The Los Angeles Dodgers clung to their goal in a baseball season upended by the coronavirus pandemic, and walked away with a World Series title after a campaign unlike any other.
The Dodgers captured their first World Series in 32 years with a six-game triumph over the Tampa Bay Rays — fielding questions throughout about the legitimacy of the title after a regular-season shortened from 162 games to 60.
Tradition-bound baseball saw rule changes — seven-inning double-header games, the designated hitter used in National League ballparks and a runner placed at second base to start extra innings — in a bid to keep the campaign on track.
A modified playoff format allowed 16 teams into the post-season, but manager Dave Roberts said none of that should take away from what the Dodgers achieved in a season of uncertainty.
“You could argue to say that it’s even more difficult, all the things we had to do,” Roberts said.
“There should not be an asterisk, and I stand by that.”
While more teams made the playoffs, they had to fight their way through a dangerous best-of-three first-round format.
By the time the best-of-five Divisional series games rolled around, baseball had moved its remaining contenders into quarantine bubbles in Texas and California.
That left teams with a punishing march to the World Series, with both the Dodgers and Rays going the distance in seven games in seven days during the League Championship Series.
In the end, the two teams with the best regular-season records: the 43-7 Dodgers and the 40-20 Rays dueled for the title.
“Obviously we understand that it’s a different season,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said before Los Angeles’ title-clinching win on Tuesday.
“That was one of the first things we talked about when we got back together: Look, no matter how many games we play, no matter what the post-season looks like, if there’s a championship to be won, we’re going to go after that and do everything in our power to bring it home.”
To that end, Turner was reportedly militant in urging teammates to observe the social distancing and hygiene protocols aimed at preventing the kind of Covid outbreaks that hampered teams including the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals early in the season.
“I think for us, off the field was a bigger challenge,” said Enrique Hernandez, whose wife is expecting the couple’s first child. “The whole Covid thing affected a lot of peoples’ routines.
“For me, being from Puerto Rico, I haven’t seen my family in a really long time, and I think there’s a lot of people in that clubhouse that can share that sentiment, that haven’t seen their families in a really long time.
“Besides baseball, the most challenging part was dealing with the daily life as it is.”
Baseball had gone nearly two months without a positive test when Turner himself was pulled late from game six on Tuesday after a follow-up test — in the wake of an inconclusive result — came back positive.
With the trophy secured, Turner couldn’t resist going onto the field to celebrate with the teammates who had suffered through World Series disappointments in 2017 and 2018.
Roberts hopes fans understand the magnitude of the Dodgers’ achievement that caused Turner to throw caution aside.
“I like to think if they love baseball as much as we do, they could step back and look at quality of play, the quality of talent,” he said. “It’s been a fantastic post-season and it’s been a great World Series.”