Amid all the strangeness of 2020, we’re left with baseball’s two best teams in the Fall Classic.
More than half of MLB’s 30 teams made the playoffs this season, yet we’re still left with the best two clashing in the World Series. The Dodgers and Rays each eked out Game 7 wins in the Championship Series to get to this point in an October unlike no other.
L.A. returns to the Fall Classic for the third time in four years but is still in search of its first title since 1988. Tampa Bay, playing in its second World Series, has never won a championship. The biggest difference between these two clubs is not talent but, as you’ll hear ad nauseam over the next 10 or so days, money. The Dodgers spent a boatload on their team ($108 million in 2020, according to Spotrac) and the Rays, as per usual, did not ($28 million).
Regardless of the wildly different paths each organization took to this point, they’re both pennant winners, and they both would be a worthy World Series champion. So, who’s going to win it all? SI’s MLB experts weigh in.
Stephanie Apstein: Dodgers (seven games)
The Rays can really pitch, and they have the added advantage that the Dodgers’ hitters haven’t seen them all year. But as the series progresses, the Dodgers’ hitters will start acclimating, and their lineup is just so good and so deep. They’ve also been at Globe Life Field for the last week, whereas the Rays have never stepped foot inside; not a game changer, but one of the small details that can add up.
World Series MVP: Mookie Betts, OF
Emma Baccellieri: Rays (seven games)
This should be an incredible pairing, with two teams that are so well-matched, and it’s easy to see this going either way. (I suppose that tends to happen when you have No. 1 seed versus No. 1 seed.) But I think the difference-maker here might be the Rays’ bullpen—this is by far the biggest gap between the two clubs, and given the lack of room for error around the ‘pen this deep into October, it could be what pushes them over the edge.
World Series MVP: Tyler Glasnow, SP
Connor Grossman: Rays (six games)
An unusual champion for an unusual year. That’s not a slight against the Rays. They’re unusual not in that they lack talent, but in how they leverage that talent (pulling a starting pitcher after 60 pitches and six shutout innings?) and how much money they spent on that talent (comparatively speaking, pennies). The Rays are the perfect team to conquer the postseason devoid of days off, and they’ll squeak past a Dodgers team all too familiar with October heartbreak.
World Series MVP: Randy Arozarena, OF
Matt Martell: Dodgers (seven games)
This is the first time since 2013, and the second time since the turn of the century, that the best team in each league won the pennant. In a year when we worried about unworthy contenders and fluky finishes, the two best teams are the last two standing.
The Dodgers are the better offensive team, with an elite rotation, great defense and a solid, though sometimes shaky, bullpen. Flip the description of L.A.’s offense and bullpen and you’ve got the Rays. This series is meant to go seven games. Clayton Kershaw wins twice, and Corey Seager takes the throne from Randy Arozarena as the best hitter on the planet this postseason.
World Series MVP: Corey Seager, SS
Michael Shapiro: Dodgers (six games)
The Rays may be the only team to match the Dodgers’ depth, but Los Angeles’ top-end talent will be too much for even Tampa Bay to overcome. Expect both Dodgers MVPs to continue their excellence from Game 7 of the NLCS, and a certain Hall of Fame pitcher will get yet another chance to excise his October demons. The Dodgers will finally get over the hump in one of the strangest seasons in history and secure their first title in 32 years.
World Series MVP: Mookie Betts, OF