Mookie Betts owned this World Series. Yes, Betts’ teammate Corey Seager was selected as the 2020 World Series MVP after the Los Angeles Dodgers dispatched the Tampa Bay Rays in six games to claim their first title since 1988. But the real MVP is Betts. The 28-year-old Betts changed the complexity of the Dodgers’ clubhouse and their season the day he signed with the team after being traded to Los Angeles by the Boston Red Sox.
It’s quite simple. Without the invaluable contributions Betts made with his bat and his glove, the Dodgers would not be celebrating baseball’s offseason as champs of the baseball world. The World Series only served to magnify Betts’ worth to the Dodgers.
Betts started the World Series with a bang, hitting all the right visual buttons with a home run and two stolen bases in the Dodgers’ 8-3 Game 1 win. Foor good measure, Betts gave the Dodgers a great sendoff into the offseason when he smacked a solo home run in the series-clinching 3-1 Game 6 victory for Los Angeles.
Betts has now made good on delivering championships for teams that occupy space in both the American League and National League. That’s two World Series titles. That’s two showcase performances to argue that Betts just might be the best player in baseball. Sorry Mike Trout homers, your $430 million man has to help his ballclub do better than a fourth-place finish in the American League West Division as they did in 2020.
As far as what Red Sox fans must be going through that could probably amount to a whole lot of agony and disbelief that Betts, their once prized star, was shipped away from the East Coast team in a trade that left the baseball world stunned. The Red Sox front office still doesn’t have a legitimate reason why they unloaded Betts, alongside pitcher David Price, to the Dodgers. Oh, well.
What the Red Sox lost the Dodgers gained. Betts played his first six seasons in the major leagues with the Red Sox. He won a World Series title with Boston in 2018. That season, Betts won the World Series, was named the American League MVP, won a Gold Glove, and was handed the Silver Slugger award in the same year.
That’s some pretty badass stuff. But then the Red Sox went and did the unthinkable: they traded away their megastar to the Dodgers. In his first year with the Dodgers, Betts has made the move by his former team look really grade-school like. Much like his rock star performance in 2018, Betts led the charge for the Dodgers to win their first World Series in over three decades.
That’s a pretty long time for a herald franchise like the Dodgers. The Dodgers came up short in other trips to the postseason and World Series simply because they didn’t have the game-changer in Betts. Period. Signing a 12-year, $365 million contract with the Dodgers earlier this year, Betts has already paid dividends for the Boys in Blue.
His electric performance in Game 1 of the World Series is the stuff of legends. How damaging was Betts’ play to Tampa Bay? Well, it had to send shockwaves through the Rays dugout when Betts stole his two bases and earned a walk in the fifth inning. From Game 1, Tampa Bay went on notice that Betts was not there to be a bystander. He came there (Arington, Texas) to win a World Series.
And he did just that, leading the Dodgers to their first title in 32 years. Betts, of course, had his hands all over this milestone achievement for the Dodgers. With the Dodgers holding on to a narrow 2-1 lead, Betts gave the Dodgers the cushion they needed when he blasted a solo home run in the eighth inning for good measure.
Betts was the missing ingredient to the Dodgers and their ability to break through the runner-up fog to win a championship. What Betts was able to do in Game 1, was to set the tone and attitude the Dodgers came brought to this series. They were not going to be denied. Betts and the Dodgers went out and took Game 1 from Tampa Bay. That’s also how they won the World Series; being on the offensive.
The Dodgers championship season was 32 years in the making. They’ve flirted with all-time greatness in three of the last four years when they made their way to the World Series. The first two trips ended up being a letdown of epic proportions as the Dodgers dropped their title bouts against the Red Sox and the Houston Astros.
Last year, the Dodgers couldn’t get out of the NLCS against the Washington Nationals, a team that went on to capture the World Series in 2019. So, the dynasty that could folded up shop instead of going out with a flourish. What was going to be the change to get the Dodgers finally over the hump?
Was it the coaching of manager Dave Roberts, whose job looked to be in question after the Atlanta Braves pinned the Dodgers on the ropes of being eliminated altogether from postseason play when they had them down 3-1 in this year’s NLCS? For the last couple of seasons, star pitcher Clayton Kershaw had turned Dodgers fans into non-believers that he could deliver just one dominating game at a time when it mattered most.
The one hiccup against Kershaw is that he failed to close in times in recent playoff appearances. If Kershaw had pitched halfway decently in the postseason, the Dodgers would be running a possible three-peat as world champions. With that said, would Dodgers fans actually believe that pitcher Kershaw would actually shake off some of his playoff dud moments to actually show up and deliver a rock star performance in at least one game of the best-of-seven series?
Then there is the matter of 2019 National League MVP Cody Bellinger getting himself out of the batting fog he played in during the 2020 MLB season. The regular season was a less than admirable experience for the left-handed hitting Bellinger. Last year, Bellinger cracked 47 home runs and drove in 115 runs. This season, not so good. Bellinger hit 12 home runs and produced 30 RBI’s during the shortened baseball season.
None of that matters now. What matters is that the Dodgers are world champs. And they can thank Betts for that.
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, MLB, racial and social justice, civil rights, and HBCUs. Dennis earned a journalism degree from “The Mecca” aka Howard University. “I write on what I am passionate about.”