Entering the World Series, it wouldn’t have seemed unlikely that a former Oriole would be named the Most Valuable Player while another struck out to end the Series.
However, it wasn’t Manny Machado who was the World Series MVP. It was Steve Pearce, who hit two home runs in the Boston Red Sox’s Game 5 win, a victory that didn’t become official until Machado swung and missed at a third strike from Chris Sale.
Oriole fans who needed someone to pull for in the World Series should be delighted that Pearce, who had four iterations with the Orioles, gets to experience the ultimate thrill.
Pearce turned the Series in Boston’s direction when he hit a game-tying home run in the eighth inning of Game 4 and added a three-run double in the ninth inning as the Red Sox came from behind and took a 3-1 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 9-6 victory.
He hit a two-run home run in the first against Clayton Kershaw, and added a homer in the eighth in Boston’s 5-1 clinching win.
Pearce hit .333 (4-for-12) in the five games. All four of his hits (three home runs and a double) were for extra bases.
The main storyline on the FOX telecasts was that Pearce was one of just six players in major league history to play for all six teams in a division.
For those who know him best, it’s Pearce’s stellar work ethic and his determination to overcome injuries. Some of his injuries may have come because he worked so hard and wouldn’t rest his body.
Pearce, who played in more than 100 games just one time in 12 major league seasons, is an unlikely candidate for Series MVP on a team that features Sale, David Price, J.D. Martinez and likely American League MVP Mookie Betts.
Pearce first came to the Orioles in June 2012 from New York, but was lost on a waiver claim in late July to Houston, which passed him back to the Yankees a month later. Pearce returned to the Orioles for the season’s final series in Tampa Bay, but was ineligible for the postseason.
Pearce, who was limited to 44 games because of tendinitis in his right wrist in 2013, began the next season with the Orioles, was released on April 27, but re-signed two days later.
He was an extremely valuable member of the team that played in the American League Championship Series, hitting 21 home runs and driving in 49 runs while hitting .293 with a .373 on-base percentage, which was by far the highest on the team.
Pearce had a 5.9 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) average in 2014. That’s higher than Adam Jones has had for any major league season.
An oblique strain limited Pearce to 92 games and a .218 average in 2015, and he signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent.
At the non-waiver trade deadline in 2016, the Orioles brought Pearce back once more in a deal with the Rays, and he hit .217 in 25 games before his season ended in mid-September because of a forearm injury.
Pearce signed with Toronto to start 2017, and the Blue Jays dealt him to the Red Sox on June 28.
His ability to get on base endeared him to manager Alex Cora. Pearce had a .394 OBP in 50 games before Boston began its postseason tear, winning 11 games and losing just three.
At 35, Pearce is once again a free agent, as is Machado who was the lightning rod of the National League Championship Series against Milwaukee. Machado hit just .182 (4-for-22) in his first World Series.
In Game 3, Machado’s hustle was again called into question when he failed to run hard on a ball that he thought was a home run, but instead was just a long single off the left field wall.
Pearce and Machado were friendly in Baltimore, but Pearce was unquestionably more admired for always getting the most out of his ability. In April 2015, with Jonathan Schoop injured, Pearce willingly moved to second base, not making an error in 18 games.
Free-agency begins now, and Machado’s destination will be one of the fall’s big stories. A team that signs him will get a player with much talent, but lots of drama, too. His theatrics in the NLCS and poor play in the World Series against the team he most despises, the Red Sox, will likely damage his market.
Pearce won’t be nearly as sought after, but the team that gets him, and the guess here is that he’ll return to Boston, will get an exceptionally hard worker who’s incredibly popular with his teammates.
He’s one of the lowest-profile players ever to win a World Series MVP, but one of the most deserving, too.