The final two episodes of ESPN's Michael Jordan documentary -- "The Last Dance" -- will air Sunday night. It's been nice to have such excellent content on one of sport's greatest all-time players during a time with no live-action sports to watch here in North America. To be clear, few stories -- if any -- would grab the attention Jordan does. He's a transcendent figure who stayed private for so long. Still, watching it unfold, at times I couldn't help but wonder about some Major League Baseball stories that could be fun with the same treatment.
I'll be sticking with pretty recent history instead of going too far back. Here are my top 10 picks, not necessarily in order.
1. The Curse of the Bambino
The top two are easy and obvious, though they've also probably been dissected in every which way they could. Still, there is so much Red Sox history that could possibly be delved into from when they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees and then finally won the World Series again in 2004. That 2004 was truly a cast of characters, too.
2. The Curse of the Billy Goat
Perhaps the top two could be tied together with the Theo Epstein angle? Regardless, the 2016 Cubs were a special group, making the World Series for the first time since 1945 and winning it for the first time since 1908. There are an awful lot of angles with the franchise in futility, the 1969 "black cat" curse and collapse, some high-profile playoff failures and then finally getting it done for their loyal fans.
3. The Curse of the Black Sox
Or "The Forgotten Championship," since the White Sox's 2005 World Series title so often gets glazed over, likely due to the Red Sox and now Cubs. But there was a trio of long-time franchises with a "curse" hanging over its head. The White Sox threw the 1919 World Series in the Black Sox scandal and then didn't win it again until 2005 with a sweep -- all four close and dramatic games, though -- of the then-NL Astros. Lots of good stuff could be done with colorful manager Ozzie Guillen and the team was really fun as well.
4. The Yankees Dynasty is Built, Falls
HBO did "Nine Innings from Ground Zero" about 9/11, the Yankees and the 2001 World Series. It was excellent. Some of that could be included, but we'd want to dip back to the origins of the Yankees dynasty that won five pennants and four World Series titles in a six year range from 1996-2001. Since then, they've won just the 2009 World Series. The series could run through the acquisition and development of the likes of Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte much in the way the The Last Dance has hit on Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman et al. Then there's 9/11 and one of the most dramatic World Series in history in the 2001 fall to the Diamondbacks. The Yankees' last dance there fell short, but it's still compelling TV.
5. The 1994 Strike and What Could Have Been With the Expos and Nationals
There would be a ton to unpack here. The history of the Expos, building to the 1994 team that was on pace to win 105 games. Instead, the strike ended the season and effectively ended baseball in Montreal. Larry Walker signed with the Rockies in free agency and the team traded Marquis Grissom, John Wetteland and Ken Hill in early April and that was that. Attendance plummeted and the franchise never made the playoffs until it was the Washington Nationals. A series could cover the Nationals building into an NL power, though one that never got over the hump in the postseason until Juan Soto's wild card hit seemed to change everything. How about a big portion devoted to Howie Kendrick's two huge home runs? Strasmas, the shutdown, drafting wunderkind Bryce Harper, not winning it all until he left, etc. There's so much here both in Montreal and D.C.
6. The Rise and Demise of the Astros' Brain Trust
This one has to wait because the story of the players isn't complete yet. We need to see what happens moving forward with the likes of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, Carlos Correa, etc. The story will end up being fascinating, though. We could start with Jim Crane buying the team and agreeing to switch to the American League. Then the hiring of Jeff Luhnow as general manager, where he instilled a culture that was savagely trashed by Rob Manfred in doling out his punishments for the sign stealing scandal this past winter. Luhnow built a powerhouse team, but at what cost? There are lots of threads to pull with this one. There's lots of positive for Astros fans and lots of the opposite for their now-legions of haters. Again, though, this story isn't yet complete.
7. La Russa's Last Ride
Tony La Russa managed a lot of interesting teams. There could be an extended look at Mark McGwire's time with the A's (Bash Brothers with Jose Canseco), their three straight pennants and 1989 World Series title and lots of characters on those A's teams. Then the Cardinals years with the dominant teams of the 2000s with looks at the likes of Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Everything then comes together when it looked like the season was over in 2011. After a loss on Aug. 24, the 2011 Cardinals were 67-63. They had gotten Lance Berkman through waivers and were mulling over trading him. They were 10 1/2 games out of the wild card, after all. They would then go 23-9 the rest of the way, taking over the wild card spot on arguably the most wild final day of a season in MLB history. An entire episode could even be dedicated to that final day, looping in the Rays also chasing down the Red Sox in an equally shocking closing stretch. The Cardinals then toppled the 102-win Phillies -- which started that franchise in a downward spiral, too, which could be covered -- and Brewers before one of the most dramatic World Series ever. An entire episode could probably be spent on Game 6. There's a lot here.
8. The Yin and Yang of Bumgarner and Kershaw
- Dodgers: 919-701, 7 NL West titles
- Giants: 821-799, 2 NL West titles, 2 wild card spots
And yet, the Dodgers have only won two pennants and have not won it all. The Giants won three titles.
Clayton Kershaw is an all-time great pitcher who will easily make the Hall of Fame. He's won three Cy Youngs and has been in the top five seven times. Madison Bumgarner is a very good pitcher who sits 216th in JAWS (right behind John Lackey, Charlie Hough and Josh Beckett). He hasn't won a Cy Young. And yet, look at the postseason numbers.
- CK: 9-11, 4.43 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 170 K, 45 BB, 158 1/3 IP, 0 CG
- MB: 8-3, 2.11 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 87 K, 18 BB, 102 1/3 IP, 3 SHO
Kershaw has had some gems, but lots of clunkers and is clearly something different. Bumgarner is clearly something different in the postseason, too. What's going on? Exploring it against the backdrop of the regular season and postseason differences with the two rivals would be fun, too (well, except for probably Dodgers fans).
9. The Rise of Ichiro
Ichiro Suzuki is the international "Hit King." He came to America when joining the 2001 Mariners. He would win MVP while the Mariners set the MLB record with 116 regular-season wins. We could actually look back to the Mariners having not been able to get the job done in the playoffs in the previous seasons with star power from the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Martinez and Alex Rodriguez. With those guys gone, Ichiro took the mantle of superstar alongside future Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez. The journey of Ichiro could be explored starting with his time in NPB in Japan, too. Then there could be looks at the Mariners now having the longest playoff drought in MLB.
10. Barry Lamar Bonds
There is so much that is fascinating about Barry Bonds. The early career success with the Pirates as a second-generation star. Not being able to cut down Sid Bream. The free agent signing with the Giants, where he had so much personal tie. Being overshadowed a bit by Ken Griffey Jr., albeit with Bonds being the better all-around player pretty much every season. Being overshadowed in 1998 by the Sosa-McGwire home run chase, which then led to PEDs speculation and triggered the greatest stretch of hitting we'll ever see (from 2001-04, Bonds hit .349/.559/.809, which is a 256 OPS+). And then the pretty obvious collusion by baseball after 2007. Bonds hit .276/.480/.565 (169 OPS+) with 28 homers in 340 at-bats in his final season, leading the majors in on-base percentage and he couldn't find a job in 2008? Not even as a DH? C'mon. There are avenues all over the place here and when he was piling up his MVPs he was the closest thing baseball had to Jordan.