I'm not that big of a baseball fan anymore, and certainly am not a fan of the Washington Nationals, for reasons outside of loyalty or customer experience. However, with current events coming out in baseball these days it's hard to deny that their 2019 season and World Series win were something to behold, largely because of what they had to overcome. More on the former in a minute.
As of this writing, the Astros have been found to be cheating to wide and elaborate degree; stealing pitching signs, then tipping off their batters using television monitors and hitting a trash can. I don't know when it started (I haven't been up on the scandal as much as others), but they went from 84 wins in 2016, to winning more than 100 in each of the last three seasons, winning the World Series in 2017 and then returning in 2019 to face the Nationals.
The Nats were in dire straits early on in 2019, following the loss of uber talented outfielder Bryce Harper to the division rival Philadelphia Phillies and starting slow out of the gate, winning 19 of their first 50 games, and people clamoring for the firing of manager Dave Martinez. They did right the ship and went 74-38 the rest of the way to enter the playoffs, coming from behind to beat the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card game and avoiding elimination twice to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers before sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals to get to the Fall Classic. The Astros beat the Tampa Bay Rays in five games and the New York Yankees in 6 to get back to the Series.
Narrated by Craig Melvin (a strange choice, given a general lack of long-standing connection to the D.C. area outside of his D.C. born wife, sportscaster Lindsay Czarniak), the 2019 World Series film covers each game in good detail. With interviews with players or fly on the wall video of scenes from fan events in both locations, the feature runs a hair more than 90 minutes total. Given the nature of the Astros' cheating, seeing the teams swap road wins for the entirety of the series was unique to say the least; the Nats held off the Astros 5-4 in Game 1 with home runs by Ryan Zimmerman and Juan Soto, and blasted Houston 12-4 in Game 2, scoring 10 runs in the final three innings. The Astros came to D.C. and limited the Nats to 1 run in each of the three games, building a 3-2 series lead in the Best of Seven affair.
Back to Houston, and the Nats stuck around after scoring a top of the first inning run only to give up 2 in the bottom half, and behind a remarkably strong pitching performance by Stephen Strasburg, beat the Astros 7-2 behind 5 RBIs by Anthony Rendon. In Game 7, a return by Max Scherzer (dealing with a bad back), the Nats came from two runs down and had Martinez ejected on a controversial runner interference call, but scored six runs in the last three innings and beat the Astros 6-2 for the trophy.
The Series was compelling viewing in those last two games and in retrospect, having the Dodgers reach out to the Nats to tell them of their suspicions (and the Nats precautions so make sure the Astros did not know that they knew) makes those games remarkable to watch. And with retrospect on, this MLB approved film comes off as a little na´ve as a result. There is some natural emotional buildup to these games, but knowing what we know now (and apparently what MLB was aware of), this feels like a disingenuous product. There is this strange musical cue of relief that the feature goes to multiple times and it's a little weird and pompous frankly. I know the onus is to turn product around for fans of the winners, but it seems remarkably incomplete only 3.5 months after the win.
I'm sure that people will snap up the 2019 World Series film in droves for the vacuum of the win, but I firmly believe given the circumstances that weren't revealed more completely until after the Series and (I think) after the video release of this, that a second pass is in order. If not for the further enjoyment of Nats fans, then to make the story about this cathartic for baseball going forward while given them an even better narrative to tell.The Blu-ray:
16x9 widescreen for this release which is part television video, part high definition cameras in players' homes, at ballparks and elsewhere. Colors and flesh tones are natural, there are occasional moments or artifacts and image noise, but these appear inherent to the source material (filming in a dark pub is only going to look SO good). Looks fine, perhaps sharper than I was expecting.The Sound:
Dolby Stereo for this, which was okay I guess. A lot of the movie is broadcast audio or crowd noise, the latter of which could have benefitted from a surround track, more for the World Series games release I presume. But interviews sound fine and there is no hissing or dropouts, you would expect something so recent to sound good, and this does.Extras:
The usual stuff here from Shout!/MLB: regular season highlights (9:29) show notable home runs, pitching efforts and plays, "How They Got Here" (5:53) is a self-explanatory video on the rise to the title, "Clinching Moments" (8:02) shows the pennant, division, conference and world series final plays, and footage of the parade (2:41). There is a segment called "Young Stars" that focuses on Soto's career path (2:39).Final Thoughts:
In and of itself, the 2019 World Series film is fine, perhaps a little too long, even if you are a fan of the victors. But the entertainment of this is going to be partly based on how much you want to take current affairs into account, because this doesn't do that at all. Technically the Blu-ray (it also comes with a standard definition disc) looks and sounds fine and the extras are the usual. Until MLB and Shout want to talk about this elsewhere, and I don't think they have, this release, like the Astros' title, comes with an asterisk.