Courtesy: Ringo Chiu – Shutterstock – A fan reacts during a drive-in live broadcast of game 3 of the World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Oct. 23, 2020.
In a season of twists and turns, the 2020 Major League Baseball season has finally come to a close.
A season that began with coronavirus spikes among many teams and a slew of canceled and postponed games ended with the LA Dodgers emerging as world champions over the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Fall Classic featured the two best regular-season teams in baseball for just the fourth time since the league realigned its divisions in 1995.
But before we dive into the gut-wrenching loss for Tampa, let’s take a look at the Rays’ historic postseason run.
The Tampa Bay Rays punched their sixth ticket in franchise history to the playoffs after finishing first in the American League East division—first division title since 2010. After defeating the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL Wild Card Series 2-0, Tampa faced division rival New York Yankees and won the best of five series 3-2. Then came the Astros in the AL Championship Series. The AL Championship Series birth was the team’s second appearance in the short history of the franchise and ultimately held on to the series lead after a late surge from Houston to win 4-3 in the best of seven league championship.
Then came the Fall Classic…
In the team’s first World Series appearance since 2008, the roster was a team built on a low-budget with relatively unknown names to most non-Rays fans. As of August 1., the Rays had the third-lowest payroll in the big league at $29.3 million, a figure that was dwarfed by the team in the opposing dugout by just over $66 million.
But money is just a number in this unpredictable game.
Following the popularized “Moneyball” approach, this Rays team was able to secure one, if not, the deepest pitching rotations in the league thanks in part to their minor league feeding pattern teams.
Couple that with a talented outfield led by veteran Gold-Glover Kevin Keirmaier and some lively bats in the form of emerging rookie-sensation Randy Arozarena and you’ve got yourself a team Florida. Arozarena, a late addition to the team, was hitting .281 with seven home runs and 11 RBIs in 23 games coming into the postseason. However, topped that performance with a historic playoff display. “The Cuban Rocket” went on to smash the postseason record for most hits and home runs— all as a rookie.
Sadly, despite all the broken postseason hitting records and the elite pitching staff, the Rays came up just short of winning their first league pennant, keeping them in the doghouse with five other teams who have failed to do so.
Tampa’s season came to a ‘stinging end’ last night in Arlington, Texas, after being defeated 3-1 in Game 6 of the World Series. But perhaps the loss was avoidable and could’ve been decided in Game 7 had it not been for the potential all-time managing mistake.
After entering the fifth inning with a 1-0 lead, team skipper Kevin Cash made the decision to pull the plug on 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell.
Snell was dominating heading into the inning, having struck out 10 batters and allowing only two singles on 73 pitches before being pulled. Why he was pulled has many scratching their heads. And from then on, the rest is history.
Cash went to his bullpen and plugged in his best regular-season reliever Nick Anderson, only to allow two runs immediately after.
“Cash is a hell of a manager, you can’t take that away from him,” Snell said. “If Nick gets out of the jam like he usually does and our bullpen holds it down like they usually do, nobody is talking about it. At the end of the day, I see both sides.”
“But with the way I felt that game and what he was able to see during that game, I don’t wanna be taken out of that game. For the most part, me and Cash, I’m going to side with him, because I know how good of a manager he is and it’s just tough because I felt so good.”
The decision to pull Snell was backed by the reasoning to avoid facing the heart of the Dodgers lineup in Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner for the third time that game.
“I guess I regret it because it didn’t work out. But I feel like the thought process was right. Every decision that’s made, the end result has a pretty weighing factor in how you feel about it,” said Cash. “If we had to do it over again, I would have the utmost confidence in Nick Anderson to get through that inning.”
Although the Game 6 loss could have been avoided had Cash not pulled his ace from the game in the first place, the blame does fall on the whole team. The Rays struck out 16 times and left nine runners on base en route to their disappointing loss. The Rays are now 9-14 against the Dodgers in head-to-head matchups all-time.
This was the Dodgers’ first championship since 1988, snapping the league’s 10th-longest championship drought.
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William is a South Florida native with professional experience writing at the collegiate and national news outlet level. He loves fishing, playing soccer and watching sports in his spare time and is a fan of all South Florida teams.