Chosen one veiled for the moment
Upon which individual will the baseball gods smile this year?
Is Boston's Dustin Pedroia this year's David Eckstein? Or is Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki poised to pull a dastardly Bucky Dent, circa 1978, on Red Sox Nation?Will Yorvit Torrealba join Pat Borders and Gene Tenace in an exclusive club of catchers gone wild in the Fall Classic? Or will it be Jason Varitek knocking on that door? Is Pedroia's pal, Jacoby Ellsbury, destined to steal the thunder -- and extra-base hits -- from the marquee sluggers? Or will that be the property of Rockies fly guy Willy Taveras? On the mound, where these matters usually are decided, can Josh Fogg -- or Daisuke Matsuzaka -- channel Don Larsen's spirit and karma? Hold on tight. This 2007 World Series, putting two rolling forces of nature on a collision course, is as chock-full of intriguing candidates for immortality as the 2008 presidential election. Power, persona and pedigree count, but another element -- one that frequently trumps the standard star profile -- mysteriously rises to the surface this time of year. Ambition, passion and good fortune meet opportunity, and some lucky body is blessed by the quirky baseball gods. In the modern era, identified by the arrivals of Jackie Robinson and television, it all started with Billy. For every Mickey Mantle, born to make the Fall Classic his private playground, a Billy Martin, eyes ablaze, comes alive in late October. Battlin' Billy, a scrawny, ordinary talent with the drive of 10 men, hit .500 with a .958 slugging percentage in the 1953 Series, his magnetic glove also a factor in the Yankees' humbling of the Dodgers. Whitey Ford owned that era along with buddy Mick, but it was Larsen, the imperfect journeyman, who delivered the lone World Series perfect game in 1956. For every Sandy Koufax, perfection in motion, along comes a round mound of magic in the form of Fernando Valenzuela. Months removed from a remote village in Mexico, he reversed the course of the 1981 World Series for the Dodgers against the Yankees with one bullish effort. Hello, Fernandomania. For every Reggie Jackson, full of swagger, there's a gritty Tenace (Oakland's 1972 Series MVP) or blue-collar Dent (Yanks' 1978 Series MVP) transformed with the whole world watching. The 1992 Toronto Blue Jays' lineup featured Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, Dave Winfield and John Olerud. The World Series MVP in their conquest of Atlanta, Borders hit .242 that season, .450 in the Series. For every Derek Jeter, Mr. October's regal heir, along comes Jim Leyritz in 1996 and Scott Brosius two years later to land the telling blow. Year after year this is what we see in the Fall Classic: a role player, generally unfamiliar to the marquee, rising spectacularly to seize the moment. Last October, it was Eckstein, showing anything is possible with heart. Claiming the MVP award for the champion Cardinals at Detroit's expense, he enriched another Cardinal Nation generation in the grand tradition of Lou Brock and Curt Flood, Enos Slaughter and Pepper Martin. Few media mavens saw the Redbirds coming. Certainly the goliaths he left in his wake couldn't have seen diminutive David lurking in the bushes. So, who will it be this time? Which of these athletes will be touched by those unseen forces?
The only sensible answer is none at all. Seriously, who can foresee such things? That's the whole point.What you can do is study personalities and characteristics, evaluate numbers, process the data -- and take a wild stab. From Colorado, our picks to click are Torrealba, Taveras and Matt Herges. Overshadowed by the formidable quintent of Matt Holliday, Todd Helton, Tulowitzki, Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe during the Rockies' astonishing 21-1 run, Torrealba has driven home seven runs in seven postseason games, with three extra-base hits and a .320 average. Torrealba just has that look of a guy who loves the pressure. And it's shared by Taveras. He wasn't the everyday presence he wanted to be after coming to Denver from Houston, but the center fielder raised cain when he was physically able. He had a .372 on-base percentage leading off and hit .308 when faced with 0-2 counts. Another cool customer not to be overlooked in manager Clint Hurdle's loaded lineup, Kazuo Matsui is a smart hitter who also has responded brilliantly to October's demands. Herges, a 37-year-old journeyman, was part of a deep bullpen that went above and beyond the call for Hurdle. In his last 12 2/3 innings, Herges has not allowed a run while yielding just three hits. The man is on a roll. Like the Rox, the Sox come to the big show firing on all cylinders after roaring back from that 3-1 ALCS deficit to rock the Indians. Pedroia looks like he studied at the same baseball academy as Eckstein; they could be cousins, such are the similarities in styles and attitudes. They're too small, too fragile, too limited, too ... much. Ellsbury is a revelation, Lenny Dykstra before the muscles. This kid can fly, and he knows how to get to all the right places. Those instincts are pure. You can't teach what Jacoby understands. Familiar with Coors Field from his days with the Astros and Dodgers, shortstop Julio Lugo could make unexpectedly good things happen. On the mound, you know what you have, Red Sox Nation, with Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling. Now welcome Dice-K, who cleared a major emotional hurdle with his superb work in Game 7 on Sunday night at Fenway Park. If anyone can slow down the Rockies Express, you have to like Boston's chances with Beckett, Schilling and Matsuzaka rolling out the bazookas. Backing up Dice-K, Japan's heartthrob, countryman Hideki Okajima also showed all the right stuff in Game 7 before electric, eccentric Jonathan Papelbon slammed the door on the Indians' great season. Everything is in order for manager Terry Francona at the right moment. The Rockies aren't the only Mile High outfit in this Fall Classic. After exhaustive deliberation, the choice here is Pedroia, a beaming champion amid another Fenway Park Game 7 celebration. He'll make some magic, and somewhere, David Eckstein will be smiling.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.