I’m a big baseball fan, so I’m always ready to watch every October when the World Series comes around. But the journalist in me doesn’t mind when there’s a good story; it always gives the Fall Classic a little extra juice.
So when the Los Angeles Dodgers vanquished the Atlanta Braves in seven games in the National League Championship Series, it set up a bit of a David vs. Goliath situation with the American League champions Tampa Bay Rays.
The small-market Rays are always easy to root for — the franchise consistently has to operate with one of Major League’s Baseball’s lowest payrolls, but they continue to churn out winning seasons. The Rays ranked 27th in payroll this year, but finished with a 40-20 record, ahead of the powerful New York Yankees, which spent the most money in the sport.
There aren’t too many recognizable players on Tampa’s roster — Mariners fans will find ex-catcher Mike Zunino in a part-time role with the Rays; he hit his fourth homer of the postseason in Game 7 against the Astros — as the Rays must find innovative ways to put teams together on the cheap, building on the “Moneyball” concepts made famous by the early 2000s Oakland A’s.
It has largely worked, as Tampa has nine winning seasons in the past 13 and has qualified for the World Series twice since 2008. In 2020, the Rays feature late-blooming Randy Arozarena, who was acquired in a shrewd trade with St. Louis; Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows, both of whom were brought in from Pittsburgh in another coup; Blake Snell, a homegrown right-handed pitcher who played at Shorewood; and Manuel Margot, a San Diego Padres castoff who has hit several enormous home runs in the postseason. The Rays also have a seemingly never-ending supply of practically anonymous relief pitchers ready to come in and toss 98 mph fastballs.
The architect of this winning foundation is former general manager Andrew Friedman, who departed the Rays after the 2014 season to take the helm of the Dodgers. It was a simple, but brilliant idea for Los Angeles — take the man who built winning teams for no money and give him money. Since Friedman took over, the Dodgers have won 90 or more games each year (except for the shortened 2020 season) and 100 games twice.
They’re the Goliath in this scenario, though perhaps one of the more sympathetic ones in recent memory. The Dodgers were on a collision course with history after winning 104 games in 2017 and mashing their way through the National League playoffs.
In the World Series that year, they met the Houston Astros, who are now infamous for their rampant use of video to steal signs and then signal them to hitters through a variety of methods, including banging on a trash can. It appears to have worked as the Astros led the Majors that year in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, doubles and runs scored. They also finished second in home runs.
The Dodgers ended up losing the World Series four games to three and returned the next year, but lost in five games to the Boston Red Sox, who ended up embroiled in a similar scandal, though to a smaller degree. A combination of MLB monitoring and the rest of the league catching on to the use of video to steal signs rendered the scam less effective, and Major League Baseball found no evidence the Red Sox used it in the postsesason that year. Still, the Dodgers aren’t exactly difficult to root for; most fans probably believe they should have erased their now 32-year championship drought.
News and notesThe Seattle Sounders were back in action Sunday after nearly a week off. Their Oct. 14 matchup with the Colorado Rapids was postponed. The Rapids had initially reported 12 positive cases of COVID-19 over the course of a couple of weeks in late September and early October. One more staff member tested positive on Oct. 7, prompting the Rapids and the Colorado Department of Health to suspend activity for 10 days. The Sounders had a scoreless draw with the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday.
The Seahawks are back after a bye week to face the Arizona Cardinals in Week 7. Their NFC West rival had a tough time passing the ball against a suspect Dallas Cowboys defense on Monday Night Football, but ran very effectively. The offense has been cooking, and it would be wise to get ahead early to neutralize the Arizona ground game. The 1:05 p.m. Pacific matchup offers Seattle a glorious chance to pick up some more separation between them and the rest of the teams in the division.
Our sister paper, the Peninsula Daily News, reported that a Jefferson County first-grader was the recipient of a lifetime pass on the Washington State Ferries for drawing a Seattle Kraken logo. Major professional hockey hasn’t been played in Seattle in 100 years, so the new franchise will take all the fans it can get. I have a feeling Henry Norris and his family will be attending quite a few games in the years to come.
PAC-12 football is scheduled to return Nov. 7 with a seven-game regular season, consistently solely of games against other league members. The Huskies open up against California on Nov. 7 and have their first home game the following week when they host Oregon State. Washington State will face Oregon State on Nov. 7 and will have its first home game Nov. 14 against Oregon. The Apple Cup moves back to the east this year; it will take place Nov. 27 at Martin Stadium in Pullman.