The dust has settled on Major League Baseball in 2020 in what was its most chaotic season since the labor strikes of 1994. After all was said and done, the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of baseball’s most storied franchises, captured their first World Series since 1988 in a thrilling contest against the upstart Tampa Bay Rays.
The victory, assuredly, was more cathartic for no one than it was for Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ ace pitcher. An otherwise top-10 pitcher all-time, Kershaw had been saddled with a (partially deserved) reputation of playoff underperformance. Kershaw and his Dodgers had, over the past decade, entered the postseason with championship aspirations, only to fall short time and time again in increasingly heartbreaking fashion.
The Dodgers had previously lost back-to-back World Series in 2017 and 2018. After last year’s stunning loss to the eventual champion Washington Nationals, many fans questioned whether the Dodgers had it in them to win it all. It was why, despite the Dodgers again finishing the regular season with the league’s best record at 43-17 in the abridged 60-game season, their fans couldn’t help but hold their breaths and wait for the other shoe to drop. This year, though, there would be no disappointment, even after a heartbreaking Game 4 loss in which ninth-inning blunders by center fielder Chris Taylor and catcher Will Smith turned a game-tying hit by Tampa’s Brett Phillips into an 8-7 walk-off victory for the Rays.
The difference this year was in increased contributions on the part of Los Angeles’ young talent. In particular, superstar and former Most Valuable Player (MVP) Mookie Betts, acquired in the offseason in a highly publicized offseason trade with the Boston Red Sox, tipped the scales in Los Angeles’ favor. He made his presence felt both in the regular season, in which he hit for a .292 batting average with 16 home runs in only 55 games. He stole four bases in the World Series and slugged two home runs while making some incredible momentum-shifting plays with his glove.
Corey Seager, too, was a force to be reckoned with in 2020, becoming just the eighth player ever to win MVP awards for both the League Championship Series and World Series in the same season. Both awards were well-earned; the Dodgers’ shortstop hit five home runs in a dramatic 3-1 National League Championship Series comeback against the Atlanta Braves before registering a scorching .400 batting average in six games against the Rays in the World Series.
Of course, the happy ending for the Dodgers was sullied in part by third baseman Justin Turner. Turner was pulled in the eighth inning of the clinching Game 6 after a delayed COVID-19 test came back positive. Once the final out was obtained, Turner drew heavy criticism for returning to the field to celebrate among teammates, first with a mask before eventually removing it.
Though the Rays lost the World Series, their season defied every expectation. Despite being riddled with injuries, they stole the American League (AL) East Division championship out of the clutches of the heavily favored New York Yankees, a team they defeated in the divisional round in five games. They then went on to eliminate the reigning AL champion Houston Astros before finally falling to the Dodgers, but they made significant history in their run to the pennant. Rookie Randy Arozarena broke the single-postseason home run record with 10. His stellar play made the Rays’ Cinderella run that much more enjoyable.
With the 2020 season now at a close, baseball’s 30 teams can now exhale and begin to gameplan for the season to come. The Dodgers, for as hard as they worked, can, for the time being, rest comfortably on their hard-earned laurels as the champions of Major League Baseball.