All throughout the world of baseball, writers and pundits are applauding the acquisitions of the Dodgers. At the trade deadline Los Angeles landed two veteran All-Stars to improve their middle infield, hoping that this duo would lead last year’s National League Champs to their first World Series title since 1986.
Brian Dozier, who recently set a record for home runs by a second baseman, came to the West Coast in a deal with the Minnesota Twins. Just the day before, Los Angeles made a transaction to get slugging shortstop Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles.
Most likely those acquisitions will help the offense of the Dodgers, but they could very well negatively affect what happens on the diamond. Both Machado and Dozier have more than proven their defensive skills, having won several Gold Gloves between them.
However, baseball history seems to indicate that middle infielders need a lot of time playing together before they can win it all. A look back at the most recent Novembers provides insight into just how important it is that the second baseman and shortstop spend more than simply a few months together.
Last year Houston had the phenomenal pair of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, who have been playing side by side for an extended period. Twelve months before the Cubs had youngsters Javier Baez and Addison Russell, who had become acclimated to one another the previous season.
The year before veterans Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar looked after the middle of the diamond for a second straight season, helping the Kansas City Royals to their first World Series title in thirty years. The connected middle infield, combined with a superb and deep bullpen, took the Series from the New York Mets.
That tandem had come close in 2014, when the Royals won the pennant but lost to the Giants in the Fall Classic. San Francisco’s middle infielders had only been together since just before the All Star break, rookie Joe Panik getting called up to the Big Leagues to take over second base in late June.
Fortunately for the Giants, they had a veteran Gold Glove winner at shortstop to help his young double play partner get acclimated. Brandon Crawford more than fulfilled that role, having already played on San Francisco championship teams in 2010 and 2012.
For additional evidence of the importance of a well -connected shortstop and second baseman, one can look back even further. In the Nineties the Yankees dominated the baseball postseason, anchored by shortstop Derek Jeter and his double play partner Chuck Knoblauch.
How about the decade before that? The Detroit Tigers teams of the Reagan Era enjoyed the luxury of having Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker playing side by side, highlighted by a World Series title in 1984. In the Seventies the Big Red Machine was driven by having shortstop Dave Concepcion and second baseman Joe Morgan for extended seasons, culminating in back to back championships in 1975 and 1976.
You can find many more examples in the annals of baseball, but do you know what is much harder to find? The answer is a single team that has gone on to win the World Series after having replaced both shortstop and second base in the middle of the season, which is what the Dodgers are hoping to accomplish this year.
Dozier did hit a home run in each of his first two games with Los Angeles, and Machado collected four hits. Baseball history, however, seems to suggest that the newcomers will need more than two months together to carry their team to the ultimate goal.