Just like in 1981, when the season was split in half by a players strike, the Dodgers’ 2020 championship will count just the same, regardless of anyone who would say otherwise.
On the first day of summer camp, the Dodgers’ leaders accurately captured the mindset of the team with a singular goal.
“It’s not going to be like anything else we’ve done. But at the same time, we’re all going through an exactly level playing field, and we’re all going through the exact same postseason,” said Clayton Kershaw, starting the 13th season of his Hall of Fame career. “Whoever does win after this, it’s going to be different. It’s going to be a different champion, but you’re still going to be the champion. To say there’s an asterisk or things like that, I don’t think that’s fair.”
“If there’s a championship to be won, we’re going to do everything in our power to win it,” said third baseman Justin Turner, in his seventh year with the Dodgers. “People are going to say whatever they say, but if there’s an opportunity to win a championship, we’re going to show up every day and work toward that goal.”
It’s a total coincidence that Parental Discretion Iz Advised was released by NWA in 1988, the last year the Dodgers won a championship. In that song, MC Ren says, “If there was a trophy involved, I’ll win it,” and that sounds a lot like Turner both before the season and the day before the World Series.
“From day one, we came out as a group and said if there’s a championship to be won, we’re going to go after it and try to run it down,” Turner said on Oct. 19.
“A difficult format, not playing at home, playing in a bubble, not seeing a lot of teams all year long that we’re playing in the postseason,” Turner added. “There’s a lot of challenges that go into winning a championship this year. And, it’s still going to be special.”
“It’s World Series or bust every year,” manager Dave Roberts said on the eve of the playoffs. “This year I think would be more special, if it could even be possible, talking about winning a championship. We’ve gone through a lot, the whole industry has.”
Those challenges included playing games in front of no fans, until the NLCS at least, and complying with strict health and safety protocols that limited access to the ballpark and spartan road trips during which players were essentially limited to the park and the team hotel.
“Baseball is baseball,” said Kiké Hernández on Tuesday. “Off the field for us 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. There’s a lot of people in that clubhouse that can share that sentiment.”
The MLB season at times seemed tenuous, especially when the Cardinals and Marlins each missed roughly two weeks after COVID outbreaks. There were weird, new rules in the truncated season, including seven-inning doubleheader games and starting extra innings with a free runner on second base.
Yes, it was weird, and different. And everybody played under the same rules.
Schedules were regionalized, and yes, the Dodgers’ slate was loaded with cream puffs from both the NL West and AL West. But they dominated that schedule, going 43-17 while outscoring opponents by over two runs per game.
Their first two playoff opponents, the Brewers and Padres, each lost their best two pitchers, which eased the Dodgers’ path, but those wins still count. Just like the Cardinals’ 2013 pennant still counted after Hanley Ramirez’s ribs were broken. Them’s the breaks.
The Dodgers lost only one of their 20 series during the regular season, then went 13-5 during the playoffs while outscoring their opponents 101-66, an average of just shy of two runs per game. This is a great team that played great on every stage presented to them.
MLB’s postseason format rarely rewards the team with the best record. The Dodgers are just the sixth team with the best overall record to win the World Series in the last 20 years. To do so, they played in more postseason rounds than any other champion before them, and beat the Rays, the team with the best record in the American League and second-best overall record in MLB, to finish it off.
It’s the toughest path to a World Series championship in major league history. The Dodgers’ title is real, and it’s spectacular.