2020 World Series Preview

Image courtesy of Erik Drost

Image courtesy of Erik Drost

Max Dolinh, Staff Writer

For most baseball fans, the 2020 season has gone by in a blur. It feels like yesterday rejoicing at seeing the Yankees and Nationals battle it out on Opening Day in the first glimpse of professional sports since March. Now three months later, we’re already down to two teams. And in the most unusual and unpredictable season we’ve ever seen where even the Marlins won a playoff series, the two best teams on paper somehow managed to find each other in the Fall Classic. Albeit some extremely close calls in the championship series where both teams were forced to prevail in an all-deciding Game 7, both the Rays and Dodgers deserve to be one of the last two teams to fight for the Commissioner’s Trophy in a World Series that looks to be one for the ages. Here’s the 2020 World Series Preview and how both teams got there: 

Another First-Time Champion Crowned?

A year ago, the Nationals were crowned champions for the first time in their team’s history. The Rays have a chance to achieve the same feat this year if they can win four more games out of seven. Despite having the best record in the American League this year, the Rays road to the World Series was far from easy. They made quick work of the Blue Jays in the Wild Card round but immediately had to face arguably their biggest threat thereafter, the division-rival Yankees. In a highly contested series which went all the way down to the wire in Game 5, the Rays advanced on a go-ahead solo shot from undrafted utility man Mike Brosseau in the bottom of the 8th, in which Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman sent his team home by giving up a game-winning home run in the playoffs for the second straight year. The Rays were thought to cruise through the ALCS against the Astros, and it looked that way after they went up 3-0. However, aided by an inspiring managing effort by Dusty Baker and awe-inducing performances from Carlos Correa, the Astros somehow won three games in a row to bring the series to 3-3 and force a Game 7. Fortunately for Tampa Bay, they were able to put all their struggles behind them and squeeze out a 4-2 win to send them to the championship. The Rays certainly have one of the best all-around rosters in baseball, but one man has unequivocally been the shining star of their playoff run: Randy Arozarena. The Cuban rookie outfielder acquired from the Cardinals this past offseason has been the spearhead of a Rays offense that has been seeing struggles from its key contributors. Crowned the ALCS MVP, Arozarena is slashing .382/.433/.855(MLB.com) and has already blasted seven home runs this postseason(one shy of the record), one of which came in Game 7 against Houston. The Rays have also been heavily aided in their charge to the championship by their deep pitching, most notably their bullpen. The fact that there are so many capable arms in the Rays bullpen, including Diego Castillo and Nick Anderson, allows manager Kevin Cash to be flexible and bring in relievers in key situations early in the game. The scary fact is that they don’t even need to use them sometimes. Their rotation is made up of a three-headed monster of Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell, and Charlie Morton. Similar to the Nats of last year, these three could all be considered aces on a team yet they will make up the bulk of the rotation for a team competing in the World Series. This pitching, combined with their stellar outfield defense, makes it so that no run against them comes easy. If key bats such as Brandon Lowe can wake up and everyone else can keep performing as well as they have been, the Rays could very well capture their first championship in franchise history. 

Can the Dodgers Finally Pull It Off?

The Dodgers are somewhat of a polar opposite in comparison to Tampa Bay in terms of how they got to this point. While the Rays are known for keeping a tight payroll and never being a destination for big-money free agents, the Dodgers aren’t afraid to break the bank in pursuit of winning ways, a belief reflected by their acquisition and subsequent 12-year extension of Mookie Betts from the Red Sox that also saw them take on David Price’s albatross contract. But looking at the move now, you can’t fault the Dodgers’ front office at all. The 2018 AL MVP has been outstanding offensively and even more defensibly this postseason, in a way which makes it seem like robbing home runs is just routine for him. Both teams have had different roads to the World Series as well. In contrast to the Rays having to halt the Astros’ momentum in the ALCS, the Dodgers had to mount an uphill comeback to advance past the Braves in the NLCS. Finding themselves down 3-1 after four games, they won three in a row capped off by a go-ahead homer by Cody Bellinger in Game 7. The standout player for Los Angeles so far has been Corey Seager. The 26-year-old shortstop caught fire last round en route to being named NLCS MVP and leads the team in almost all major batting categories this postseason. That is very impressive, considering Seager is only one working part of a Dodgers offense that is filled with players that have the potential to get big hits. As for the pitching department, it’s considerably strong as well. While it may not be as deep as the Rays’, they still have a shutdown ace in Walker Buehler and a bullpen consisting of pieces such as Julio Urias and Brusdar Graterol who have shown the ability to produce key outs when needed. With an incredibly potent lineup bolstered by two MVPs and a pitching staff that rivals the Rays, the Dodgers have to be the favorites to win their first World Series since 1988 after falling just short in 17’ and 18’.

Recap and Final Prediction

No matter who wins the World Series this year, one city is going to be very happy at its conclusion. With the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup and the Lakers just winning the NBA Finals, either Tampa Bay or LA fans will be treated to two championships in one year. And while neither of those finals was particularly competitive, this one certainly should be. It’s small market vs. big market as the frugal Rays will face off against the big-spending Dodgers in a best-of-7 set at Globe Life Field to settle the title. Both teams are strong in all areas of the game, the Rays headlined by their exceptional defense and abundance of effective arms and the Dodgers by their electric offense. The two juggernauts complete what is one of the most compelling World Series matchups in recent memory. Final prediction: Rays in seven.