Indiana Daily Student

OPINION: Moneyball, milestones and missed opportunities in the World Series

<p>The Los Angeles Dodgers Austin Barnes scores in front of Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Nick Anderson on a wild pitch in the sixth inning during Game 6 of the World Series, on  Oct. 27 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.</p>

The Los Angeles Dodgers Austin Barnes scores in front of Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Nick Anderson on a wild pitch in the sixth inning during Game 6 of the World Series, on Oct. 27 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

Game 6 of the 2020 World Series was full of confusion, celebration and shock. Social media exploded. Rob Manfred got booed. Justin Turner tested positive for COVID-19. 

Most importantly, the Los Angeles Dodgers are World Series Champions for the first time in 32 years, ridding themselves of the reputation of being beat in every World Series they appear in.

The journey to get there, even without the quarantine bubble and playing at a neutral stadium, was full of milestones for everyone involved. 

Clayton Kershaw finally has a championship ring. Mookie Betts became the first player since Babe Ruth to walk and steal two bases in one inning of a World Series game. Randy Arozarena was trending on Twitter and quickly became one of the most well-known names in baseball. 

The baseball world expected Kershaw to crash in the postseason. It may have just been cynical Dodger fans thinking about past years, but it was there in the forefront of many people’s minds. 

Instead he did the opposite.

It’s no question Kershaw will be a Hall-of-Famer, and he would have been even if he didn’t have a ring. But the numbers he posted this postseason just further cemented his talent. He passed John Smoltz and Justin Verlander with 207 postseason strikeouts and finished with a 2.31 ERA in the series.

Want more records? 

Randy Arozarena set one for home runs in a single postseason with 10, surpassing the Dodgers’ own Corey Seager as well as Barry Bonds and Nelson Cruz. Arozarena’s contract with the Tampa Bay Rays was only for one year, so his name will probably be one of the most sought-after this offseason during free agency. 

Betts also etched his name into the record book while at the plate. In the first game of the World Series, Betts became the only player to have a home run, two stolen bases and two runs scored in a single World Series game. 

Despite all of the press about Betts, Kershaw or anyone else, there is a new narrative circulating now. Did Kevin Cash ruin the Rays’ season?

Tampa Bay pitcher Blake Snell was pitching a shutout in arguably one of the best games of his career, striking out 50% of the batters he faced in 5.1 innings. He gave up one base hit and suddenly Cash was out to replace him, leading to a string of obscenities from Snell.

In a way, it could make sense. The Rays have always touted analytics and the idea of sabermetrics to have success against teams with much larger budgets. Their payroll is $28.3 million compared to the Dodgers’ $107.9 million, yet both made it to the World Series. There’s no arguing the Rays are today’s “Moneyball” team, and they know what they’re doing.

But baseball isn’t a robot sport. You can’t always go by the book in a game full of emotions and unpredictabilities. To simply take out a starting pitcher because it's the formula is malpractice. In fact, looking at the statistics, Snell only had 73 pitches and hadn’t allowed a run. It didn’t seem like he was wavering at all, so why would he be removed? 

Cash cited the principle of not allowing starting pitchers to face the lineup a third time through. This would be understandable if the Dodgers had gotten a read on Snell and were actually getting hits or even hard contact. But they weren’t. 

In fact, Snell’s departure rejuvenated the Dodgers’ lineup as they took over the game.

The baseball world will forever wonder what could have happened and what opportunities the Rays missed out on because of the decision. 

If there wasn’t enough turmoil in the game already, third baseman Justin Turner on the Dodgers was removed from Game 6 after his COVID-19 test came back positive. However, he then returned to the field to celebrate with his team, drawing criticism from the public and an investigation to come from MLB.

Even with the season over, there are still more questions. What if the test results had come back before the game? Would the game have even been played? What happens to the players now? 

And the most important one for me: when does spring training start?

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