When the Orioles took two of three games from the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field early last month, it seemed possible that a World Series team was on the field. It just didn’t appear as if it would be the Diamondbacks.
Arizona was 70-67 and tied with the Miami Marlins, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants for the sixth and final playoff spot in the National League. The Chicago Cubs, who were three games ahead of the quartet, faded and the Marlins and Diamondbacks (84-78) barely qualified for the postseason.
Meanwhile, the Orioles compiled a 101-61 record, best in the American League and 17 games better than Arizona. The Orioles have been home for more than two weeks and the Diamondbacks will play in their second World Series against the Texas Rangers on Friday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
It will be the first World Series between teams that play in controlled environments, so there won’t be any rain delays. Perhaps the roof will be open in Texas. Because of mechanical issues, it’s rare that the roof in 26-year-old Chase Field opens these days.
Many Oriole fans won’t care who wins the World Series. Some might root for Texas as evidence that it took the best team in baseball to knock them out of the playoffs. Others might want to root against them.
None of the Rangers has played for the Orioles, though All-Star catcher Jonah Heim was a fourth-round draft pick of the Orioles in 2013. At the trade deadline in 2016, Heim was sent to Tampa Bay so the Orioles could reacquire Steve Pearce from the Rays.
Heim, who had reached High-A Frederick by the time he was traded, moved on to Oakland and then the Rangers in 2021. He was an All-Star this year and has become a strong player.
The Diamondbacks feature former Oriole Christian Walker, whose path to the majors as a first baseman was blocked by Chris Davis and Trey Mancini.
Walker played 13 games for the Orioles in 2014 and 2015 and in 2017 was in camp with the Braves and Reds, who both claimed him off waivers and then let him go. He found his way with the Diamondbacks but didn’t establish himself as a big leaguer until 2019.
This season, Walker hit 33 homers, drove in 103 runs and hit .258 with an .830 OPS. He didn’t have a strong NLCS, hitting just .091 (2-for-22), but he gets to play in the World Series.
So does reliever Miguel Castro. Since leaving the Orioles in August 2020, Castro has played for the Mets, Yankees and Diamondbacks. Castro pitched in a National League-leading 75 games, going 6-6 with a 4.75 ERA and seven saves. He allowed a run on two hits in 3 1/3 innings in the NLCS win over Philadelphia.
Utilityman Jace Peterson, who was with the Orioles in 2018 and 2019, was acquired by the Diamondbacks from Oakland at the trade deadline but isn’t expected to be included on the World Series roster.
There are fans bothered that Arizona is representing the National League while Atlanta and Los Angeles, two teams with 100 wins ,were knocked off in the Division Series by the Phillies and Diamondbacks.
It’s not the first time a team with an unimpressive record has made it to the World Series. Fifty years ago, the New York Mets, who were just 82-79, beat the Cincinnati Reds, a team with Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Pérez and Pete Rose in a five-game NLCS and took a great Oakland Athletics team to the seventh game of the World Series.
That happened when only two teams per league made the postseason. Now that six teams qualify, it’s obvious that it’s easier for a team with a mediocre record to make it to the World Series.
The Diamondbacks got hot at the right time, just as the Phillies got hot last year. In 2022, 87-win Philadelphia and 89-win San Diego played in the NLCS while two 100-win teams, the Mets and Dodgers, went home early.
Last year, the Houston Astros, winners of 106 games, beat the Phillies in the World Series, and the Rangers, with 90 wins, are favored to win this year.
While the World Series ratings may not be terribly high, the deciding games in both the ALCS and NLCS were ratings winners, and if the Series reaches seven games, it may do well.
But it’s nice to have some new teams in the World Series. Oriole fans just wish they could have been one of those teams.