World Series 2020: will the Rays spring a surprise over the Dodgers?
Not to be crude, but if Los Angeles’ rally from a 3-1 NLCS deficit taught us anything about these Dodgers, it’s that their players have the balls to go along with management’s brains and ownership’s bucks. They are the complete package, and now that closer Kenley Jansen has ironed out his kinks, it’s going to be tough for the Tampa Bay Rays to overcome LA. That’s not a slight to the Floridians of course, who have shown yet again that at least dollar for dollar, they’re the best run organization in North American sports. With skipper extraordinaire Kevin Cash pulling the strings on his extremely talented, if not lesser known roster, they’ll push the LA to the very limit, and come up a buck short. Dodgers in seven.
The deep-pocketed, talent-stacked Dodgers, despite a proclivity for October heartbreak you could set your watch by, are simply too deep and too talented for their number to not come up one of these years. They were World Series favorites even before February’s blockbuster trade with the Red Sox for Mookie Betts, who’s been the second-best player in the majors over the past few years. They went 43-17 in the regular season (the best record in the National League by eight wins), have the better offense (5.82 runs per game to the Rays’ 4.82) and the superior bullpen (2.74 bullpen ERA as compared to Tampa Bay’s 3.37). Back in the World Series for the third time in four years, David Roberts’ snakebitten group will finally get over the hump and bring the title back to Chavez Ravine for the first time since Kirk Gibson touched ‘em all in 1988. Dodgers in six.
Momentum counts for a lot in baseball. As good as the Rays have been all year, the Dodgers had their backs against the wall and came through. The past four teams to recover from a 3-1 deficit in the championship series have all gone on to win it all, and the Dodgers will be full of confidence that they can continue that streak.
What’s more, they’ve been there before – most of their starting lineup have played in previous World Series, whereas the Rays are notable for their relative lack of postseason experience. Plus after the loss to the cheating Astros three years ago, the Dodgers will feel they are overdue – and if they don’t win this year, they may not have such a good opportunity for a long time.
The Rays have a great core rotation, but it’s not clear they’ll be able to score heavily enough to outpace the Dodgers, who led the league by some distance in runs scored per game. However, they have built a great side with just a quarter of the payroll of the Dodgers, and stand a good chance of returning to the World Series again in the next few years.
It would be fitting if 2020’s title went to the team who played in a virtually empty stadium before it was compulsory, but the Dodgers’ combination of power, momentum and a creeping sense of narrative destiny makes it hard to look past them. Dodgers to win in five, Clayton Kershaw to pitch a shutout and finally cement his legacy.
The Dodgers are clearly the better team player-for-player – and the best individual talent in Betts but the the Rays’ hardscrabble mentality will see them through. Taking on one of the giants of MLB won’t faze them – they see enough of the Yankees and Red Sox in the regular season. Meanwhile, their record in close games – which says a lot about how they will handle the pressure of a World Series – is excellent, they led the league in games decided by two runs or fewer during the regular season. Add that to the fact that they have strong defense, a great starting pitching and a solid bullpen and they’re set up for a surprise. Oh, and Randy Arozarena is red-hot, hitting .500 this postseason. Rays in six.
2020 has been a strange year for baseball, just as it has been a strange year for Literally Every Single Other Aspect Of Human Existence. Still, despite all the pandemic-related alterations to the game itself (the shortened season, the stands full of cardboard people, the absurd rule-changes etc) my brain refuses to accept the possibility of the Tampa Bay Rays, who have spent most of their existence as MLB’s punchline, as world champions. The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of MLB’s marquee franchises, nothing could hint at a possible return to semi-normalcy than them finally winning a title after so many recent postseason failures. Look for Kershaw to exorcise the demons of the past by throwing an old fashioned shutout. Look for Betts to embarrass the Boston Red Sox ownership for treating maybe the second-best player in baseball as a salary dump by earning World Series MVP honors after a series of game-altering home runs. Look for the Dodgers to pull off a gentleman’s sweep, closing out the MLB season by beating the Rays 4-1. Still, thanks for dispatching with the cheaters, Tampa Bay. You did the entire game a favor.