After a long drought of just a few weeks, the city of Los Angeles has a champion again.
In game six of the 2020 World Series, the Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3–1 to take home their first title since 1988, when Republican George H.W. Bush defeated Democrat Michael Dukakis in the presidential election and businessman Donald Trump was taking blame for stunting the growth of the upstart United States Football League in a federal court ruling.
Orel Hershiser was king on the mound, while Kirk Gibson capped off his MVP season with an emotional walk-off home run off of Oakland A’s closer Dennis Eckersley to win game one, despite injuries to both of his legs. Vin Scully was a youthful 58 and the Tampa Bay Rays were still a decade away from existence.
Their seventh world championship came in a 60-game season, shortened by a global pandemic, that was sparked by the pre-season acquisition and signing of superstar outfielder Mookie Betts. Betts was outstanding this season, hitting .292 with 16 home runs and playing solid defense. In the playoffs, Betts hit .296 with two home runs, including one in the 8th inning of game six that was “Gibson-esque”.
Pitcher Clayton Kershaw is the heart and soul of the pitching staff, even if he is not currently the best pitcher on it. That distinction belongs to righty Walker Buehler, but Kershaw is no slouch either. The southpaw went 6–2 with a 2.16 E.R.A in the regular season, while going 4–1 with a 2.93 E.R.A in the postseason.
While stats can show some aspects of a player, slaying a demon reveals the true champion he became. Kershaw had a history of poor performance in important playoff games, and he did not fall victim to this in 2020. Maybe this is a result of a shorter season, and less wear and tear on his arm, or maybe he just had the team to help him. Nevertheless, “playoff Kershaw” is a thing of the past, and his great career will have at least one championship on its resume.
Despite the loss, Tampa Bay is in great shape, and the team and its fanbase should feel pride. Many had doubts on if the Rays were truly baseball’s second best team, but the heroics of designated hitter Randy Arozarena, outfielder Brett Phillips and infielder Mike Brosseau will surely not be forgotten. Pitcher Blake Snell was excellent in game six, and continues to shape a legacy in Tampa Bay that will soon surpass that of former ace David Price.
Perhaps best of all for the Rays, there seems to be some life in their fanbase. There were plenty of Rays jerseys spotted in the stands of Globe Life Field, and if the team can remain competitive for an extended period, Tropicana Field may see attendance numbers soar.
However, this is the Dodgers moment, and it looks like they may keep the spotlight for a while. Betts is locked up and outfielder Cody Bellinger should soon follow. The pitching staff is relatively young and Dave Roberts is an exciting manager. Andrew Friedman, President of Baseball Operations, built this team with the mindset of a small market team, and this helped them win in the end. Taking chances on players such as infielder Max Muncy and third baseman Justin Turner have paid back in dividends, and the team only appears to get stronger.
For the first time since late July, baseball will not be on t.v. for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, the wait for the 2021 season will not be as long, but for now, this is an unknown. All that can be guaranteed currently is that Los Angeles can party like it’s the 80’s as the Lakers and Dodgers are both champions.