Tuesday night the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3 – 1 to win the 2020 World Series four games to two. This is the franchise’s seventh world championship. and the first since 1988. Can you name the years of the other five? See the answer below.
This was the baseball season that almost wasn’t. Due to the COVID-19 virus the season was delayed to the point where many thought it would never get off the ground. Then, it was feared that so many players would test positive for the virus that, at some point, the season would have to be cancelled. As it was, several games had to be postponed and made up as doubleheaders.
Finally, Major League Baseball managed to complete a 60-game season. For those of you who do not follow baseball 60 games is a really short season. The normal season is 162 games. A 60-game season is not long enough for the best teams to establish themselves. It takes at least twice as many games for that.
Many fans and observers considered 2020 to be a flawed season. Some even maintained that the eventual championship would be tarnished. They advocated that it should/would be designated with an asterisk. The fear was that an inferior team would have a “hot” start and qualify for the expanded playoffs, which included 16 teams instead of the usual 12 and an extra (wild card) round. Those same people feared that the wild card round of best two of three games, would enable an inferior team to defeat a better team, and perhaps reach the WS and win it. (Simply put, conventional wisdom holds that any team can beat any other team in a three-game series. In my view, the nature of baseball is such that a “fair” test would be seven games.)
As it turned out those fears were groundless. The best team in each league made it to the WS. The Dodgers blew away the competition and went 43 – 17. The Rays were close behind at 40 -20. For the most part, the Series was entertaining and the games were tense. Ultimately, the best, deepest and most versatile team on paper and according to the regular season records (the Dodgers), won.
Baseball, indeed any sport, loves controversy. Controversial plays and game decisions mean that fans will long remember and discuss what happened. This WS had it in spades in Game 6. Briefly, the Rays were winning the game 1-0 and their pitcher was virtually unhittable. Nevertheless, the Rays manager replaced him in the sixth inning after one batter hit a single. The move was consistent with his normal strategy and the analytics on which many teams operate nowadays, but most observers howled that it ignored the “eye test.” A pitcher that unhittable should have stayed in the game.
Sure enough, the Dodgers scored three runs off the relievers and won the game and the WS. In my opinion, the ill-advised move should take nothing away from the Dodgers who still had to score off the relievers.
In a seven game series the breaks often do not even out. In their long history the Dodgers have lost many WS in disappointing fashion, especially when they were in Brooklyn. After each defeat, the fans’ plaintive refrain was “wait until next year.” Well this year “next year” finally came. The Dodgers got some breaks and, like all good teams, took full advantage. Good for them, and good for their fans.
Full disclosure: I am a longtime Dodgers fan. Those who know me know that I “bleed Dodger Blue.”
Quiz answer: 1955, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981.