It was all planned.
The Dodgers were going to win the World Series Tuesday night, Clayton Kershaw was going to be named MVP as a sort of lifetime achievement award, the way Paul Newman finally won best actor for “Color of Money” and I was going to go on and on about it.
I was going to write, “Sure, you can give him the MVP, he won both his starts, his World Series earned run average was 2.31, but come on, who are we kidding?
“He wasn’t dominant, he didn’t pitch into the seventh inning in either start, he didn’t shut anybody out. He was good. Maybe real good. But no MVP.
“He wasn’t Madison Bumgarner in 2014 (two wins, save, 21 innings, 0.43 ERA); Josh Beckett in 2003 (16 1/3 innings, 1.10 ERA, clinching complete-game shutout); or Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson in 2001 (five starts, one relief appearance, four wins, 38 2/3 innings, 1.40 ERA).”
Or, they weren’t going to give Kershaw the MVP and I was going to congratulate them on their wisdom and write much the same thing: how Kershaw shed much of his can’t-pitch-in-the-postseason narrative, but still hadn’t enjoyed one of those superman series that knocked our socks off like those mentioned above.
The Dodgers did their part and the deciders did theirs, giving the MVP to Corey Seager, even unanimously, but as will happen to the best-made plans, so much occurred during and after Game 6, Kershaw's angle was obliterated.
Like, it’s still an angle, just way down the list, No. 5, at least.
The other four?
• 1. The straight-jacket managing of Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash; unless the Rays manager is just a go-between, from the front office to the players, micro-imposing meta analytics, thereby failing to manage the game right in front of him, because that’s what happened when he removed starting pitcher Blake Snell with one out and one man on base as the Dodgers bat in the sixth inning.
Snell had struck out nine and retired 10 straight when he allowed just his second hit, a one-out single to Los Angeles nine-hole hitter Austin Barnes.
The next two batters due were Mookie Betts and Seager, both having struck out twice already.
“Blake gave us every opportunity to win,” Cash said. “He was outstanding.”
So, naturally, Cash removed him for Nick Anderson, whose 0.55 regular-season earned run average over 19 appearances had blown up to 5.02 over nine postseason appearances.
Betts doubled Barnes to third base; a wild pitch brought Barnes home and Betts to third; Betts beat a throw to the plate when Seager grounded to first base and the Dodgers had all the runs they would need.
• 2. The striking-out ways of the Tampa Bay Rays; because, as you may recall, we warned the Rays were destroying baseball in this space, striking out 10.75 times per game over the regular season, an historically high rate. So, wouldn’t you know it, but three of Tampa Bay’s last four outs were strikeouts, the final two on fastballs down the middle that Mike Brousseau and Willy Adames watched go by.
You can’t give up hits up 0-2 in the count when you’re on the mound and you can’t leave the bat on your shoulder facing two strikes and a fastball down the middle when you’re in the box.
Strikeouts waiting to happen, the Rays made their beds and lay in them.
• 3. The socially distanced fans inside Globe Life Field viscerally booing MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.
He appeared not ready for it, taken aback by it, but what should he have expected after doing the owners’ bidding as the pandemic struck, whittling down the regular season to a scant 60 games, wasting weeks and months during which baseball could have beaten the rest of the sports world back into competition, owned the airwaves, even felt like America’s pastime again for a little while?
Where is baseball’s Adam Silver, or even its Gary Bettman? Heck, even Bud Selig we knew loved the game. Manfred? He sure didn’t seem to love it in March, April, May and June.
You make it your job to take on the players at every turn and the fans don’t like it.
• 4. The positive COVID test of Dodger third baseman Justin Turner, causing him to be removed from the game before taking the field in the eighth inning, because only baseball could manage to leave a COVID test hanging through seven innings of Game 6 of the World Series.
Talk about questions raised.
Could Los Angeles have even fielded a team for Game 7?
Is it a little screwy the game wasn’t postponed the moment Turner’s test results were known?
Why can other major sports leagues run safe bubbles, but Major League Baseball cannot?
In a parallel universe, we could talk about Clayton Kershaw until the cows come home.
Not this one.
Not baseball in 2020.
Maybe next year.
Hope springs eternal.