This column seeks to cover significant current events in the sporting world as it navigates the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) finished their season a few weeks ago, and now Major League Baseball (MLB) is doing the same, as the Los Angeles Dodgers played the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series. With a season that, like so many other sports, has looked completely different than normal, these two teams have proven themselves to be the cream of the crop as they faced off against one another in order to determine who would stand atop the league for the next year.
And, after six games, we now have an answer: The Los Angeles Dodgers. After beating the Rays in six games, Los Angeles now brings home the second title for the city in 16 days.
The Dodgers finished out their season 43-17 after playing a schedule that was shortened considerably from the normal 162-game schedule down to only 60 games.
With the highest win percentage in the National League (NL), they easily won their division by six games and won the entire NL along with it. Outside of the Padres, who finished second in the NL West division just behind the Dodgers with 37 wins, no other team in the NL won more than 35 games this season.
Much like how the Dodgers swept the NL, Tampa Bay did the same in the American League (AL) after finishing their season with 40 wins and 20 losses to their record. The competition was fiercer in the AL as well, as four other teams eclipsed the 35-win mark. Division rival New York Yankees, who finished second in the AL East, was not one of those teams, however, as they only managed 33 wins, seven behind the division winners.
Of the 16 teams that made the playoffs, it is maybe not much of a surprise that the Dodgers and Rays made the playoffs considering their regular season records. However, they had to claw their way through a postseason that was full of both sweeps and nail-biters. Of the 14 series that were played up until the start of the finals, eight of them were sweeps while five ended up needing a tie-breaking final game to decide. The only series that was neither a sweep nor tied going into the final game happened in the division series in which the Houston Astros defeated the Oakland Athletics 3-1.
Looking at the series records as well, the Dodgers seemed to have an easier time with their opponents, as they had two complete sweeps before needing a final game in the third round of the postseason. However, the Rays only swept their first opponent before taking the series to final games in their next two series. This finally led to the final series for all the marbles: the World Series. And it definitely was not a sweep, as the Dodgers won in six games to cap off what many players call “the best Dodgers team in years.”
The Dodgers started the series off with a win in game one, winning 8-3 behind a massive fifth inning which saw them score six of their eight runs. However, that momentum could not continue in game two, as they dropped the game 6-4 and letting Tampa Bay even up the series at one apiece.
This pattern repeated over the next two games as well, with Los Angeles winning game three 6-2 and Tampa Bay taking game four after a bad play in the bottom of the ninth inning allowed them to score two runs in order to win 8-7. However, from there, it was all Los Angeles as they won game five by a score of 4-2 and then won game six on Tuesday night 3-1 in order to secure their first championship since 1988.
Thirty-two years is a long time. Thirty-two years ago, I was still 11 years removed from even being born. Yet, for the Dodgers, they had not won a championship in all that time. That is not to say that they have not been competitive, though, as they have won their division for the past eight years straight. They just could not win when it really mattered. But now they have, and looking forward to next year, they will hope to recreate this success, albeit hopefully without more interference from COVID-19.
As for Tampa, questionable decision-making will plague this team heading into the offseason. In the sixth inning, the Rays’ manager Kevin Cash made a controversial call to pull his starting pitcher Blake Snell off the mound. Snell had only thrown 73 pitches and had nine strikeouts while only giving up two hits, amounting to arguably one of the best games of his career.
Snell’s replacement Nick Anderson then promptly gave up a double, threw a wild pitch that led to a score, and then a run batted in which put them behind the game for the first and last time. This decision will stick with the team as one of the great what ifs in life. What if Snell had stayed in the game? Would the Rays have been able to pull off a victory? We will never know for sure, but, for now, let us congratulate the Dodgers, your 2020 MLB Champions.