Is Dodgers’ World Series title cheapened by unique 2020 season? – Press Enterprise
ARLINGTON, Texas — There was only one World Series championship available to win in 2020.
But how does the Dodgers’ win after the most unique – and shortest – season in Major League Baseball history stand up to the 115 World Series winners that came before?
“I think if you can pull back stuff from summer camp to that date you mentioned I think my answer is still the same,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “(If there was) a championship to be had, we wanted it. All that has encompassed all of us and all the things that we’ve had to deal with – you could argue to say that it’s even more difficult. Not even talking about playoff format, just all the things that we had to do as opposed to the long rigorous, six weeks of spring training, 162 (games), the regular format. You could argue.
“My point being is that there should not be an asterisk and I stand by that.”
There is an argument to be made.
This year’s World Series champions played fewer regular-season games than any previous champion. But the Dodgers needed to win more postseason games than any previous champion – 13 thanks to the best-of-three Wild Card Series added this year and the best-of-five Division Series added in 1995.
“The postseason is the postseason, regardless,” Dodgers utilityman Kiké Hernandez said before Game 6. “First round was a little weird, honestly, for obvious reasons. But at the end of the day, the two best teams in baseball this season are still standing (in the World Series) and there are 28 teams watching from home. I think there are 28 teams that would give whatever to be in the situation the two of us are. It doesn’t matter if we play 60 or 162 games – I bet you the other 28 teams would still want to be here, regardless.”
Before this pandemic year, the shortest MLB season came in 1981 when 110 games were played in two halves thanks to a labor stoppage.
The Dodgers won the World Series that year, too. But the winningest team in baseball in 1981 – the Cincinnati Reds – was not even invited to the postseason. The Reds’ 66-42 overall record was four games better than the Dodgers’ 63-47 but the Reds finished second in the NL West division in each half of the split season. The Dodgers were in first place when the players went on strike in mid-June (by only a half-game over the Reds) and finished fourth in the second half, their playoff spot already assured.
This year’s Dodgers team had the best regular-season record (43-17) in a season that had teams matched up only against teams in their own region. But during the postseason, it had to beat the teams with the second- (Rays, 40-20), third- (Padres, 37-23) and fourth-best (Braves, 35-25) records.
“Honestly, quite honestly – I didn’t need the validation,” Roberts said of the postseason road. “Of course there’s people who are skeptics. I like to think that if they love baseball as much as we do, that they could step back and look at the quality of play, the quality of talent. It’s been a fantastic postseason and it’s been a great World Series.”
If anyone is searching to validate this year’s championship, the challenges the Dodgers had to overcome that no other World Series champion faced were myriad. The coronavirus pandemic created hurdles to completing a baseball season – just as it has created hurdles to every aspect of our lives. The Dodgers had to overcome them all in order to win the final game of baseball’s season for the first time since 1988.
“Yeah, you know, we’ve worked our (butts) off all year,” NLCS and World Series MVP Corey Seager said. “Following protocols, being away from family at times, being here in the bubble quarantined. It hasn’t been easy.”
It wasn’t and the Dodgers tripped at the finish line. Third baseman Justin Turner was pulled from Game 6 after testing positive for the virus and then created controversy by returning to the field for the Dodgers’ post-game celebration.
“In a lot of ways it’s been more challenging with the expanded postseason, the best-of-three wild-card round, which presents a lot of challenges that obviously weren’t there before, the 60-game season where a lot of guys didn’t have as many at-bats under their belt or innings under their belt,” Turner said before Game 6. “So there’s a lot of things that go into this that you can make an argument to say it might be even more difficult.
“But obviously we understand this is a different season. That was one of the first things we talked about when we got back together – that no matter how many games we played, no matter what the postseason looks like, if there’s a championship to be won we’re going to go after that and do everything in our power to win it.”
In many ways for these Dodgers, it was a four-year journey to a World Series title – with the final leg of that journey the most fraught with peril.
“We’ve been through a lot as a team, especially the guys who have been here for as long as me – and the guys who have been here even longer than me have been through even more. We’ve been through a lot,” Hernandez said.
“Obviously there was a lot (this year). But I think for us as players, the bigger challenges were off the field. Once we got started, baseball is still baseball – even though there’s nobody in the stands or there’s only 60 games to go or the fact that if we don’t get the job done in nine innings the 10th inning starts with a runner on second. Baseball is baseball.
“I think for us, off the field was a bigger challenge. The whole COVID thing affected a lot of people’s routines and stuff. For me, being from Puerto Rico, I haven’t seen my family in a really long time. I’m sure there are a lot of people in that clubhouse who haven’t seen their families in a long time. Besides baseball, I would say the most challenging part was dealing with the daily life as is.”