At some point in our lives most of us undoubtedly have had the desire to control that which we cannot. As a diehard baseball fan is apt to do, I believe that things would be much better if I were in charge of MLB (and no one would be swapping leagues on my watch!). Megalomaniac that I am though, I'm not content to stop there. I often find myself wishing the on-field results could bend to my every whim.
Obviously, dictating the results would be meaningless in real life, as it'd produce nothing but hollow, unearned accomplishments. What if, however, I possessed covert omnipotence that allowed me to see whatever result I wanted? Tantalizing idea, is it not? While I wouldn't get to experience the joy of watching everything unfold, I could experience joy vicariously through the fans who did.
I got to thinking: what if I were granted this power for the next ten seasons? What would the next ten World Series look like? While it'd be tempting to go back and remove moronic rules like the Astros moving to the AL and a second Wild Card being added, I think it'd be a lot less complicated for me to play it as it lies. Not only will I go by the rules already on the books, but I'll choose my immediate champions based on what could realistically be expected from the organizations as currently constructed. After all, it'd be ridiculous to make teams simply get lucky; the players and management would have to produce situations where such results were reasonably within the realm of possibility. By announcing the results in advance I'd give these teams time to set themselves on the right path.
Before I announce my picks, I'd like to make something clear to anyone who isn't familiar with my thinking: I'm a fan of the game first, and my teams second. I root for both Chicago teams, yet the two of them would combine for one pennant in the next decade. I love seeing teams win their first championships, or at least their first in a long time. I've been following MLB since 1995, and my plan means I will have seen every team in the World Series by the time my dictatorship expires. Way too unrealistically even-handed? Of course it is, but if you were given this type of power, wouldn't you want to do something extraordinary with it?
So anyway, if I were dictator of all MLB results for ten years, effective January 1, 2012, what could we expect to see?
2012 World Series: Texas Rangers over Washington Nationals
First things first. I love the current Ranger team, and I'm still heartbroken over the way the 2011 World Series turned out. I don't want this core of players to go down in history as a great never-quite-was, so next year I'd have them seal the deal. Yes, the Angels are looking tough right now, but the Rangers are a well-run organization that's by no means ready to concede the division.
As for the Nationals, they have some up-and-coming talent, plus the ability to spend some money, so it wouldn't be a miracle if they contended for the World Series next season. They're one of two current franchises that's never appeared in the Fall Classic, so it'd be their turn get off the board. Why not do it against a franchise that originated in their city?
2013 World Series: Cleveland Indians over Pittsburgh Pirates
Cleveland is a city well-acquainted with heartbreak, and their World Series drought goes back to 1948. They have some of the best fans in the game, and their loyalty deserves to be rewarded sooner rather than later. They exceeded expectations this year, and it's not a stretch to think that in two years they could be playing with the big boys.
Why the Pirates? Why not? It's been over 30 years since they've appeared in the World Series, and they're a young team with the potential to make some noise in the near future. Besides, Pittsburgh and Cleveland have a pretty intense football rivalry, and I'm sure the long-suffering fans in northern Ohio would appreciate it if they could get their long-awaited championship at the expense of their Rust Belt rivals in a sport that actually matters.
2014 World Series: Chicago Cubs over Kansas City Royals
I apologize to my fellow Cub fans, some of whom might die without witnessing a championship in the next few years, but I figure two things: 1) The Cubs aren't currently poised for a pennant run, and 2) 2014 is fitting in several ways.
First of all, it'll mark the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field, and what better way to commemorate the century mark than with the stadium's first championship? Second, does anyone else remember the days of the three super droughts? It went: Cubs-1908, White Sox-1917 and Red Sox-1918. The Red Sox broke theirs in 2004, and the White Sox, whose drought began a year earlier, broke theirs the next year, so that means the Cubs, whose drought began nine years before the White Sox', should have theirs broken nine years later. It's almost too perfect.
The Royals haven't been to the postseason since 1985, when they won the World Series, but they've accumulated a boatload of minor league talent in the last few years. 2014 would be the season all that talent finds itself in full blossom and leads Kansas City to its first pennant in almost 30 years. They might be overlooked amidst all the excitement over the Cubs' drought ending, but they'd be good for the K.C. sports scene, and go down in history as a memorable World Series participant.
2015 World Series: San Diego Padres over Minnesota Twins
San Diego hasn't won a major league championship since the Chargers' 1963 AFL title, and they had none before that. It's time for the Padres to get the limelight they've never really had in the baseball world, as both times they've been involved in the World Series they were easily taken care of by a powerhouse from the AL.
The Twins are a nice little franchise, but their having won twice in my lifetime (albeit before I was a fan) means I'm not desperate to see them win it so soon. I would like to see them participate in the World Series at least once during Joe Mauer's career, though.
2016 World Series: Washington Nationals over Toronto Blue Jays
After falling short four years earlier, the Nationals would finally get their redemption. It will have been 94 years since the last title in the nation's capital by then, and baseball will return to its rightful place as the #1 sport in the city. Much-hyped young stars Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper by this point would be proven veterans, and they'd demonstrate the things you can achieve with well-selected #1 draft choices.
Their opponent would be the Toronto Blue Jays, the team with whom the Nationals franchise once shared a country. Still wearing their stitch-perfect uniforms which recall their awesome classic design, Alex Anthopoulos' boys would reward his shrewd management by giving Canada its first glimpse at deep October baseball since before the strike.
2017 World Series: Colorado Rockies over Baltimore Orioles
Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez would be 33 and 32 years old, respectively, by the time the curtain opened on the 2017 Fall Classic, and both would be getting their due accolades as veteran leaders and franchise icons for leading this team to its first pennant in a decade. The former would be generating some Hall of Fame talk by this point as well, and when the Rockies finally got their first sip of victory champagne it would only intensify.
The Orioles would be breaking a 34-year pennant drought, and Oriole Park at Camden Yards would be hosting its first-ever World Series. Hard to believe, isn't it?
2018 World Series: Tampa Bay Rays over Los Angeles Dodgers
Since Andrew Friedman has been running the show he's schooled everyone else in running a top-tier organization on a budget. The lack of a title is the only thing keeping the Rays from a truly amazing place in baseball history. Like the previous year's champs, they'd be redeeming themselves for a decade-old World Series loss here. Of course, if I were controlling more than just the World Series results, I'd have them as a playoff regular in the years leading up to this, which would hopefully mean their fanbase had started supporting them more, and had been anticipating this moment for some time.
The Dodgers, led by 34-year-old Matt Kemp, would be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Kirk Gibson-Orel Hershiser trophy by finally resurfacing in the Series. For all the big-budget Hollywood hype though, the Rays would make easy work of them.
2019 World Series: Milwaukee Brewers over Oakland Athletics
Milwaukee icon Ryan Braun would be almost 36 by the time he finally led the Brew Crew to the World Series, and the wait would be well worth it. The Seattle Pilots would be a half-century-old memory at this point, and the years of toiling as an also-ran would finally come to an end. The only thing marring the proceedings would be the between-innings interviews of former Commissioner Bud Selig, who now admires his one-time franchise from the Miller Park stands, and somehow manages to be an unavoidable sight throughout the postseason.
Billy Beane would have stepped down from running the A's by now (to seek out new challenges, of course), and the anti-Moneyball crowd (the few who still cared) would use this Oakland pennant as fodder for their argument. On the 30-year anniversary of the earthquake title and the 90-year anniversary of the first Cochrane-Foxx-Simmons-Grove powerhouse title, the A's would come up short of matching those teams' accomplishments.
2020 World Series: Houston Astros over Milwaukee Brewers
The "Killer B" era would be long gone, but those quinquagenarian players would be on hand to throw out a few first pitches. After a 58-year wait, the Astros would finally get to stand on top of the baseball world. They'd be doing it as a member of the American League, however, due to that stupid and unnecessary move foisted upon us by Selig and Co. (have I made it clear enough how I feel about that?).
The Brewers would become the first team to win back-to-back pennants since the 2010-12 Rangers won three in a row, but they wouldn't be able to repeat. In a fun twist, the World Series would feature MLB's only two league-switchers.
2021 World Series: Seattle Mariners over Cincinnati Reds
The Mariners would have spent the last nine years as baseball's only team without a World Series appearance. After waiting 44 years for this day, they wouldn't intend to lose.
The Reds would be seeing their first World Series action in 31 years, but they wouldn't have enough to defeat that upstart team in the Emerald City. Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., now in his early 50's, would famously equivocate when asked who he was rooting for.
Now that every team in baseball has won the World Series and all have appeared in it since I've been watching, how do the title and pennant droughts look?
World Series title:
Blue Jays: 1993
White Sox: 2005
Red Sox: 2007
Is this absurdly equitable or what? In a span of 43 seasons every team would have won the World Series, and the Pirates would be the only one that hadn't won it in my lifetime. Heck, perhaps I could petition for one more year as reality-dictator just so I could give them the 2022 title.
Let's look at the pennants:
White Sox: 2005
Red Sox: 2007
Blue Jays: 2016
Oh, those long-suffering Brave fans! 22 years without a pennant!
I have no illusions about the nearly-zero chance that this scenario would play out in real life. Parity of this sort would be unprecedented in any sport. There's no harm in imagining possibilities, however. Whenever I'm depressed (as I still am over the way this season ended), I can always come back to this post and imagine how much more beautiful it might be.