chance to win the World Series was when they imploded in Game 6 in 2011 and ultimately lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.

    Both teams lost more than 100 games in 2021 and now one will be crowned 2023 champion. That’s a cool story.

    2. Because it’s time to get onto the Corbin Carroll train

    world series
    Credit: Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

    One complaint about this matchup is that there are no true superstars featured, except maybe Texas shortstop Corey Seager. But history may show that one of the best players of the 2020s stormed onto the scene this postseason in Arizona’s 23-year-old outfielder Corbin Carroll.

    He’s listed at 5-10, 165 pounds and sports a pubescent mustache that belongs on an American Legion diamond. His helmet perpetually looks like it is gonna snap off and hurt someone. And yet he’s clearly one of the best all-around talents in the game already.

    Carroll can absolutely fly, stealing 54 of 59 bases in the regular season and four more this postseason. He also rips the baseball, amassing 65 extra base hits this year, including 10 triples and 25 homers. He plays a great defensive outfield at all three spots and has baseball instincts far advanced for a kid who was playing high school ball in Seattle in 2019. He alone is worth the price of admission.

    3. Because there’s no shortage of impressive youngsters

    brandon pfaadt
    Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

    Carroll is the headliner, but the Diamondbacks also have 23-year-old catcher Gabriel Moreno, who has some pop and looks like he could be a Gold Glove finalist behind the dish for years to come; outfielder Alek Thomas, 23, who plays a silky-smooth center field; and rookie right-hander Brandon Pfaadt, 25, who went from struggling in the regular season to current playoff darling.

    The Rangers have their own wealth of young talent, including 21-year-old outfielder Evan Carter, who has performed like a 10-year veteran in the playoffs after appearing in 23 games in the regular season. Third baseman Josh Jung and outfielder Leody Taveras are both 25 and have contributed to the Rangers postseason run as well.

    Perhaps Texas’ and Arizona’s young core have been overshadowed this season by Cincinnati’s and Baltimore’s but make no mistake. There are plenty of previously anonymous players making names for themselves with these two clubs in October, and with that comes a ton of energy on both sides.   

    4. Because there’s a payroll disparity even if both markets are big

    I’ve heard a lot this week about how the ratings for this World Series will be awful. These are not teams with strong histories, so the national fan interest is likely limited. But it’s not like these two clubs are coming from small towns with no local fan bases for advertisers to woo.

    According to Nielsen rankings, Dallas-Fort Worth is the fifth largest of 210 media markets in the country, just behind Philadelphia and ahead of Atlanta and Houston. Phoenix is 11th, just behind San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose.

    As for payrolls, the Rangers, with their additions last offseason and at the trade deadline, jumped from 15th in 2022 to fourth at the end of this year with an estimated $251 million total payroll (including injured reserve and sunk costs), according to spotrac.com. The Diamondbacks are 21st at $119 million, which is the fourth lowest among playoff teams, ahead of the Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles.

    So, this is a top 5 team in payroll against a bottom third club. That’s close enough to haves-versus-have-nots, which is always intriguing.

    5. Because everyone loves Bruce Bochy

    bruce bochy
    Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    If you want someone to cheer for, and you don’t know the players, there’s always Texas manager Bruce Bochy, the three-time World Champion skipper of the San Francisco Giants who was lured out of retirement last winter by one of his former players, current Texas general manager Chris Young.

    Bochy, 68, has nothing left to prove. He’s won nearly 2,100 regular season games, five league pennants and three World Series championships. He has the chance, though, to be just the sixth manager in baseball history with at least four World Series titles, joining a quintet of Hall of Famers.

    Although he may appear gruff, he’s a laid-back, players’ manager who is among the best decision-makers in the sport’s history. If you love old-school, manage-with-the-gut skippers, he’s your guy.   

    6. Because you may witness another Mad Max sequel

    max scherzer
    Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

    In mid-September it appeared that if the Rangers made a run in the postseason, they would be doing it without trade deadline acquisition Max Scherzer, who was shut down with a muscle strain in his right shoulder area. This is Mad Max, though. You can’t count him out.

    Scherzer, 39, returned to start twice in the ALCS, and wasn’t effective, allowing seven earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. But the three-time Cy Young Award winner will get at least one start in the World Series, which will be the fourth of his career. He is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in the previous three.

    He may not be the same guy as he was in his prime, but Scherzer is still a presence on the mound. And he has some extra motivation in this one. Scherzer was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the first round in 2006 and spent his first two seasons with Arizona before being dealt to the Detroit Tigers in 2009.

    7. Because this postseason is becoming Adolis García’s domain

    adolis garcía
    Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

    If you pay close attention to baseball, what García, the Rangers’ 30-year-old Cuban outfielder, is doing should be of little surprise. He had 39 homers and 107 RBIs this year and is an absolute bulldozer when he gets rolling. And he’s really rolling.

    García, who had never appeared in the postseason before, set a playoff record with 15 RBIs in the ALCS, the most runs driven in by a single player in one playoff series. He has 20 RBIs in the Rangers’ three series and is one away from tying St. Louis Cardinals’ David Freese’ record of 21 RBIs in a single postseason.

    García also has homered in each of his past four games, including twice in Game 7 of the ALCS. The streak will be on the line in Game 1 of the World Series on Friday at Globe Life Field – just another incentive to tune in to see how this October Classic unfolds.

    Dan Connolly is an MLB Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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