By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS, Rafu Sports Editor
Boy, 1988 sure seems like a long time ago.
For that matter, March 2020 seems like a lifetime ago.
For a brief, shining moment Tuesday night, the global suffering of the present and the fan frustration of the past could be set aside, as the L.A. Dodgers won the championship they’d been expected to capture in several recent seasons.
Picked to win it all seemingly every season since 2016, they finally did so, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 on Tuesday, and taking the World Series, four games to two.
You might paraphrase Vin and say, “In a year that has been so improbable, the completely possible has happened.”
When the last out was recorded, manager Dave Roberts grabbed the crown of his cap with both hands, closed his eyes almost in disbelief and prepared himself for an onslaught of hugs.
The kid who grew up in San Diego after being born in Okinawa, starred at UCLA and went on to a career in the major leagues that until now, was defined by a single sprint of 90 feet.
As a utility man during the magical Boston Red Sox season of 2004, the speedy Roberts – who had been acquired in a trade with the Dodgers – stole a base in the AL Championship Series, which helped Boston on their way to the team’s first title since 1918.
Though he did not play in the World Series that year, the image of him riding a teammate’s shoulders and hoisting the World Series trophy was nonetheless memorable.
This year is all the sweeter, with the world all topsy-turvy and a season that wasn’t even certain to be played at all.
A very popular player during his three years as a player in L.A., Roberts was hired as the Dodgers’ first African American or Asian American manager in team history. He was the one who would lead the team to its first title since the longingly celebrated glory days of Gibson and Hershiser in ’88.
For the most part, he has delivered handsomely, winning the division title in each of his seasons at the helm, and taking the team to the World Series in three of the last four years.
For reasons in and out of their control, they could never quite get over the hump. The offense disappeared, the opponents got hot at opportune times, or there was some, shall we say, “bending” of the rules.
Roberts has been second-guessed as much as any manager in baseball. Why leave Yu Darvish in Game 7 as long as he did? Why bring Clayton Kershaw into the game as a reliever? This year was the culmination of experience and hard lessons; the manager displayed a masterful balance of analytical knowledge and old-fashioned baseball intuition and guided his team to a championship.
This year, there almost wasn’t any baseball at all, courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic. But MLB re-fashioned the schedule and devised an extended playoff season, and it was thrilling. And in the end, the best team won. The possible happened.
The virus isn’t sitting idly by, however. The team announced that the championship celebration – like that of the Lakers, who captured the NBA title this month – is put on hold until such time that it can be held safely with the fans. And in the coming days, we’ll learn more about Dodger infielder Justin Turner, who was pulled from the game when word came of the positive result of his COVID test. Against MLB rules, he returned to the field to join the post-game celebration.
Oh, how very 2020.
For now, we’ll enjoy the moment, bask in the glory of the Dodgers ending their 32-year drought, and beam with pride over two teams bringing championships to L.A. Perhaps we can add to it. Hey, Rams and LAFC … paying attention?