Plaschke: Dodgers' sixth World Series title since moving to L.A. might be sweetest

Bill Plaschke
·7 min read

Dance like Mookie. Soar like Belli. Scream like Kersh.

The 31-year drought is over, the heavens have opened, and all over Los Angeles it’s raining blue.

The Dodgers are World Series champions.

We’ll write it again, with feeling, for all the times in the last three decades you thought you’d never read it again.

The Dodgers are World Series champions!

The weight is over, the burden has been lifted, the dream deferred has become a reality embraced.

For the first time since 1988, the Dodgers hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy on Tuesday night with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays to clinch the World Series four games to two.

“This is our year! We said it! This is our year!” shouted manager Dave Roberts during the postgame celebration. “Everyone all over the world wearing Dodger blue never wavered. This is our year!”

From Gibby to J.T., from Bulldog to Buehler, from Tommy to Doc, the torch was finally passed on a chilly fall night in Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

Taking advantage of an analytic blunder by Rays manager Kevin Cash — he incredibly removed Blake Snell in the middle of a two-hit shutout — the Dodgers scored two runs in the sixth and cruised to a diamond party for the ages.

Julio Urías threw a 97-mph fastball past a frozen Willy Adames to finish it, then all redemption broke out. Urías doubled over in screaming celebration before walking into the arms of catcher Austin Barnes while all around them were flying caps, tossed gloves and tearful hugs.

“It’s phenomenal … this was incredible … we never stopped,” said Corey Seager, the unstoppable World Series MVP, who batted .400 with two homers and five runs batted in. “To be able to finally … get the last out, win the last game, it’s surreal and it’s unbelievable.”

Also surreal and unbelievable — and so very 2020 — was the postgame announcement that veteran leader Justin Turner, who had been strangely removed from the game in the eighth inning, had tested positive for the coronavirus.

“To have that happen to a guy like that … it’s gut-wrenching,” said Seager.

It’s the Dodgers’ sixth title since moving to Los Angeles in 1958, but perhaps the sweetest because it took the longest, the 31-season drought spanning four owners and nine managers and endless heartbreak.

Occurring just 16 days after the Lakers won the NBA championship, the Dodgers’ title also reestablished Los Angeles as America’s sports capital.

“To the city of L.A., this is deserved by you guys, you guys needed it the most, 32 years and here we are, world champions,” said Kenley Jansen.

The pandemic prevented Tuesday’s game from being played at Dodger Stadium — and how crazy would that have been? — but there was an overwhelming majority of Dodgers fans among the restricted crowd of around 11,000, enough to fill the air with the familiar chants of “Let’s Go, Dodgers.”

And to think, how many recent Octobers have you chanted that in vain? Through seven consecutive previous division championships, you have chanted. Through two previous World Series, you have chanted.

You’ve seen them get worked by the St. Louis Cardinals, cheated by the Houston Astros, overpowered by the Boston Red Sox, embarrassed by the Washington Nationals, and still you chanted.

This time they listened. This time it stuck. This time they were tough enough. This time they were clutch enough. Sure, this time it was a 60-game season and empty stadiums and odd rules and expanded playoffs, but don’t even say it’s not legitimate. Don’t even say it’s not real. With three weeks of quarantining in Texas, it might have been their most real October yet.

It took a leaping Cody Bellinger catch to quiet the San Diego Padres. It took a comeback from a three-games-to-one deficit, a bunch of Mookie Betts little miracles and a Bellinger homer to defeat the Atlanta Braves.

Then, in the World Series, it took two Clayton Kershaw wins, one Austin Barnes bunt-and-homer night, a bunch of Corey Seager, and a rebound from a devastating late Game 4 loss to defeat the Rays.

“This year has been crazy, obviously, but no matter what, we’ll look back on this and we’re World Series champs, and to get to say that … it’s so special,” said Kershaw.

In the end, as much as anything, this was a triumph for three often criticized cornerstones of the organization — the owner, the baseball president, and the manager.

Guggenheim Baseball Management rescued the franchise in 2012 from the destructive Frank McCourt and set it on its current course, but it was never enough. Led by Chairman Mark Walter and President Stan Kasten, the ownership poured money into both Dodger Stadium and the organizational structure, but they forgot about some of their most loyal fans. They signed an $8.35-billion television deal that kept the teams off most local TVs for six years. In a bit of fortuitous timing, the blackout ended this season, and with this title they can now take a long-awaited victory lap.

“These players had their backs against the wall but they stuck together and never gave up,” said Walter on Tuesday night. “They showed what could be accomplished when we believe in each other and when we believe in that dream.”

Also heavily scrutinized has been Andrew Friedman, the analytics guru who became president of baseball operations in 2015. He hasn’t lost a division championship since, but it was also never enough. He has come under fire for constructing most of his roster with solid players who compute well but don’t have the intangibles to perform in October. It is no coincidence that the Dodgers finally won when, last winter, Friedman finally acquired a gutsy pressure player like Betts and gave him the largest contract — a $365-million extension — in Dodger history.

“We’re bringing the trophy home; it’s been too long,” said Friedman. “To our incredible fans, thank you for all the support, we’re sorry it took us this long, thank you for your patience, but it’s coming home where it belongs, we are the champions.”

Perhaps nobody has been ripped more than manager Dave Roberts, who took over from Don Mattingly in 2016 and whose October decisions have led to a steady stream of boos. He took out Rich Hill too early. He left Kershaw in too long. He should have saved Yu Darvish from himself. Roberts was also heavily criticized this October for several precarious calls, but he figured out his bullpen enough to guide it through a Game 7 victory against the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series and then again in the final two games of the World Series.

The Dodgers celebrate their World Series title after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.
The Dodgers celebrate their World Series title after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

All three cornerstones earned redemption for sins that occurred many years before their watch.

When Kirk Gibson hit that home run and Orel Hershiser threw those masterpieces and Tommy Lasorda screamed the gospel in the Dodgers’ 1988 World Series victory over the Oakland Athletics, folks thought that magic would last forever. It did not. They didn’t even make the playoffs the next year, and so the drought began, continuing unabated through bloopers and blunders and just plain bad luck. In the process, the Dodgers lost the town to the Lakers, lost their stature in the league, and occasionally appeared to lose their minds.

They traded Mike Piazza. They lost Adrian Beltre. Then there was Manny Ramirez, a player so magnetic they named an entire section of Dodger Stadium in his honor. “Mannywood,” it was called. Then he was busted for performance-enhancing drugs and Mannywood became a ghost town.

The failed players were guided by failed leadership. Peter O’Malley sold the team to the Fox Entertainment Group, and they promptly traded Piazza. Fox then sold the team to McCourt, who managed it so poorly that it was eventually wrested from him by Major League Baseball.

All of this led to Guggenheim, which led to Friedman, which led to Roberts, all which led to Tuesday night’s glorious six-word end to a 32-year journey.

We’ll write them once more. They will never get old.

The Dodgers are World Series champions.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.