Game 6 of the World Series kept drama at bay for more than half the game. Rays’ ace Blake Snell was rolling, striking out the side in the first and shoving into the sixth inning. Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner were 0-6 with 6 strikeouts against Snell. But when Austin Barnes singled in the bottom of the 6th, manager Kevin Cash did what he did all season: he pulled his starter.
Ultimately, this would be the turning point for the ball game, and the touchstone moment for most. Up to that point, Snell had not fared well with the third time through a lineup, and Cash said as much about his decision. Nick Anderson came into the game and promptly surrendered a double to Betts. A wild pitch scored Barnes, and a Seager groundout to first scored Betts to put the Dodgers up 2 to 1. That was all it took to make the Los Angeles Dodgers World Series champions for the first time since 1988.
How did Snell feel about being pulled?
Blake Snell's reaction to getting pulled with 1 on and 1 out in the 6th. pic.twitter.com/AZyB94eoKE
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 28, 2020
It was probably the wrong decision, especially seeing the reaction of Dodger players after the game. They did not want to face Snell a third time. Cash didn’t want them to see Snell a third time. Only Snell and the rest of the world wanted more of that action.
In Cash’s defense, this was the strategy that got the Rays as far as they did. More to the point, it wasn’t Cash or Anderson who lost this game for the Rays. It was the offense! Tampa broadcasters Dave Wills and Andy Freed harped on it for the entire first half: the Rays weren’t going to win this game 1-0. The Dodgers weren’t shut out all season. It was unlikely last night was going to be the night.
On the other hand, Snell was shoving, and he looked about as good as you could expect. He finished with just 73 pitches in 5 1/3, 1 hit allowed, 1 earned run, 0 walks, and 9 strikeouts. This wasn’t exactly a normal situation. If there’s a failing on Cash’s part, it’s in trying to treat every moment as if it’s the same. He did as much pregame:
#Rays Cash said no plans to address team (no shock there!), feels players are treating tonight's game as they normally do, notes they've had some practice with elimination games lately
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) October 27, 2020
For a team that prides itself on taking objective looks at game situations, for using data to make the most of each moment, Cash is awfully quick to delude himself into thinking that each situation is the same. This moment was not the same as all the others that came before it. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that. It was game 6 of the World Series, and Snell had the presumptive champs on the ropes.
Still, the onus here falls on the offense. And kudos to the Dodgers pitching staff, who used 7 pitchers to win this close-out game. It’s only a bit ironic that as Cash is being roasted for his decision-making, the Dodgers used his own bullpen strategy against him to win the World Series. We want to declare a loser in this game, but that’s not always how the game works. There wasn’t necessarily a monster screw-up. The Dodgers pitching and Mookie Betts won this baseball game. They are the 2020 champs. Betts deserves it. Clayton Kershaw deserved it. The Dodgers were the best team in 2020.
The only monstrous screw-up came after the game was over, when Justin Turner was allowed back onto the field to celebrate with the team and his family. In case you missed it, Turner had a positive COVID-19 test come back in the 8th inning of yesterday’s game, and MLB made the Dodgers pull him from the game and put him into quarantine. Which they did. But when it came time for the celebration, the Dodgers and MLB put up a collective weak-willed shrug. Who cares about Turner’s wife? Who cares about Kershaw’s baby? Or Betts’ kid? Or the other families? Or your manager, Dave Roberts, who is high-risk as a cancer survivor? Surely, this global pandemic will make an exception for the World Series champions.
Asinine. That an organization can be so data savvy in winning the World Series, and so inconsiderate and willfully ignorant of the common knowledge proper protocols in the immediate aftermath is mind-boggling. Not only did Turner come out, but it didn’t take long for him to take off his mask. It was, in many ways, the perfect way for the 2020 season to end. Which is to say: it sucked.
The answer is he went back out and nobody stopped him. He was asked to isolate and didn’t. https://t.co/AFyWN0Xt0b
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 28, 2020
There he is sitting without a mask next to cancer-survivor Dave Roberts. Is there a more appropriate image for a Trump-era champion? Finally, we have a villain worthy of the Astros. The Dodgers acted like petulant children, unable to take responsibility in the moment when it mattered most.
I get it. His teammates were already exposed. This was the moment Turner worked for his entire career. But the impact of his decision is greater than just the players on the field. Maybe Turner won’t end up with symptoms. Maybe it was a false positive. Maybe maybe maybe.
Not the point. The Dodgers and MLB showed their true character with the whole world watching, and it was in stark contrast to their play on the field. They decided celebrating was more important. Athletes are supposed to set an example, and Turner set the worst kind. The nation is battling the very perception of the virus that Turner and the Dodgers perpetuated, and people are dying on a daily basis because of it. That’s not hyperbolic. I wish it were. That’s the reality of 2020.
Unlike Kevin Cash’s managerial decisions, this was not a moment that required special exemptions. This was a positive test during a global pandemic. Turner, the Dodgers, and MLB said to the world that the pandemic isn’t serious, that it’s okay to go against protocols if you want to badly enough, and that if nobody stops you, you don’t have to do the right thing. This is a moment we will remember, and not for the reasons the Dodgers would like. Nobody can take away their rings, and unfortunately, nobody can make them into better, stronger people.
The Dodgers may be the champs, but in the moment that mattered most, they acted like losers.
Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)