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The disinterested Phillies fans’ guide to the 2020 World Series

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Two teams that aren’t the Phillies will try to win a title that may or may not be legitimate

MLB: World Series-Workouts Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The field of sixteen non-Phillies teams that made it to MLB’s postseason has been whittled to just two, and either the Tampa Bay Rays or Los Angeles Dodgers will come away with a shiny trophy. I realize that many of you stopped paying attention as soon as the regular season ended (if not earlier), but you don’t want to act like you don’t know what you’re talking about when you get invited to a socially distanced World Series party. So I’ve provided a helpful tutorial of the key things you need to know.

Is this for real?

One question on a lot of fans’ minds: Should this actually count? Are we going to treat the winner of this series as a real champion, or because of the shortened season and expanded playoffs, will we always look back at the 2020 champs as illegitimate?

It seems like people regard the recently crowned NBA and NHL champs as legit, but those leagues also played the majority of their regular seasons and had a normalish playoffs. My guess is that MLB will do everything in their power to make sure this year’s champion is treated the same as any other, and aside from a few invested parties, everyone else will stop caring.

Los Angeles Dodgers

This will be the Dodgers’ third World Series appearance in the past four seasons, which means they’ll have a chance to lose three World Series in a four year span. I’m not sure if this would be an unprecedented “accomplishment,” and if someone more diligent than I am wants to look that up, please go ahead.

How they got here

They had the best record in the National League, and took advantage of their top seed by winning their first five postseason games, easily dismissing the Brewers and Padres. They ran into some difficulty against the Braves, falling into a 3-1 series hole. Fortunately for the Dodgers, the Braves remembered that choking in the playoffs is their thing, and lost the last three games of the series.

What are they good at?

Everything? They led the National League in both runs scored and team ERA.

What aren’t they good at?

Winning the World Series. Despite plenty of playoff appearances since then, the Dodgers haven’t won baseball’s ultimate prize since 1988. Remember that the Dodgers’ string of recent success goes beyond the two recent World Series appearances. 2020 marked the team’s eighth straight National League West title, but during that span, they’ve never managed to hoist the big trophy at the end of the playoffs.

What’s the deal with Clayton Kershaw?

Clayton Kershaw has had a Hall of Fame career, but his failures in the playoffs have taken on a career of their own. The worst part is, it seems that he gets worse in every successive round of the playoffs. His career NLDS ERA is 4.02. In the NLCS, it rises to 4.84, and in the World Series, it’s a downright bad 5.40. For comparison’s sake, 5.40 happens to be the career ERA of Nick Pivetta.

Why we should like them

They just handed the Braves another painful playoff loss which is enough to make me think better about any team. They’ve also got Mookie Betts, and I find it impossible to root against a player named Mookie.

Why we shouldn’t like them

Since the teams didn’t play this season, I didn’t get any emails from Dodgers fans who were upset about my series preview. However, my guess is that another year of losing in the playoffs hasn’t improved their sense of humor about the team. Also, Los Angeles fans just got to celebrate a title. They don’t need another one.

Speaking of Mookie

Last season, the Red Sox traded Betts to the Dodgers, because they were worried that his outsized contract demands would skew their payroll or something, and they wouldn’t be able to field a good team around him. Obviously this was a code for “the owners are worried they won’t make as much money as they would otherwise.”

The Dodgers traded for Betts, gave him his contract, and have had no problem coming up with an excellent supporting cast around one of the best hitters in baseball. Perhaps the Phillies should take note of this and re-sign one of their best players, instead of being too concerned with lowering payroll and staying under the luxury tax threshold.

Anything else notable about the Dodgers?

Like I said, they’re the best team in baseball. They have a lot of good players: Will Smith, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Dustin May...and I could pretty much go on for a long time.

Tampa Bay Rays

This is the second time the Rays franchise has played in the World Series. I doubt that anyone reading this doesn’t know what happened the first time they made it there.

How they got here

The Rays had the best record in the American League. It would have been nice if they had rested on their laurels during the final weekend of the season, but no, they had to play to win. They beat the Blue Jays in the Wild Card series, the Yankees in the ALDS, and after taking a 3-0 lead in the ALCS, they eventually emerged victorious in game seven.

What are they good at?

They must be really good at drafting and development, since they never spend much money on players, but always seem to have a lot of good ones. Brandon Lowe, Josh Fleming, and Blake Snell are just a few of the good players the Rays’ system has produced in recent years.

MLB: ALCS-Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays
Brandon Lowe is another success story of the Rays organization
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

What aren’t they good at?

Spending money to retain and enhance the homegrown talent. If the Rays had the same financial resources and willingness to spend as the Dodgers, they would be truly dangerous. It seems certain that the franchise would have already won a World Series at some point.

What about on the field?

The Rays had the second best team ERA in the American League thanks to pitchers like Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and former Phillie Charlie Morton. (Wouldn’t Morton have looked good in the Phillies’ rotation the past few years?)

Their hitting wasn’t quite as good during the regular season, although outfielder Randy Arozarena has inexplicably become the best hitter in baseball during the playoffs.

Randy who?

Randy Arozarena was signed by the Cardinals out of Cuba in 2016. After an impressive cameo for the Cardinals in 2019, they traded him to the Rays in a deal that seemed more about Jose Martinez and Matthew Liberatore at the time. Now that Arozarena has hit seven home runs this postseason, the St. Louis faithful is not happy about the trade.

Why we should like them

They ensured that neither the Yankees nor Astros would win the World Series this year, and we should all be very thankful for that. The Astros victory tour would have been especially insufferable, so I think we owe the Rays our rooting interests. Also, considering the Phillies’ most recent title came at the Rays’ expense, it would look better for that team’s legacy, if it didn’t come against a ring-less franchise.

Why we shouldn’t like them

Because seeing a team like the Rays constantly churn out good players is especially frustrating when the Phillies can only seem to bring up a solid player once every five years. You know how excited we are about Alec Bohm? The Rays bring up a guy like Bohm just about every year.

Anything else notable about the Rays?

They have an outfielder named Hunter Renfroe, and I was getting confused because there’s an NFL wide receiver named Hunter Renfrow, and I was trying to figure out why the guy on my fantasy team was playing baseball, and if I’d get any bonus points if he hit a home run.

Prediction

I realize the Rays are a good team, but this Dodgers team is loaded, and if they can’t win it this year, they may never win the World Series again. Superior talent eventually wins out and the Dodgers take it in six games.