The 2020 season, for all of its small-sample strangeness, has come to its final seven games. Remaining are the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were baseball’s best in the regular season and will battle for the title of World Champion over the next week or so. The teams are fairly evenly matched and many experts are expecting the series to be a tight contest, which will make for entertaining viewing.
Unfortunately, there’s no skin in the game for Tigers fans. Detroit had a brief flirtation with the idea of making a playoff run, but reality smacked them in the back of the head again. The team wound up among the bottom five for the fourth year in a row, meaning bandwagoning is the order of the day. If you are one of the coveted few undecided voters, have no fear, we’re here to help you decide where to place your rooting interest as the 2020 MLB season comes to a close.
The World Series is always loaded with some of the best players in baseball, but there’s no contest between these two teams with regards to household names. It’s almost mind-boggling how completely loaded the Dodgers’ roster has become. There’s no rest for teams facing off against this force from Los Angeles: they have above average players in their rotation, lineup, on the field, and waiting in the ‘pen. Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts, and Cody Bellinger account for three of the last six years’ MVP awards alone. There are so many stars on that roster that to name-drop them all would read like a roll-all of the roster itself. Make no mistake, the Rays have an outstanding group of players too, but the Dodgers outdo them in this regard.
There aren’t many Tigers on either of these rosters, but it’s one of the most important aspects to choosing a bandwagon team, so let’s take a look. In Tampa Bay, former Tigers prospect Willy Adames has managed to carve out a niche for himself. This season was a big one for the shortstop, batting .259/.332/.481, which was an offensive production 24 percent above league average. He’s a mainstay in their lineup but doesn’t get much national attention, in part because the shortstop position is so stacked throughout the league.
Adames has been less inspiring during the playoffs, but at least he’ll be there, unlike Dodgers lefty and former Tigers ace David Price. The southpaw went to LA in an offseason trade, but opted out of the 2020 for health and safety reasons. The decision was understandable and the coronavirus pandemic continues to be an issue across the country, but for our purposes, it gives the edge to the Rays.
A Long Time Coming
The two things sports fans seem to love the most is watching a dynasty be built and watching a dynasty be toppled. The 2020 World Series matchup has the potential to deliver on both at the same time. Sure, the Dodgers haven’t had too much postseason luck in recent years, but their logo is plastered all over many of the MLB’s historic moments. On the other hand, the Rays are a relative newcomer to the sport and have never won a title. Their very name was synonymous with “losing” for years and the current regime is taking the franchise to heights it has never seen before. Winning it all would seal the deal on the Rays being baseball’s poster child for the modern game.
I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you, but despite how national media is trying to spin this matchup, it’s no David and Goliath pairing. The Dodgers and Tampa Bay have consistently been two of the best teams in baseball for the last several years, despite the enormous disparity in their payrolls. The Rays go about their business in a much more frugal and understated way than Los Angeles, resulting in less name recognition on their roster and fanfare from the networks, but they’re still a juggernaut. This series could easily go either way, but if Tampa Bay comes out on top, don’t call it an upset.
Regardless of whether the topic is money, recognition, or a title, for many professional athletes, the strongest motivator is the drive to get what’s owed to them. If any team deserves to feel that they’re “owed” a championship, it’s the Dodgers. The Astros’ exceedingly well-publicized cheating scheme resulted in a 2017 World Series victory over Los Angeles. The well-worn argument that their triumph was invalid can’t take the rings away and the Dodgers are still trying get their championship. It’s a little unfair that the Rays are the target of the residual revenge storyline, but if that’s what gets you amped up, welcome to Dodgers Nation, my friend.
Regardless of which of these two teams captures your interest in the upcoming clash, one thing is certain: we’ll be treated to some unbelievable play from some elite players. This is the first time since 2013 that the teams with the best record in each league played in the World Series, when the Cardinals lost in seven games to the Red Sox (ew). Be sure to check the schedule Series schedule here and get ready for some of the best baseball this season has to offer.