Fingers crossed MLB will pull off once unthinkable World Series


ARLINGTON, Texas — This place, Texas big like its predecessor across the street, carries the vibe of an airport, its outfield vast, its retractable dome high and metallic.

Which just adds to Globe Life Field’s perfect fit as host of the first-ever neutral site World Series, with Clayton Kershaw and Tyler Glasnow kicking things off Tuesday night. For as much suspense lingers over whether the Dodgers can end their title drought at 32 years or whether the Rays can slay one last giant to secure their first-ever championship, another question looms:

Can Major League Baseball stick the landing to its turbulently wonderful 2020 season?

“It was weird,” Dodgers stud outfielder-first baseman Cody Bellinger said Monday. “There were some days that you would go work out and you’d go, ‘Man, I don’t even know if we’ll have a season this year. … It was back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

“Hopefully we don’t ever have to deal with this again. We’re showing a lot of people what we can do.”

A good or bad World Series won’t impact the industry dramatically in the short term. Either way, winter is coming, not a good development. The Hot Stove League figures to be strongly compromised by the financial realities of teams selling zero tickets this year due to the novel coronavirus and, for the same reason, possessing no clue of how many they can sell for 2021. The latent animosity between the players and owners, largely put aside as the two sides worked together to pull off this minor miracle of a mini-season, can be expected to return with a vengeance as the prospect of a work stoppage for 2022, after the conclusion of this current collective bargaining agreement, looms.

For history’s sake, though, it would boost MLB’s standing to smoothly complete the narrative it has earned to this point: The game provided a respite for people worn down by illness, economic adversity and an ultra-divisive presidential election. It got its act together after some early player-owner battles nearly torpedoed the whole endeavor, devised myriad innovations (make all games seven innings, please!) to increase the likelihood of success, took the right side in the social justice conversation and impressively improved their respect for COVID after initial outbreaks on the Marlins and Cardinals made pulling the plug seem like a matter of time.

Cody Bellinger and the Dodgers will face the Rays in the World Series.
Cody Bellinger and the Dodgers will face the Rays in the World Series.AP

“I think it’s ultimately a testament to the players for being responsible, making good choices, doing everything we had to do to ensure the season was able to go on,” Dodgers third baseman and former Met Justin Turner said. “I tip my cap to every player who put the uniform on and took that risk of playing and was responsible about it. It enabled us to have a full season and have a World Series.”

The Dodgers and Rays each required seven games to outlast the Braves and Astros in their respective league’s Championship Series, putting the clubs with the top two records in the final.

“Two one-seeds facing each other, this is how you script it up,” Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier said. “It’s what you want to see in the World Series.”

The prior two times both LCS went the maximum, we got one decent World Series (Marlins over Yankees in 2003) and one lopsided one (Red Sox over Cardinals in 2004). On paper, the Dodgers stand as considerable favorites, and they’ve been playing here, at the Rangers’ newly christened home, for two rounds already. Thanks to this year’s regional schedule, the Rays had never set foot here until a workout Monday.

How wonderful to be contemplating a potential Dodgers home-field advantage. To anticipate these athletic yet analytic teams going at it for what surely will be viewed as a legitimate achievement given what the clubs endured.

“I was always mentally locked in that this was going to happen,” Rays second baseman/outfielder Brandon Lowe said of this improbable campaign. “I was focused that we were going to get back and our team was going to be battling for a World Series.”

Here they are. Here the sport is, its fingers crossed that it can keep its hot streak going for one more week.