The end — fittingly
It has to be the perfectly imperfect conclusion to the strangest baseball season anyone this side of Stephen King could have envisioned.
The Dodgers won it all Tuesday night, taking Game 6 in a World Series clincher that had everything — good and bad — about baseball in the here and now.
Beyond the title, the biggest storyline this morning is the Justin Turner fallout. Turner, the Dodgers No. 3 hitter, was pulled from Game 6 after testing positive for Corona. He returned to the field and removed his mask for the celebrations and postgame merriment, something that a lot of folks understandably are calling out.
(Side questions: My biggest query is the timing. Did they test Turner in the bottom of the fifth? How did they learn of it in between the back-and-forth from Buck-and-Smoltz? Side questions about the side question: Is Smoltz the best MLP analyst out there? I think yes. Also, Buck's ability to be the lead guy in the booth but cede the star role should generate more kudos his way. And for what it's worth, he's a way better dude than Jim Nantz.)
Turner's positive test was unfortunately the most fitting end to a 2020 that, like everything else, has been dominated by the COVID narrative. It also is the bullet dodged by all of these leagues who have found a way to the finish line, because if the Rays had rallied — or not pulled Blake Snell, more on that in a moment — could the Dodgers have finished? Would there have to be a quarantine and a delay of the series?
Those questions are rhetorical now, and the answers are fodder for the finger pointers because the Dodgers did win it all.
It ended a drought that lasted 32 years, and according to Jayson Stark of the The Athletic, the Dodgers capped two impressive statistical oddities in winning the title Tuesday:
> Only the 1909 Pirates had a better winning percentage during the regular season and went on to win the championship; (Pirates were 110-42 for a 0.724 percentage and the Dodgers were 43-17, winning at a 0.717 clip)
> The Dodgers have been right there among the best in baseball for a decade, and according to best estimates, the Dodgers spent $2.01 billion in those 10 years before winning it all.
And a big cause of the analysis this morning is Rays manager Kevin Cash's decision to pull Snell with one out in the sixth despite the clear fact that Stevie Wonder could see — Snell was DEEEE-ling. Five and a third, nine Ks, two hits.
Cash said he did not want Mookie Betts or Corey Seager to see Snell a third time — never mind the fact Snell had made both look foolish in whiffing them in their previous four combined at-bats.
It was the Rays' MO all year, and that club has embraced analytics in their moves all year. It's one of the key reasons the team is there, and the empirical evidence is staggering for what the Rays have accomplished with a lead.
The Rays' record with a lead after four innings is 28-4, with a lead after five innings it's 34-2, with a lead after six innings it's 37-1 and with a lead after seven innings, the Rays have won 64 games in a row.
I am all for the analytics. Truly, I am. Heck I asked yesterday if professional coaches should not have an analytic chart coach with all of this listed and placed in front of him.
But, not unlike the well called fake punt, game feel has to matter, and in situations like this it matters more and is magnified through the ages.
Because another factor here is the emotional lift pulling Snell gave the top of the Dodgers' order, which needed six pitches against the next Rays pitcher to go from down 1-0 and wondering about Game 7 to up 2-1 and only having to worry about whether Justin Turner gave them the COVID in the postgame party.
Baseball in 2020 really could not have ended any other way.
So there's that
The Lakers and the Dodgers both won the title. (Hey the Rams are pretty good too.)
Feels a lot like the late 1980s and a little surreal for sure. And for those who have passed along the well wishes, thanks for that. (Please know though that I would trade this Dodgers title and LeBron's fourth championship with a third team for Auburn to be legit good. Is that being greedy or prioritizing your fan preferences?)
Any well, all of the talk about asterisks, the best teams in the shortened version of the restarted seasons won the titles. That's a good thing.
And on Tuesday, the Lakers and Dodgers were linked by more than just locale this morning. The NBA is talking about the date of its return, which feels more than a little strange because, well, the NBA has always felt like it had a 12-minute offseason, but 2020 and the NBA return would be twice as fast as normal.
The restart for the NBA is a tricky matter with way more levels than any of us may have realized.
Consider these details:
> If they have the reported Dec. 22 season opener, that would be 73 days between NBA Finals finale and opener. In 2019, it was 131 days from title to opener;
> International players — guys like Giannis and Luka and others — want to be available for the Olympics next summer;
> Remember there were eight franchises not invited to the bubble, so they have not had action — or meaningful revenue — since Rudy Gobert tested positive in March;
> The local TV deals for these franchises are huge, and remember if you prorated the league's losses, then teams lost $50 million per last season.
Money rules the world for sure, but if you thought we saw 'load management' and the fall out from players sitting for rest before, man, that will be a daily decision when the NBA returns.
And the complaints publicly from a Danny Green, who said LeBron and others would skip the first month, come off as arguably the most tone deaf proclamation imaginable.
Danny Green makes $14 million, and hey, I get it. Those guys are talented and great and we all should find ways to get as much money as anyone will pay you.
But man, the "That's too soon, and we need our rest" in this day and age when the economy is nuts and people are losing gigs is a terrible look.
My best friend growing up turns 50 today. Weird, and yes, the 5-0 is the one birthday that has come with an extra set of feelings for me.
But this day is special too for a lot of you in those terms. On this day 25 years ago, Tom Glavine pitched the Braves to the title. Yes, it's been a quarter century. Hard to believe, right Intern Scott?
This is not about bemoaning the Braves' absence of titles in that quarter of a century despite being, right there with the Pats, the most competitive and successful professional organization in that time.
No, this is an invitation for each of you to do answer a question for which there is no bad answer, because I think 25 years ago will be on this Rushmore for a lot of you.
What's on your Rushmore of personal all-time sports moments? Go.
This and that
— How about this person who bet more than $2.5 million on 23 bets across four NFL games Sunday. The grand total, lots of stress — and siding the wrong side in the Titans-Steelers game — resulted in losses close to $6,000.
— Hey, starting tomorrow you can get a free chicken sandwich at Wendy's with a purchase. More details here.
— Big prayers to those involved in the awful bus crash news from Meigs County.
— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on the Georgia defense wanting to reclaim its national rep and here's his prose on the two peas in a pod match-up between Mike Leach and Nick Saban.
— While we are here, College GameDay going to Augusta National on the Saturday of the November Masters may be the single coolest corona-related sports result in 2020.
OK, we have some different things today — like the rare personal Rushmore — and we're a day away from the 5-at-10 celebrating 10 years. Wow.
We have a few Which Way Wednesdays this morning.
Which word, in advance of the 10-year anniversary of this little joint, would you use to describe this daily writing?
Which chicken sandwich is the best? (And yes, I expect Chick-Fil-A to run away with this, and I'm not sure I ever expected to be in this camp, but Popeye's is every bit as good — EVERY bit — if not better.)
Which would be the statement to describe the situation if Trevor Lawrence actually did come back to Clemson for his senior year?
> Wow, that's dumb.
> Wow, good for him.
> Wow, absolutely no one wants to play for the Jets.
Finally, in advance of legalized sports wagering, other than football, which sport is the best to bet on? (For me, golf wagering is sneaky fun. And if you have not been to a Jai Alai event, it was a blast.)
As for today, Oct. 28, let's review.
Happy 50th Brent Rhodes. And there are several others of note. Julia Roberts — who, like Brent and me, is a Campbell High School graduate — is 53.
Bill Gates is 65 today. Joaquin Phoenix is 46. Side question: Did you know that Julia is taller than Joaquin? Yeah, me neither.
The Rushmore is above, gang. Enjoy the day and remember the mailbag.
And thanks for reading.