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Can the best Dodgers team yet end L.A.’s World Series drought?



Sixteen days ago, with their superiority already established, Joe Kelly declared that the 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers were the best team he had ever seen and quickly realized the weight behind his statement.

“That says a lot,” Kelly continued, “because I’ve been on a team that won the World Series, and this Dodger team, this 2020 team — I don’t care if it’s short season, long season. Long season, we would’ve broken all the records. Short season, we’re gonna break all the records. This is the best team that I’ve ever seen. Best bullpen I’ve ever been a part of, best lineup I’ve ever seen, best starting pitchers, defense, all around.”

The Dodgers, 38-16 heading into Tuesday’s game against the Oakland Athletics (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN), have held baseball’s best record for 36 consecutive days. They rank second in the majors in runs per game, second in the majors in starters’ ERA, second in the majors in bullpen ERA and second in the majors in turning batted balls into outs. Their run differential, plus-119, is 42% higher than that of the second-place San Diego Padres and on pace to be the fourth best since 1900 on a per-game basis.

And yet the Dodgers aren’t promised anything more than a three-game postseason series. By Wednesday night, all of their players and coaches will have situated themselves in a nearby hotel to quarantine for the unprecedented baseball tournament that will begin seven days later, at which point the Dodgers will once again confront the only adversary they have not conquered — the short series that magnify the randomness that defines their sport.

The Dodgers have been eliminated by the team that won the World Series each of the past four years and could have conceivably beaten them all. The 2016 National League Championship Series turned on a hanging slider from Joe Blanton in the sixth inning of Game 5. The 2017 World Series turned on two blown leads by Clayton Kershaw in Game 5. The 2018 World Series turned on miscommunication between manager Dave Roberts and Rich Hill in Game 4. And the 2019 NL Division Series turned on late-game bullpen maneuvering that left Kelly in long enough to surrender a ninth-inning grand slam in Game 5.

The Dodgers have only themselves to blame for those losses, of course, but the team with the sport’s highest run differential has won it all only four times over the past 20 years. Baseball doesn’t lend itself to rewarding its best team with championships. Its playoffs are exhilarating, but often they feel arbitrary. A long regular season and a restricted postseason are required to negate some of that, but the sport is navigating in the opposite direction, expanding the playoff field — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has already stated his intentions of doing so beyond 2020 — and thus compounding the volatility.

The Dodgers, nearing their eighth consecutive division title but still in search of their first championship since 1988, will ultimately be defined by whether they can master small sample sizes.

“I think so much of it is just controlling what you can control,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “That’s putting guys in the best spots to succeed and knowing how we want to attack opposing hitters and having as good of a feel as we can for how opposing pitchers are going to attack us and how our positioning ties into how we’re going to attack. That’s really all we can control from a preparation standpoint. And then just bet on the talent and the preparation winning out.

“When you look back over time, it’s pretty clear that the Major League Baseball playoff structure is never something that’s going to be 0 and 100%, and so for us, it’s almost just having the casino operator mentality of controlling what we can control and betting that more often than not, good things will play out.”

The current Dodgers are not perfect, but for every blemish there is a remedy.

Kenley Jansen has been hot and cold, but the Dodgers possess what Roberts considers is easily his deepest and most versatile bullpen in half a decade as the team’s manager. Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Joc Pederson are batting a combined .203, but A.J. Pollock has significantly improved, Corey Seager is back among the game’s best shortstops and Mookie Betts has been even better than anybody on the Dodgers could have imagined. The No. 3 spot in the rotation is uncertain, but the three young pitchers vying for it — Julio Urias, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin — have combined for a 2.70 ERA.

The Dodgers’ loss to the up-and-coming Padres on Sept. 14 served as a “punch in the mouth,” Betts said, and since then, the team has won five of six while outscoring its opponents by a combined 21 runs. Lately, Roberts has noticed a particular focus from his group.

“It’s time to go,” Roberts said, “and our guys understand that.”

They also understand — better than anyone, perhaps — that their dominant season can disappear with one bad night in October. The Cincinnati Reds are among six NL teams that could conceivably finish as the No. 8 seed, in which case the Dodgers could be staring at a three-game series against Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray, who make up arguably the best rotation trio in the NL. But any of the other contending teams — the Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals — are capable of winning two of three at Dodger Stadium with only cardboard cutouts in the stands.

FanGraphs recently ran projections stating that the top division winner from 2012 to 2019 would have seen its odds of winning the World Series drop by an average of 5.3% under this current format.

“I don’t particularly like it,” Dodgers ace Kershaw said. “It doesn’t really give us any advantage at all.”

It’s easy to get caught up in the disappointment of not seeing such a thoroughly talented Dodgers team navigate a traditional season, but at several points during baseball’s three-month shutdown, Friedman found himself dreading the possibility of not seeing this team at all. It shifted his perspective and ultimately made him feel grateful for this season, however unconventional it might be. Friedman hasn’t found any one trait that correlates to success in the short series that make up baseball’s October tournament, be it contact hitting or deep bullpens or elite defense. He believes it’s “more narrative after the fact, because whatever you say is the best way, I can then give you a counter of that in the last however many years.”

Friedman will tell you this Dodgers team has as good a chance as any to win it all simply because it possesses the pitcher-hitter advantage more frequently and boasts incomparable depth, the type that could make an even bigger difference in a year with no off days within the division series and league championship series. But his team remains vulnerable, at the mercy of a postseason increasingly designed more for entertainment than validity.

“I get it from their vantage point, and if I worked at Major League Baseball, I would have different goals and incentives,” Friedman said. “From my vantage point, obviously a very biased one, I want to do everything that we can to make the playoffs less random. But they are still wildly popular, and I guess that’s what matters most.”

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San Diego Padres’ Luis Perdomo has Tommy John surgery



San Diego Padres reliever Luis Perdomo will miss the 2021 season after opting to have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Perdomo, who is eligible for arbitration this offseason, was found to have a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament after the season.

The 27-year-old reliever, who missed time this season due to forearm inflammation, gave up 11 earned runs in 17.1 innings over 10 games for a 5.19 ERA. He had 16 strikeouts and 10 walks.

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How the Rays became the Rays. Inside the brain trust of MLB’s most innovative team



When the Tampa Bay Rays first tasted success, reaching the 2008 World Series after just 10 years in existence, then-manager Joe Maddon would often remind his team that the franchise was still in its infancy.

“We are where some other teams were 100 years ago,” Maddon would say. “We’re writing history. We’re the first chapters of that history that people are going to look back on.”

The Maddon-led Rays lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in that Fall Classic, and the team has still never won a championship — under him or any manager — but after all of these years, dating back to the team’s inaugural season in 1998, the time could be now to change franchise history forever.

Win or lose this week, though, the American League champion Rays have long been changing baseball history with an innovative approach to team building, led by a brain trust whose members have now spread to front offices across Major League Baseball — including to the team they just beat in the American League Championship Series, the Houston Astros, and the team they’re battling now for the Commissioner’s Trophy, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now in 2020, the brainiest baseball team in the bigs is four wins from its first title.

“Are we doing things the right way?”

Between meetings, between conference calls, this question has long bounced around the baseball operations offices of the Rays. Under the leadership of former Wall Street analyst Andrew Friedman — who in 2014, after a decade with the team, left to become the president of the Dodgers — the group developed a reputation for maximizing the potential of its players, creating a strong farm system and making shrewd trades. It helped produce stars like super-utility man Ben Zobrist and ace Chris Archer — flipping the latter a couple of seasons ago for two of the most important pieces of this year’s pennant-winning club in 6-foot-8 righty Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Austin Meadows.

The Rays haven’t always succeeded, particularly in an AL East that features perennial winners in the big-spending New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, but for them doing things the right way — in a new way — has meant embracing the opener, using extreme shifts and sometimes even a fourth outfielder. Despite a payroll that ranks 28th in MLB, ahead of just the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles, that philosophy — along with a reputation for outsmarting other teams in trades and tactics — has long brought the Rays respect. Now it’s brought them back to the World Series.

With a roster that has few, if any, household names, the hallmark of the 2020 Rays — as it has been for the club for many years — is depth.

“Working with Andrew Friedman, depth was always something that was critical to our organization,” senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager Erik Neander told earlier this year. “For health and also for unexpected performance in both directions. Depth is a way to have guys who can surprise you in pleasant ways. In this division, we usually don’t bully clubs with the top of our roster. It’s really about flattening the talent slope from spots five through 40, making sure we’re strong there.”

After Friedman’s departure, the unorthodox approach to franchise building and willingness to stretch the impact of analytics on the field continued with an all-star quartet of executives, including Neander. Matthew Silverman started his career at Goldman Sachs, where he helped Rays owner Stuart Sternberg structure his bid for the team before being hired as its president. Senior vice president of baseball operations (now Red Sox chief baseball officer) Chaim Bloom wrote for Baseball Prospectus before joining the Rays as an intern. Current Astros general manager James Click also rose from Baseball Prospectus writer to intern, then all the way to vice president of baseball operations with Tampa Bay. Together, they developed a front-office culture where decisions were collaborative, nontraditional ideas were embraced and negative reaction from others outside the organization was largely ignored.

“Try to appreciate the strengths a player possesses at any given moment. … You don’t necessarily know what [paths] they’re going to take, but the more options, the more possibilities, the more you have a chance for them to take that step. It’s easy on any given player to focus on what they can’t do, especially prospects.”

Rays GM Erik Neander on scouting and developing players

Not that being in St. Petersburg, Florida, hurt. While the front office sometimes faced blowback from the national media regarding some of its forward-thinking moves, the lack of the daily scrutiny found in larger markets like Boston, New York, Philadelphia or Los Angeles meant more room for experimentation, according to former Rays executives — not to mention the necessity to be creative with money. That relative freedom is something Rays alums say they’ve come to appreciate after moving on to bigger markets.

In recent years, the success of Tampa Bay brought attention to Bloom, who interviewed with the Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants and New York Mets before taking the job in 2019 running the Red Sox. All of the final four teams in this year’s playoffs — the Astros (Click), the Braves (team president Alex Anthopoulos worked under Friedman in L.A.), the Dodgers and of course Tampa Bay — have roots and ties to the Tampa Bay organization. Now, Friedman faces off for a World Series title against a team he knows as well as anyone.

“Obviously I have close personal relationships, my closest friends, but my focus is what we’re doing here. We came back down from 3-1 and our focus is on tonight, and now our focus is four more wins,” Friedman told Tom Verducci after the Dodgers won the NLCS.

Said Click, to the Houston Chronicle, about facing his former team in the ALCS: “On a scale of zero to weird, it’s pretty weird.” Click also told the Wall Street Journal: “The ability to create your own talent is always going to be a huge mover. It’s something that the Rays obviously do exceptionally well. It’s something the Dodgers do exceptionally well.”

With smarts, the ability to fly under the radar to a degree and financial restraints that would often necessitate innovation, ideas that would start as watercooler topics — hypotheticals thrown around for fun with co-workers — have turned into radical ideas actually implemented by the Rays on the field.

One of the more recent radical ideas: Hiring baseball’s first process and analytics coach and giving him a spot in the dugout. Jonathan Erlichman, a former math major at Princeton — nicknamed J-Money by Friedman for his conspicuously sharp dressing in his early days with the team — rose from Toronto Blue Jays intern to the Rays’ director of analytics before being named to the coaching staff prior to the 2019 season.

Most famously, before the 2018 season, the Tampa Bay front office, under the leadership group of Silverman, Bloom and Neander, wondered whether having a five-man rotation and a traditional bullpen with a closer was the best way to maximize the talent of their roster.

The opener was born — and suddenly, the entire weight of an idea would fall onto the shoulders of then-35-year-old right-hander Sergio Romo. After experimenting using more under-the-radar relievers like Andrew Kittredge, Ryan Yarbrough and Yonny Chirinos to start games early in the season, the Rays saw Romo, with nearly 600 appearances under his belt, as a way to legitimize the practice. Romo carried the career pedigree of a top reliever who closed out a World Series and, just as importantly, seemed open-minded about the idea.

On May 19, 2018, Romo struck out Zack Cozart, Mike Trout and Justin Upton of the Los Angeles Angels in a perfect first inning. The Rays won the game 5-3. Romo started again the next day, throwing a scoreless 1⅓ innings, though Tampa Bay lost 5-2.

Some saw the opener as the latest savvy experiment by the analytical Rays. Other more traditionalist baseball fans criticized the team’s lack of closer and set rotation. Among the most pointed criticism came from an elite big league starter: Astros righty Zack Greinke.

“It’s really smart, but it’s also really bad for baseball,” Greinke, then with the Arizona Diamondbacks, told Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller. “There’s always ways to get a little advantage, but the main problem I have with it is you do it that way, then you’ll end up never paying any player what he’s worth because you’re not going to have guys starting, you’re not going to have guys throwing innings. You just keep shuffling guys in and out so nobody will ever get paid.”

It worked well enough that Tampa Bay kept the practice up for the rest of the season. That year, Tampa Bay was the only team to use an opener in the double digits, employing the strategy in 41 games. In 2019, six teams used openers in double-digit games, led by the Rays at 57 times. What started as a fringe strategy had become mainstream, particularly in the playoffs. This October, the Yankees attempted to use an opener to trick Tampa Bay in the ALDS, starting rookie righty Deivi Garcia before bringing in J.A. Happ in the second inning of Game 2 — a move that ultimately backfired.

With a rotation topped by the talents of 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell, Glasnow and Charlie Morton, the rest of the Rays’ Swiss Army knife pitching staff has been tasked with simply getting outs, regardless of situation or inning.

That philosophy has shaped the rest of the Rays’ roster.

“Try to appreciate the strengths a player possesses at any given moment,” Neander said. “Try to keep the focus there. Try to think about the paths to further development. You don’t necessarily know what they’re going to take, but the more options, the more possibilities, the more you have a chance for them to take that step. It’s easy on any given player to focus on what they can’t do, especially prospects.”

The Mariners saw Ryan Yarbrough as a soft-tossing lefty minor leaguer with little upside. The Rays saw a pitcher who, with his plus control, could be an up-and-down guy at the minimum. The Rays got Yarbrough and Mallex Smith for Drew Smyly (who promptly got injured). Meanwhile, Yarbrough added a cutter to help against righties and that’s become his best pitch as he has gone 28-16 with a 3.94 ERA over three seasons.

“The fact is that when everyone gets traded, the first thing they say is they do extremely well at developing pitchers and the fact that I come over and we were able to hone some things and figure out some ways to get better. It was the truth,” Yarbrough said. “It was a great job and you can see all of the guys who have come up through the years and had a lot of pitching success.”

“We’re good because we have good players and we really work hard to get them in the right positions to be successful and win you games. But the bottom line is that you don’t get to this point and you don’t have a record that we have without having good players.”

Rays manager Kevin Cash

The Rays acquired Nick Anderson last season from the Marlins with Trevor Richards for outfield prospect Jesus Sanchez and reliever Ryne Stanek. The Marlins figured they would cash in on a 28-year-old rookie reliever they had acquired for next to nothing from the Twins. The Rays saw a pitcher, who no matter his circuitous route to the majors (including time in independent ball) had great stuff and the potential to be one of the best relievers in baseball. Anderson has a 1.43 ERA in the regular season since that trade, with 67 strikeouts and just five walks in 37 2/3 innings.

The Pirates had grown frustrated with Meadows and Glasnow, even though both were once regarded as top-20 overall prospects. Meadows had been injury-prone in the minors and the Pirates had given up on Glasnow as a starter due to control problems. The Rays saw two extremely talented — and still young — players who perhaps just needed a change of scenery. They got the pair for Archer in 2018, in what looks like one of the best trades of the past few years.

Yandy Diaz had just one home run in 265 at-bats with Cleveland in 2017-18, plus he was blocked at third base by Jose Ramirez. The Rays saw a player who had big exit velocity, plate discipline, could play third or first and just needed to add some loft to his swing. They got Diaz in a three-way deal, giving up Jake Bauers. Diaz has hit .278/.365/.451 with a 121 OPS+ with the Rays — the perfect complementary player.

When asked about his relationship with the team’s front office, manager Kevin Cash — a former journeyman catcher for teams including the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees, who later served as a Toronto Blue Jays scout and then the Cleveland Indians‘ bullpen coach — described the dynamic as “a collaboration” noting a running conversation between the player development, scouting, front office and coaching groups, with ideas pitched — and heard — from all sides.

“That’s where Erik Neander and his staff do such a good job of bringing that all together,” Cash said. “You watch Erik and how he goes about his day and we’re around each other a lot right now in this bubble, but for every single conversation he has with a scout, he has with an R&D guy. He’s trying to pull as many thoughts together as possible so we can make really good decisions on the baseball field.”

The results of this year’s playoffs bear the fruit of this work, with outfielder Randy Arozarena tearing up fastballs left and right and part-time players like Mike Brosseau coming through with a series-defining home run against the Yankees in the ALDS. The Rays have long needed to find value between the cracks, spending significant time scouting a player’s personality and character to supplement any interest sparked by the analytics.

Cash said that the approach to roster building shaped an underdog mentality within the clubhouse, with many players overlooked by other teams finally getting an opportunity with the Rays. He typically finds that when a player joins Tampa Bay, it doesn’t take very long for him to buy into the team’s culture. And while Cash understands how analytics shaped the reputation of his team, that doesn’t define the players in his clubhouse.

“I don’t think we outsmart clubs,” Cash said. “We’re good because we have good players and we really work hard to get them in the right positions to be successful and win you games. But the bottom line is that you don’t get to this point and you don’t have a record that we have without having good players.”

Maddon’s Rays wrote the first chapters of the franchise, but Cash’s team is now trying to start a legacy by winning a World Series.

En route to the franchise’s second Fall Classic appearance, Cash removed an All-Star starter with a big-game pedigree — Morton — in Game 7 after 5 2/3 innings and 66 pitches, and runners on the corners with two outs, eliciting immediate criticism of the move on social media.

Cash brought in Anderson, trusting that Tampa Bay’s process would bring another victory after a season in which the Rays posted the AL’s best record (40-20), trusting that his best reliever would get him out of the game’s most important situation instead of allowing Morton to face Astros hitters a third time around. Anderson got the out, and three innings later, the Rays celebrated on the field at San Diego’s Petco Park, with a ticket to Arlington, Texas.

When asked after the game why he removed Morton, Cash got right to the point.

“It was pretty simple. Third time through [the order], we value that. We value our process,” he said. “We believe in our process, and we’re going to stick to that.”

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How Mookie Betts changed the super-sabermetric World Series into the super-fun Series



ARLINGTON, Texas — In 1921, George Herman Ruth, better known as Babe, drew a walk and stole two bases in the fifth inning of a World Series game. In 2020, Markus Lynn Betts, better known as Mookie, drew a walk and stole two bases in the fifth inning of a World Series game. Over the 99 years, with hundreds of games and thousands of innings between these events, nobody managed the feat in a World Series game.

That it happens to be Ruth who last mustered the deed is an inspired bit of baseball whimsy, considering the other tie that binds him to Betts. Both were traded by the Boston Red Sox: Ruth to the New York Yankees in a 1919 deal that history considers sports’ greatest all-time fleecing and Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers this year in a far-less-lopsided yet still emotionally consuming swap. Unlike with Ruth, Boston had seen Betts at his peak. The city knew what it was losing.

Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday was the Mookie Betts show. Clayton Kershaw earned a Best Supporting Actor statuette, and sundry other Dodgers earned their scale, but Betts, on baseball’s biggest stage, surrounded by some of its best players, managed to differentiate himself. He married the game of Ruth’s era with its modern version. His dynamism overwhelmed the Tampa Bay Rays, just as it did the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series, just as it did all season, just as it has for a half-decade. Although he scored only two of Los Angeles’ runs in its 8-3 victory before a decidedly pro-Dodgers crowd of 11,388 at Globe Life Field, Betts left his fingerprints all over the things he stole, from bases to the series advantage.

When the Dodgers traded outfielder Alex Verdugo and shortstop prospect Jeter Downs for Betts and David Price in February, they did so with Tuesday night in mind. The Dodgers lost the World Series in 2017 and ’18. They built a player-development juggernaut, could spend money to match any team and still didn’t win. Betts was the separator.

In the fifth inning Tuesday, with the Dodgers leading 2-1, he separated. First, he drew a walk from Rays starter Tyler Glasnow. Then he stole second and became a hero to fans everywhere with the munchies by earning them a free taco through a promotion tied to stolen bases, which happen to be enough of an anachronism in baseball that seeing one in a game is double-take-worthy. A double steal, which Betts and Corey Seager then pulled off, is practically unheard of.

Betts’ greatest coup remained. There is an art to baserunning — to rounding bases properly, to leading off a base, to understanding scenarios as they unfold. The secondary lead — a few extra hops and a step toward the next base as the pitch is delivered — is something Betts does as well as anyone. When Max Muncy chopped a one-hopper that Rays first baseman Yandy Diaz fielded and wheeled home, his throw was slightly up the line, in decent shape to get a mortal running. Instead, it was Betts.

He heaved his body toward home — batting glove sticking out of his right rear pocket, sliding glove on his left hand, gold chain flopping around like it hadn’t a care in the world. Catcher Mike Zunino swept the tag. Too late. The Dodgers led 3-1. That lead expanded to 6-1 by the end of the fifth. It was 8-1 an inning later, with the first of those runs coming on a Betts opposite-field home run around the same vicinity where in NLCS Games 6 and 7 he made spectacular catches against the wall.

All of these elements, they’re Betts’ array of talent dictating what baseball can be. The one-dimensionality of the game in 2020 does not translate in Betts’ world. He hits. He fields. He runs. He plays long ball. He plays small ball. He molds himself to a moment. And the Dodgers follow.

“Mookie,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “is gonna get the best of everybody.”

The Dodgers, meanwhile, are getting the best of him, and that gives them an unmatched catalytic presence. After Betts’ slide around Zunino, the Dodgers followed with an RBI single, an RBI single and an RBI single. It was like a time warp back to the ’80s, before front offices believed that to make a stolen base worthwhile you need about an 80% success rate. In a World Series, in which every out is precious, the prospect of losing even one petrifies managers, so, by and large, they don’t run.

This series, between a Rays organization whose deftness with analytics has helped turn it into a baseball think tank and a Dodgers organization that uses similar principles but can leverage its financial advantage to weaponize them, had all the makings of a new-school, bullpen-heavy, matchup melee — and it might yet evolve into that.

Game 1, though? From Betts’ wheels to the quick-hook Rays leaving starter Tyler Glasnow in to throw 112 pitches despite his ineffectiveness, it was throwback day. The fifth inning in particular, with Betts running and Glasnow battling and the Dodgers’ lineup peppering RBI singles all over the field, might as well have been staged by players wearing flannel uniforms.

To win a World Series, it takes more than conventional wisdom or whatever passes for that today. If for a game or two or three or four it means playing the brand of baseball that the game and situation dictate, then evolve good teams will. The Rays might need to ditch the homer-or-bust ethos that got them here. Already Kevin Cash, their manager, did the exact opposite of what one would have thought with Glasnow. He’s plenty capable of more zags.

But for as much as Cash says Randy Arozarena is the Cuban Mookie Betts … he isn’t. Betts is a singular figure, with each of the five tools abundantly clear and a level of energy that, were it calculable, surely would rate as well-above-average, too.

“Mookie’s pretty special,” Kershaw said. “He does things on a baseball field that not many people can do, and he does it very consistently, which I think separates him from other guys.”

That sounds a lot like the Dodgers, actually. They do things others don’t. They do those things consistently. That’s why they won 43 of 60 regular-season games. That’s why they entered the postseason as — and remain — distinct World Series favorites. That’s why their three-games-to-one NLCS deficit to Atlanta registered as such a shock and their eventual pennant rebalanced the sport’s order.

In the middle of it all is Betts, elemental. Without him, the Dodgers don’t become the first team since 1991 to homer twice and swipe three bases in a World Series game. Without him, perhaps they’re still a guy short, and this drought goes on. And it might still. Baseball is twisted that way. What it giveth in Game 1 it might taketh away in Game 2.

What won’t change is Mookie Betts. He signed a 12-year, $365 million extension with the Dodgers this year. Almost instantly, he embraced his position as the team’s fulcrum, even amid stars, homegrown players and others with tenure. He does it for these games, those moments, the piece of metal that allows baseball players to call themselves champions.

When he does it, those who saw all of his success in Boston can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness. It’s not right, really, and it’s not reasonable, especially considering that Betts might have left via free agency anyway. But it’s the same feeling as a century ago: regret commingling with admiration, the feeling of knowing what you lost and loving it anyway because it’s impossible not to.

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