The Los Angeles Dodgers and pitcher Clayton Kershaw are finally celebrating a World Series victory, the franchise’s first since 1988, the year the Dodgers beat the Oakland Athletics.
Dodgers infielder Justin Turner tested positive for COVID-19 and is under investigation by Major League Baseball for joining teammates in the on-field celebration. How fitting is that for the coronavirus season?
So what’s next?
There’s always second-guessing, trade and free agent talk, and discussion about how many of the pandemic rule changes should stick around.
Major League Baseball’s pandemic playbook worked well. There were issues with the teams from Miami, St. Louis and Cleveland that brought early-season scheduling chaos, but it wasn’t bad.
Depending on the severity of the pandemic, the protocols should work in whatever MLB decides to do next season. And the World Series crowds in Arlington, Texas, may be an indicator that a limited number of fans can get into ballparks in 2021.
Blake Snell: The Tampa Bay pitcher was lifted with a two-hitter in the sixth inning of Game 6, strictly an analytics decision by Rays manager Kevin Cash, the likely favorite to win American League Manager of the Year. The Dodgers rallied against the Rays bullpen and won Game 6. A similar situation happened in the 2017 World Series when Astros manager A.J. Hinch took out a dominating Zack Greinke in Game 7, leading to a game-winning home run by the Nationals’ Howie Kendrick. In an age of neverending numbers, managers rely on them too much. Analytics are a good tool, but they are out of control.
Three-batter rule: Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to keep the rule that says a relief pitcher must face three batters before coming out. It seemed inconsequential for most of the season and its original purpose was to speed up the game. That didn’t work. Games still last too long. A baseball game shouldn’t last 3 1/2 hours. Pitching changes in the late innings get boring. Starters would last longer if they pitched more and didn’t worry about throwing 99 mph with every pitch.
Postseason teams: Sixteen is too many to have in one postseason, but we get why MLB went with 16 this October (financial). A return to 10 would preserve drama in September races. Plus, longer postseasons deprive pitchers of the proper offseason rest and teams have to compensate for that the following spring.
Wild card round: I was opposed to expanding the wild card round to three games, but I’ve changed my mind. A three-game series works, especially with no off-days and the team with the better record getting to play all three games at their home park.
Automatic runner second base in extra innings: I’m torn on keeping this rule. I didn’t think I’d like putting a runner on second to start extra innings, but it brought about bunting strategy. Players don’t like the rule. Manfred does. Perhaps they should play two extra innings and use a free runner for the 12th inning.
National League designated hitter: The AL has been using the designated hitter since 1973. The NL will not have the DH in 2021, but chances there’s a good chance the NL DH will be around after the new labor agreement is in place.
Seven-inning doubleheaders: They will be gone and should be gone, but it was a safe idea for the 60-game schedule.
Infield shifts: They started to become common in 2011 and while Manfred wants to get rid of them, how in the world can he do that?
TV ratings: They spiraled down for the Rays-Dodgers World Series. And the Rays were an underdog team against a rich favorite trying to win for the first time since 1988, the perfect storyline. MLB needs to forget about starting games so late they last until midnight. A few afternoon games - how about 4 p.m. Eastern time? - would be ideal.
Trade candidate: Shortstop Francisco Lindor of Cleveland will be the top name of the list. He has a year left on his contract. The Yankees are in need of a shortstop. So are the Blue Jays and Mets. The Angels and Dodgers will be in on the talks, and the surprise team willing to talk to Cleveland will be the Reds.
Free agency: The market will favor the buyers given how much money each team lost because of the shortened season. Will the union understand the predicament? Catcher J.T. Realmuto is the biggest name out there. The Nationals need a catcher and a bat, but there is going to be competition. The Mets, Phillies and Cardinals each have a need for a catcher.
Managerial hires: The suspensions of the cheating managers - Alex Cora and A.J. Hinch - are complete and apparently they are drawing interest to fill vacancies. Why would teams add an extra layer of distraction when there are so many qualified candidates - minors and majors - that deserve a crack at a big league job?
World Series 2021 prediction: The Padres in six over the White Sox.