The 2020 World Series pairs the two best teams in baseball: the Tampa Bay Rays, who finished with an American League-best 40-20 record, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, who led the National League with a 43-17 mark.
Both teams have affiliates in the Midwest League's Eastern Division, Tampa Bay with the Bowling Green Hot Rods and Los Angeles with the Great Lakes Loons. If you've seen a Lugnuts/Hot Rods game or a Lugnuts/Loons game in the last decade-plus, you've likely seen at least one of the players in the World Series. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, for instance, pitched for the 2007 Loons; Rays ace Blake Snell was with the 2013 and 2014 Hot Rods. (For more on each team's former Midwest Leaguers, read our Guide to the 2nd Round.)
Both teams also have singular Lugnuts representation: 2010 reliever Aaron Loup is in the Rays' bullpen and 2004 Major League rehabber Mark Prior (pictured above) serves as Dodgers pitching coach. Because of this, we are assured of seeing a Nut win the World Series this year. They would be the first Lugnut to win the World Series since...
The answer is last year, when catcher Yan Gomes (2010 Lugnuts), the first Brazilian player to reach the Majors, appeared in five games for the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals.
The losing team, the Houston Astros, included catcher Robinson Chirinos, who played infield for the Lugnuts in 2003-2004. Chirinos homered twice in the losing cause.
The history of Lugnuts in the World Series, working our way backward:
- In 2018, Rich Hill (2003 Nut) tossed 6 1/3 innings of one-hit ball for the Los Angeles Dodgers, striking out seven in a no-decision. Hill's Dodgers lost in five games to the Red Sox.
- Hill also pitched effectively for the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series, striking out 12 while giving up only two runs in 8 2/3 innings in two starts, but the Dodgers lost in seven games to the Astros. Carlos Beltrán (1996 original Nut) was on that Astros' team, though he only batted three times in the series. Beltrán retired after the season, concluding a 20-year career as a nine-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner and two-time Silver Slugger with his one and only championship. To date, he is the most accomplished former Lugnut at the Major League level.
- In 2016, Yan Gomes was with Cleveland, playing in four games in the Indians' seven-game World Series loss to the Chicago Cubs.
- In 2015, Noah "Thor" Syndergaard (2011-2012 Nut) rose to prominence with the New York Mets. Syndergaard won Game 3, notching six strikeouts while allowing three runs in six innings, but it was the Mets' only victory in a five-game World Series defeat to the Kansas City Royals.
- In 2014, a pair of lefty relievers opposed one another as the Royals took on the San Francisco Giants. Tim Collins (2008), just 5'7 or so, made three relief appearances for Kansas City, giving up a pair of runs. Veteran Jeremy Affeldt (1998), 6'4, was better for San Francisco, with shutout ball in four appearances, helping the Giants win the series in seven games.
- In 2013, a younger Carlos Beltrán batted .294 (5-for-17) for the St. Louis Cardinals, but the Cards lost in six games to the Boston Red Sox. Ryan Dempster, who made five rehab starts for the Lugnuts in 2004, pitched one inning in relief for the victorious BoSox.
- In 2012, in the final Major League appearance of his career, Ryan Theriot (2002-2003) scored the go-ahead run in the 10th inning of the decisive Game 4, helping the Giants sweep the Detroit Tigers. Jeremy Affeldt recorded two scoreless relief appearances for the Giants, striking out four.
- In 2011, Theriot was on the St. Louis Cardinals. He batted just 1-for-13, but the Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers in a thrilling seven games to capture the title. Right place, right time! Marc "Scrabble" Rzepczynski (2008) worked four of the games in relief for the Cards, accumulating 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
- In 2010, the Giants made their first of three trips in the World Series, with Jeremy Affeldt ready in the pen. The southpaw only made two appearances, allowing a run in 1 1/3 innings, but San Francisco topped the Rangers in five games.
- Affeldt's first appearance in the World Series came not with the Giants, however, but with the Colorado Rockies in 2007. The Rockies lost in a sweep to the Boston Red Sox, but Affeldt pitched in every game and didn't allow a run in three total innings.
- Boston's first World Series championship of the 21st century was in 2004, and again there was a Lugnuts reliever on the losing side. Kiko Calero (1998) had persevered his way into the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen in his late 20s after five straight years at Double-A Wichita. He was ineffective, unfortunately, allowing four walks, two hits and two runs in 1 1/3 innings spanning two appearances.
- Thus far, every player listed has been a Lugnut who made the World Series after playing in Lansing. To turn things on their head: In 2003, the triumphant Florida Marlins included catcher Mike Redmond, who then managed the Lugnuts to the Midwest League Championship Series in 2011.
- Kevin Appier was a 30-year-old ace and former American League All-Star when he rehabbed with the Lugnuts in 1998. Four years later, he was at the end of his road for the Anaheim Angels, making two poor starts in the 2002 World Series. No matter: the Angels still bested Barry Bonds and the Giants in seven games. (Appier would thus be the answer to the trivia question "Who was the first Lansing Lugnut to reach the World Series?" unless you're looking for a non-rehabber, in which case it's Kiko Calero.)
Final Lugnuts World Series ring totals: 11 rings
Affeldt - 3
Theriot - 2
Appier - 1
Beltrán - 1
Dempster - 1
Gomes - 1
Redmond - 1
Rzepczynski - 1
Add another ring after this year's World Series concludes, whether for Aaron Loup or Mark Prior.
Just for the fun of it, how many Lugnuts' fathers have won the World Series? Three: Frank Viola III's father, Frank, in 1987 with the Twins; Dwight Smith, Jr.,'s father, Dwight Sr., in 1995 with the Braves; and Griffin Conine's dad, Jeff, in 1997 and 2003 with the Marlins.
(Craig Biggio lost with Houston in 2005. Vladimir Guerrero lost with Texas in 2010. Dante Bichette only played one postseason round in his career, but what a round! He hit 10-for-17 with three doubles and a homer, yet the Rockies lost in four games to Dwight Smith's Braves in the 1995 NLDS.)
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