I would so much rather be a Tampa Bay Rays fan today than a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Rays fans can relish a remarkable achievement by an underdog team, a collective experience in a pandemic year filled with spills, chills and thrills.
Yes, the Rays could have managed and pitched and hit better in the World Series. We’ll get to that later.
Dodgers fans may have a World Series championship flag to wave, but it has a big stain on it.
The stain has a name: Justin Turner. The veteran third baseman defied MLB protocols and joined a postgame celebration, even though he knew he had tested positive for the Coronavirus. To join his teammates and family members for photos and hugs – with and without a mask – he is reported to have defied MLB security.
How selfish can you be? Instead of being a role model of caution, care and concern, Turner, a supposed leader in the clubhouse, proved that while there is no ‘I’ in team, there is an ‘m’ and an ‘e.’
Last year, two baseball managers were suspended for one year for cheating scandals that involved the Red Sox and the Astros stealing signs. Turner’s malpractice was much worse. His teammates may have wanted him to join them for team photos, but what about wives and children? What about his manager, who is a cancer survivor?
Turner’s actions are under investigation by MLB. There must be consequences. It has been suggested that he lose his share of World Series money. A month’s suspension is not enough. Justin Turner should be suspended for the entire 2021 season, whatever shape that season may take.
Back to the Rays
There is broad consensus from fans, columnists and players that manager Kevin Cash made a big mistake in switching pitchers in the fifth inning of Game 6. Starter Blake Snell was cruising: one hit, no walks, nine strikeouts, but got yanked in favor of a bullpen pitcher, Nick Anderson, who was worn out from overuse.
When Cash made the move, the Rays were winning 1-0. The lead vanished just like that and the Rays would lose and game by a score of 3-1 and the series. Let’s not forget, though, that the Rays’ bats had mostly gone cold in the playoffs. They struck out 16 times in the final game against seven pitchers, a number that was once a World Series record.
Over the last century, big mistakes in baseball have earned nicknames. Fred Merkle made a controversial baserunning error costing the New York Giants a game and eventually the 1908 pennant. Because it was a mental mistake, it became known as “Merkle’s Boner,” and his nickname became “Bonehead,” in spite of a long and successful baseball career.
His teammate Fred Snodgrass (what is up with these Freds?) dropped an easy flyball in center field that cost the Giants the 1912 World Series. He “muffed” it, said the papers, and sure enough the “Snodgrass Muff” became baseball legend. The word “muff” even appeared in the headline of his obit in the New York Times.
I guess there is no name for the fielding error made by Bill Buckner in game six of the 1986 World Series that led to a Mets victory over the Red Sox. But his exceptional career was tarnished by that single play. A ground ball rolled through his legs, letting the winning run score.
What about the ill-advised move by Kevin Cash, which seemed to drain the energy out of the Rays? Cash deserves to be manager of the year, and, I predict, will be with the Rays for many successful seasons. So these suggestions are mostly in jest.
How about “Kevin’s Crash”? Or “Cash’s Yank”? Or “The Return of Captain Hook”? Or the “Premature Cash Withdrawal”?
Whatever disappointment we have about the final outcome, we deserve to be proud of a team that gave us many moments to remember, from Mike Brosseau’s home run to beat the Yankees against a pitcher that almost beaned him; to the unexpected explosion of offense from Randy Arozarena; to Brent Phillips’ bizarre game-winning single with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. A game for the ages. As a Rays fan, I am proud.
If I were a Dodgers fan, I would not be proud. I would be ashamed that a leader on our team was so selfish he was willing to put others’ lives in jeopardy, just for a moment of glory. What price glory?