The short, sweet, unpredictable and unprecedented 2020 MLB season is over. The Los Angeles Dodgers, unequivocally baseball’s best bunch this year, are champions.
In the cold months ahead, there will be plenty of time to bemoan the absence of baseball. Let’s not do that just yet.
Instead, let’s look at the most memorable moments from a riveting World Series between the Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays. Here are five that stand out:
When Rays manager Kevin Cash emerged from his dugout in the sixth inning on Tuesday, Blake Snell dropped an F-bomb. In a game Snell was leading (and largely controlling), Cash had come to remove his ace — a move that was immediately questioned around the baseball world and surely will be for some time.
Game 6, and ultimately the series, turned in the moments that followed.
Nick Anderson entered in relief, promptly allowing a double to Mookie Betts to put the go-ahead run in scoring position. In the next at-bat, Anderson spiked a curveball that allowed Austin Barnes to score and Betts to advance to third. One pitch later, Corey Seager brought Betts home on a fielder’s choice to secure the lead.
Cash’s call to yank Snell was largely based on the fact that the top of the order (Betts, Seager and Justin Turner) was coming up for a third time. The third trip through an order typically spells bad news for pitchers, but in its first two go-rounds, the Dodgers’ top trio was 0-for-6 with six strikeouts.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Cash removed Snell (a lefty) for Nick Anderson (a righty) to face Betts, who slugged .218 versus lefties this year (fifth-lowest among qualified hitters) and .677 versus righties (second-highest). Anderson had also allowed at least one earned run in each of his six previous outings.
Cash called it a “gut-wrenching decision” after the game, and that almost seems like an understatement.
Seager’s MVP moment
Admittedly, Corey Seager’s World Series MVP resume was built over the entire series. But let’s not overlook the fact he brought in the championship-clinching run, too.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 28, 2020
In the aforementioned meltdown of a sixth inning for the Rays, Seager managed to pull a curveball on the outer-third of the plate to first base, which allowed the speedy Betts to run on contact and score the eventual winning run.
Seager has had flashier swings this series, no doubt, but sometimes a good ol’ fashioned ball in play is enough to get the job done.
MVP! MVP! MVP!
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 28, 2020
As a whole, Seager was truly the MVP of the Dodgers’ post-season run. Not only did he earn NLCS MVP honours, but the 26-year-old shortstop led the team throughout with a blistering 1.171 OPS in 18 games, bashing eight home runs and notching 20 RBIs along the way.
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but Seager is on track to be part of a loaded free-agent class next winter. What he accomplished this October is sure to pay dividends.
Kershaw stops steal attempt
Clayton Kershaw was in a groove and taking his time when something chaotic happened. But he didn’t panic.
In the fourth inning of Game 5, holding a 3-2 lead with two outs and runners on the corners, Kershaw started his motion from the stretch by slowly raising his arms skyward. Behind him, Manuel Margot took off down the third-base line on a rare attempt to steal home.
Kershaw took his left foot off the rubber and fired home in time to nab Margot, ending the threat and the inning. It was also the last whiff of drama for Kershaw, who retired the final five batters of his start.
As the victor of Game 5, Kershaw pushed his 2020 playoff stats to a 4-1 record, 2.93 ERA and .211 opponent batting average. Not bad for a guy whose post-season woes have been well-documented through the years.
Game 4’s insane ending
Words can’t really do this one justice, so let’s just make sure everyone’s memory is jogged on this first:
Trailing 7-6 with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth in Game 4, the Rays sent Brett Phillips to the plate for just his third at-bat of the post-season. He singled and the Rays won, but it’s a bit more complex than that.
Phillips’ single to centre was booted by Chris Taylor, which enticed Randy Arozarena to try to score from first base. Taylor’s throw home was cut off by Max Muncy — which catcher Will Smith did not anticipate — and Muncy’s relay throw got by Smith as he tried to catch the ball and perform a swipe tag in one smooth motion.
Arozarena, meanwhile, had come barreling around third so hard he somersaulted on the base path. He was momentarily frozen on the chalk, before scoring easily as the ball rolled to the backstop.
The image of an awestruck Arozarena smiling and smacking home plate is pure art.
Randy rewrites the record books
Goofy Game 4 ending aside, let us not forget about what Randy Arozarena did this month.
On Tuesday, the 25-year-old rookie smacked his 10th home run of the post-season, building upon a single-season record he already owned. He also set a record for most hits in a post-season (29), as part of his 1.273 OPS compiled over 20 games.
Arozarena’s thunderous arrival into baseball stardom is understandably overshadowed, given that the Rays came up short. But his playoff performance was one that transcends 2020, title or not.
And it’s fun to think about what he and others can do to make next year’s post-season even more memorable.
Report: Ravens record more positive COVID-19 tests – theScore
The positive tests from Wednesday include one player, one position coach, and one staff member, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Baltimore has reported multiple new cases every day since Sunday.
The Ravens’ Thanksgiving matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed to Sunday amid the team’s ongoing outbreak.
Baltimore has seven players on the reserve/COVID-19 list and an unconfirmed number of positives among coaches and staff.
The AFC North club disciplined a strength and conditioning coach Wednesday for failing to report symptoms, or wear a mask or tracking device consistently, which may have led to the outbreak.
If the game can’t be played Sunday, it’s possible the NFL will have to use its contingency plan of adding a Week 18 to make up delayed games.
If the NFL does add Week 18, it could push back the start of the playoffs or eliminate the extra week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.
Maradona's No. 10 jersey should be retired by all clubs – Villas-Boas – ESPN
Maradona was released from hospital two weeks ago following brain surgery but subsequently suffered a heart attack at his home. He was 60.
“Maradona, yes it is tough news, I would like FIFA to retire the No. 10 shirt in all competitions, for all teams,” Villas-Boas said after Marseille’s 2-0 Champions League defeat by Porto.
“It would be the best homage we could do for him. He is an incredible loss for the world of football.”
Napoli, who Maradona played for between 1984 and 1991, retired the No. 10 shirt in 2000 in honour of him.
He scored 115 goals in 259 games and helped the Italian club clinch two Serie A titles, in 1987 and 1990, as well as their only European trophy, the UEFA Cup in 1989.
FIFA has previously blocked Maradona’s home country of Argentina from retiring the No. 10.
The country’s professional league announced that the Copa Liga professional will be renamed as the Diego Maradona Cup and Naples mayor Luigi De Magistris has called for Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo to be renamed in his honour.
New Raptors centre Aron Baynes rejuvenated career with 3-point stroke – Sportsnet.ca
Aron Baynes has played 469 games across his eight NBA seasons and a good number more over three years playing professionally in Europe before making the jump to North America. He won an NBA championship in 2014 with the San Antonio Spurs. He’s suited up for the Australian national team – his beloved green and gold – nearly every summer he’s had a chance, counting three World Cups and two Olympics on his resume.
There were four NCAA tournament appearances in his four years at Washington State, and another 122 games played there.
It’s a lot of years and a lot of games. But what about the one he played on March 31, 2018 against the Raptors when he was a member of the Boston Celtics? Boston won 110-99.
Does he remember that one?
Turns out he does (after some prompting, but whatever.)
That night he made his first five field goals – three long twos and then consecutive three pointers – all by the midway point of the first quarter. It was notable because Baynes hasn’t been prone to scoring flurries in his career, but also because until that point he had taken only 19 threes in career, making just one – more than three years prior.
Needless to say, the Raptors weren’t exactly sprinting out to run him off the line.
“I remember definitely going out there,” he said on an introductory conference call Wednesday after he signed with the Raptors as a free agent on Sunday. “And you know, you’re going to remember a game when you go 2-of-2 the first time in your career. So yeah, definitely good memories. But yeah, I haven’t looked back since and still trying to get better.”
It’s not too much of a stretch to say it was the game – even the moment – that started him on a journey that led him to signing with Toronto on a two-year deal for $14.3 million (albeit with no guarantee on the second year) that will likely see him become the team’s starting centre in the wake of the departure of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol.
The season following his breakout game against the Raptors, Baynes took 61 threes and made 21 while mostly coming off the bench for the Celtics. Last season — having moved on to the Phoenix Suns — he stepped out to the three-point line 169 times in 42 games, converting on 35 per cent, or right about the league average, including a magical night against Portland when he knocked down nine threes on 14 attempts on his way to a career-high 37 points.
Given the nature of the way the game has changed, being able to draw defences out to the three-point line has become a vital tool in a big man’s arsenal, and given the five-out, drive-and-kick attack favoured by the Raptors under Nick Nurse, it’s become essential for bigs that play for Toronto.
For Baynes, those two shots against the Raptors had been a long time coming, a part of his game he’d been working on since his rookie season with the Spurs, under the guidance of renowned shooting coach Chip Engelland, but it took years for him to be comfortable shooting threes in an NBA game.
With the Spurs, his role was fairly limited, so he wasn’t in a position to start letting it fly from deep. In his two years with the Detroit Pistons then-head coach Stan Van Gundy hadn’t fully embraced the ‘stretch-5’ concept, so it wasn’t really on the menu there.
But Baynes kept at it, putting his time in after regular practice honing a shot he rarely took but he believed could extend his career.
In Boston, both head coach Brad Stevens and president Danny Ainge would see him stretching out his range after practice and made a point of letting him know he had a green light.
“I’d had numerous discussions with both Brad and Danny and they kept telling me to shoot the ball,” Baynes recalled. “And you’re a little bit hesitant at first because it’s something different in the NBA. I’ve been doing it internationally for a while, but it’s a little bit different for the NBA game, and as soon as you see one go down though, then you don’t see a poor reaction from the coach or anyone else, everyone’s like, ‘come on, keep shooting that’ it doesn’t take long to buy into it and want to take as many as you can if they’re good shots.
“So yeah, that’s when I really started realizing that if I just slow down and don’t rush things and shoot within rhythm, it’s usually a pretty good shot.”
Prior to that night, Baynes’ game was very much about sticking to his knitting: bone-crunching screens, using his barrel chest to take up offensive players’ space and otherwise making trips into the paint an unfortunate experience for others, all while commanding the defence vocally from the back and cleaning up well around the basket on offence.
All those qualities are still very much part of the Baynes experience, but being able to spread the floor and be a credible above-the-line outlet or a pick-and-pop threat has given Baynes – who will turn 34 before the season starts in December – added momentum at a stage when a lot of careers are beginning to wind down.
While losing Gasol and Ibaka in a single weekend is nothing to be glossed over, between Baynes’ ability to keep opponents honest from deep and his reputation as one of the league’s better team defenders, the hope is he will be a more than adequate replacement. He’s eager to lend his pleasing Australian accent to the cause of directing traffic on defence.
“As much as the offence is fun, I always love playing defence,” said Baynes. “I think that is where you can really change a game and I always try and lock in on that first and foremost. The best way for me to do that is being vocal and talking to everyone. I would rather err on the side of talking too much than not talking enough on defence. I think with communication you can sort out a lot of mistakes that will happen because inevitably they are going to when you play against the best players in the world.
“I’m looking forward to going out there and playing within Nick’s system. I know it’s going to be a little bit different, we’ll give teams different looks, but that makes it even more entertaining for me. It’s always fun when you see a team come down and there’s a bit of confusion in their faces. You know you are doing something right and the game is hopefully going to swing a bit in your favour as soon as you see that.’
It’s a quality that should make him a good fit in Toronto and one the main reasons the Raptors turned to him almost instantly after it was clear that both Ibaka and Gasol were not going to return as they signed in Los Angeles with the Clippers and the Lakers, respectively.
Baynes was happy to get the call.
“Yeah, 48 hours is pretty late in this recent free agency,” said Baynes. “It was a long time. It was a very long 48 hours. But they say good things come to those who wait so I was looking forward to a few opportunities out there and this was definitely one of them. I knew there was always an option and I was just hoping for a good situation.”
His road to the Raptors started, it turns out, on a pair of made threes.
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