LOS ANGELES -- The 28-year-old George Springer carried the first-ever Willie Mays World Series MVP trophy in the bend of his right arm, like a football, as he was ushered from interview to interview after the Astros’ Game 7 win.
Carlos Correa, 23, grinned so relentlessly in the celebration that it was as if somebody painted the smile on his face, because he had pulled off one of the greatest marriage proposals in history, presenting a baseball-sized diamond out of his back pocket minutes after winning a World Series. Alex Bregman, also 23, wandered around the infield at Dodger Stadium with his parents. Jose Altuve has 1,250 hits, three batting titles and now a championship, and he’s just 27. The Astros are so young, accomplished and athletic that the reflex was to wonder about the birth of a dynasty.
It’s worth remembering that a year ago the same conversation hovered over the Chicago Cubs in the afterglow of their championship. The Cubs were and still are young, talented and loaded with high-end athletes like Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras and Javier Baez. But now the Cubs are in the midst of enormous change, with signs that the team’s front office was deeply dissatisfied with the progress of this group.
Building a team good enough to win the World Series once requires a lot of time and a lot of luck. Maintaining a dynasty is that much more difficult, because of the effects of time and money on players and budgets.
Chris Bosio, the Cubs’ pitching coach, was fired (and later hired by the Tigers). John Mallee, the team’s widely respected and hardworking hitting coach, was let go when Theo Epstein had a chance to hire Chili Davis, someone who worked for Epstein in the Red Sox organization. Third-base coach Gary Jones, accomplished in his work, was replaced by the more accomplished Brian Butterfield, who is regarded as one of the two or three best infield coaches in the sport. The track records of Davis and Butterfield are so extensive that they might be in a better position to demand a higher level of accountability after a season in which the team’s daily approach to at-bats seemed erratic. Some rival evaluators believe the Cubs were infected by the launch-angle syndrome, with too many all-or-nothing swings in situations when mere contact to the opposite field would have sufficed.
In the past, the Cubs stiff-armed other teams asking about some of their position players, like outfielder Kyle Schwarber and Baez. This offseason, however, they’ll be ready to talk about their hitters, as they consider ways to fill in the gaps on their pitching staff: They need at least two starting pitchers behind Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana and might get one via free agency and the other by trade. There are executives with other teams who believe that the defensively challenged Schwarber, in the end, will prove to be a better fit for a club in the American League, where he can get a lot of at-bats as a designated hitter.
• The Marlins decided to market slugger Giancarlo Stanton this winter, as the Miami Herald reported, and recently the club has been in contact with other teams and communicated Stanton’s availability, along with that of second baseman Dee Gordon and third baseman Martin Prado. For now, the Marlins intend to keep outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna -- although the sense among rival evaluators is that this could change if the Marlins struggle to find a suitable deal for Stanton, who is owed a staggering $290 million over the next 10 seasons. Stanton must approve any trade.
Industry speculation about a possible landing spot is centered around the Phillies, who currently have the most payroll flexibility of any team in the majors, as well as prospects to offer; the Red Sox, who need a power hitter like Stanton and could land him if they are willing to blow past the luxury-tax thresholds and pay extra; the Cardinals, who need a middle-of-the-order bat; the Giants, a team mostly devoid of power last year; and the Dodgers, because -- well, they’re the Dodgers, who outspent the next-closest NL team by about $70 million this season.
• Lance McCullers Jr. throws his curveball, a pitch he learned as a teenager, more often and harder than any other pitcher in baseball. He has such a great feel for the pitch that teammates say he doesn’t even practice it between starts or warming up for a game. As he threw on the mound before the first inning here Friday, McCullers threw nothing but fastballs and changeups. But once the game started: hammer time -- lots and lots of curveballs. McCullers explained that his spike curveball takes such a toll on a fingernail that he’d rather save the ammunition for the game.
• When Charlie Morton’s agent called him last fall to relate the terms of an offer he’d received from the Houston Astros, Morton was surprised that Houston had dangled a multiyear deal with significant dollars, given his injuries and struggles with the Pirates. The agent said: two years, $7 million. Morton was thrilled with the idea that somebody was willing to pay him $3.5 million annually. But Morton had misunderstood what his agent told him. He wasn’t getting $7 million over two years; he was getting $7 million per year, over two years. Morton was somewhat astounded by this and was ready to accept immediately.
A day or two passed without final resolution, and Morton asked his agent why there was a delay in the finalization of the contract, and the representative explained that the two sides were working out the performance bonuses.
“Stop that,” Morton recalled saying. He didn’t want any holdups for a deal he never expected.
When Astros manager A.J. Hinch would go to the mound to relieve Morton in his appearances, the pitcher would say these words as he exited: “Thank you.”
And even in the first moments after Morton dominated the Dodgers for the final four innings of the World Series, he spoke with that trademark humility and emotion. Give a listen here to his postgame interview on ESPN Radio from near the Dodger Stadium mound:
"This is the epitome of what you can do in this game." -Charlie Morton w/ @Buster_ESPN— MLB on ESPN Radio (@MLBonESPNRadio) November 2, 2017
• Speaking of the Marlins: The amount of money that the team will save by cutting ties with Hall of Famers Tony Perez and Andre Dawson has probably been more than offset by the cost in the bad publicity over how this played out. Perez and Dawson, who each made about $90,000 with the Marlins to serve as special assistants, were initially fired over the phone.
After the backlash over that, Derek Jeter reached out and indicated to the two that the team really didn’t want to fire them -- and then Perez and Dawson were offered roles in which they were not to be in uniform, or on the field -- and for $25,000 each.
To put that number in context in the Marlins’ world: Jeter will make about $27,000 in salary per day over the 186-day baseball calendar in his first year as a first-time club executive.
Baseball Tonight Podcast
Friday: Jerry Crasnick with an offseason look ahead, going rapid-fire about some free agents and teams; Chris Singleton on George Springer and what we saw in the World Series; Aaron Boone on some of the managerial choices in Game 7.
Thursday: Keith Law on the Astros’ championship, and Yu Darvish; Paul Hembekides, about the excellence of Houston; Sarah Langs and The Numbers Game.
And today will be better than yesterday.