Scott Boras has long been a proponent of playing the World Series at a neutral site to give fans and corporate sponsors months in advance to plan travel to and purchase tickets for games, turning baseball’s signature event into a multiple-day experience like the Super Bowl or All-Star Game.
“I think it would be a tremendous economic gain for our industry,” the agent said in a recent interview. “They can plan for it and have an international dynamic to it, corporate sponsorships and entertainment … people can go and be there for seven days and they get to see seven games.
“The Super Bowl has one game. Here you can have five to seven days of festivities, rock concerts, a postseason awards gala for Cy Young and most valuable player winners. You could have a true home-run derby and invite all the big boys to it.”
Boras, who represents some of the game’s highest-paid players, having negotiated more than $1 billion in contracts over the offseason for stars such as Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg, got his wish this year, but it wasn’t by choice or design.
A pandemic forced Major League Baseball to move the World Series — and most of the National League playoffs — to Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, with games in the new and luxurious retractable-roofed home of the Texas Rangers played before quarter-capacity crowds of about 11,500 each night.
While the action on the field was compelling, the games packed with made-for-television drama and the smaller crowds creating as much of a playoff atmosphere as they could, reviews of the neutral-site experience were mixed.
“It’s an interesting dynamic, for sure,” Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes said. “This stadium is on the bigger side, and I think it takes a little bit to get used to. It feels like playoff baseball to me … but it is weird not playing at our home field.”
That was missing in this World Series: The electricity of 55,000 fans in Dodger Stadium rising to their feet in anticipation of a Walker Buehler strikeout or erupting at the crack of a bat of another Corey Seager home run; the sonic-like boom of 42,000 in Tropicana Field reacting to another Randy Arozarena blast.
Can you imagine if the crazy ending to Game 4 on Saturday night, when Brett Phillips soared around the field in celebration of the Rays’ stunning 8-7 walk-off win, had occurred in Tampa Bay, where the game would have been played during a seven-game series in a normal season?
Or if the Dodgers had clinched their first World Series championship since 1988 in Game 6 on Tuesday night in Chavez Ravine, where the game would have been played had this been a normal season?
The Dodgers and Rays can.
“I think this year's been crazy, obviously,” Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw said after Game 6. “But we're World Series champ, and to get to say that and to get to be a part of it, it's so special, no matter what. to be with this group of guys. The only thing that would have made it better was if we were at Dodger Stadium tonight to get to do it, which is a bummer that we're not.
“But there were so many Dodgers fans here tonight, this place was all Dodger fans the whole time. To get to see — it was only 10,000 people here tonight, or whatever, but I bet 9,000 of them were Dodgers fans that all stuck around after and cheered for us. And I'm so happy for them. I'm so happy for the guys in that clubhouse.”
Though the Rays lost the series, they, too, felt like playing at a neutral site robbed their fans of a rare experience.
“I totally understand why we’re doing it this season," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “Having said that, I would personally feel very crummy for our Bay Area fans to not have an opportunity to see us play [World Series] games at home.
“The atmospheres created for home teams are pretty special. When we went back last year for Games 3 and 4 [of the American League Division Series] against Houston, I’ve never seen an atmosphere like that. To not have that would be a tough pill to swallow. You want to do right by our fans, who mean so much to us.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.