The Dodgers Are Finally A Bride, Not Just A Bridesmaid
The team that was always a bridesmaid, but never a bride, has finally tied the knot. After many close calls in recent years, the Los Angeles Dodgers have finally won the World Series in a season like no other. Los Angeles had to endure their bitter rival winning 3 titles in the past decade and seeing two other teams win it all on their home field, but this was their year. To understand all the frustrations the Dodgers finally put behind them, let’s look at their previous seasons.
Let’s face it: The Dodgers have an advantage due to playing in Los Angeles. They benefit from being in a big media market and the fact baseball has no salary cap, which helps when ownership that isn’t afraid to spend big money. We saw proof when Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts were signed to big, long contracts. However, if there isn’t development in the minors and drafting, all that big money could lead to mediocre results. Look no further than the New York Yankees between 2013–16, when years of lackluster drafting led to the team making the playoffs only once in that four-year span. For many, that doesn’t appear to be a big deal, but not with a franchise that’s used to being a perennial contender. Now, they’re relevant due to hitting on some draft picks and shrewd moves to acquire prospects. The impressive thing about the Dodgers doing the same, is that they have done this while winning, which means they draft when the premier talent is long gone, so their scouting has to be on point.
Now as to their close calls. The Dodgers made it to their first World Series in almost 30 years when they reached the Fall Classic in 2017. They faced off against the Houston Astros, a team similar to them with solid starting pitching and a strong lineup. In one of the better World Series you’ll ever see, the Dodgers came up short after losing Game 7 at home. Of course, the news broke 2 years later about the Astros illegal sign stealing scandal, so there’s a sense that Houston’s win is tarnished. Whether or not the Astros’ actions aided in winning at the time, the worst part for the Dodgers was seeing another team celebrate on their home field. And yet, this wouldn’t be the last time they would have to endure this. Next year, they ran into the buzzsaw Boston Red Sox, who lost only 3 games the whole postseason on their way to a World Series title in a magical season. As if it wasn’t bad enough that Boston won in Los Angeles, news broke that the Red Sox had an illegal sign stealing scandal of their own. So, on top of losing two titles on your home soil, you got the feeling you got cheated on both occasions by the opposition.
Another Dodger who overcame his personal frustrations was star pitcher Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw was never able to have that one signature performance in the postseason, despite being a force in the regular season and leaving no doubt he would one day be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The first time the big lefthander got a monkey off his back was in the 2016 Division Series, when he came in relief in the decisive game vs the Washington Nationals and got the save. However, that smile was wiped off his face when he lost Game 6 of the NLCS, allowing the Chicago Cubs to reach their first World Series in 71 years. Kershaw’s next letdown in an elimination game happened last year. In a reversal of fortune, the Nationals came back on him in the decisive game of the Division Series to move on. With Kershaw not getting any younger, you had to wonder if his window was slipping away.
However, 2020 changed everything. Going into the season, most people believed we were headed for a Yankees-Dodgers World Series, myself included. While the Yankees came up short, the Dodgers proved everyone right. The run to the title wasn’t without adversity, as they fell behind 3–1 to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS. Los Angeles rolled off three wins in a row which featured clutch hitting from Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger and Kike Hernandez, with the latter coming up big in the decisive seventh game. Julio Urias gave us a preview of bigger things to come, and nailed down the final 3 innings to send the Dodgers to the third World Series in 5 years.
There, they would face off against the Tampa Bay Rays, the best team in the American League. The questions was, could the big stars deliver against a very solid Rays team? Kershaw pitched well in the World Series, only allowing 3 runs in two starts and passing Justin Verlander for the most strikeouts in postseason history. Mookie Betts proved that he was worth both trading for and later extending, with his stellar play in the postseason. On top of being a typical offensive force, Betts showed us why he’s a complete player with his stellar defense. One player who came up short was Kenley Jansen, as his struggles had led to manager Dave Roberts no longer completely trusting him with the closer role. The nail in the coffin was not only blowing the save in Game 4, but failing to back up the catcher which allowed the game winning run to score. Later on, his comments that his actions didn’t matter couldn’t have helped. In Game 5, Blake Treinen closed out the game after Kershaw gave a gutsy effort.
When people talk about Game 6, they will point to when Rays manager Kevin Cash removed starter Blake Snell as the turning point in this game. Tampa had a 1–0 lead thanks to a Randy Arozarena home run, and Snell was dealing. He had allowed only the second hit of the game when he was removed, and he was visibly upset. Social media didn’t agree with the move, and neither did I. Snell wasn’t going to pitch a complete game, but he still definitely had more left in the tank in terms of effectivity. Reliever Nick Anderson promptly gave up a double to Mookie Betts. After a wild pitch and a fielder’s choice, the Dodgers had taken the lead and you couldn’t help but second guess Cash’s decision to remove Snell. Betts later added an insurance home run in bottom of the 8th inning. This was more than enough for Julio Urias, who closed out the game in dominant fashion. Urias mowing down the Rays made it an easy decision to keep him in the game for the 9th inning.
When Urias struck out Willy Adames for the final out, 32 years of shortcomings and recent frustrations were finally left in the past. Dave Roberts is no longer a manager that wins 100 plus games a season and can’t make the correct decisions in October, he’s now a World Champion both as a player and skipper. Clayton Kershaw can now add World Champion to his long list of accolades. Mookie Betts came to Los Angeles because he wanted to win, and he quickly got a taste of success in his first year. As hard as it is to win, it’s even harder to repeat. But, it’s not hard to see the Dodgers being a contender to win it all again next year. For now, Los Angeles can enjoy the fact they’re home to a World Series champion.