No team has repeated as World Series champion since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000.
In the time since we’ve seen repeat champions in the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, WNBA, NCAA football, NCAA men’s and women’s basketball, and NCAA baseball and softball.
The Dodgers are set up to break that streak, if not win three or four in a row.
Counting the postseason, Los Angeles was 56-22 this season with a run differential of plus-171. The Dodgers led the majors in runs per game (5.82) and earned run average (3.02). That’s dominance.
But this was not a team that threw everything into one season. Of the 11 players with at least 100 plate appearances this season, all are under contract for next season outside of third baseman Justin Turner.
The four most valuable position players — Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, and Cody Bellinger — are in their 20s.
Clayton Kershaw will be 33 in March. But his rotation mates — Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Julio Urias, and Tony Gonsolin — are in their 20s.
Closer Kenley Jansen is 33 and signed for one more season. Blake Treinen is a free agent, but the Dodgers have good bullpen pieces in place with Brusdar Graterol, Victor Gonzalez, Dylan Floro, and Adam Kolarek.
Given all the players who will be in the free agent market, the Dodgers should be able to fill any holes with affordable options. They also have a loaded farm system.
A whip-smart front office and deep-pocketed owners and have built a monster that’s out of its cage.
“You know these boys aren’t done chasing rings!” Betts wrote on Twitter after the Dodgers beat the Rays in Game 6.
After losing the 2017 and ’18 World Series, then being upended in the Division Series last season, the pressure was on the Dodgers to finally win with this group. They overcame it.
“I’m thankful to be part of this team and this group of guys,” Kershaw said. "There was definitely a sense of relief that we did it. We’ve been the best team the whole year.
“We’ve been the best team before and haven’t won. So to be the best team the whole year and make it through this crazy playoff run and to win the World Series is a pretty special accomplishment . . . Those other years are done with. Somebody won the World Series and it wasn’t us. Now we are the ones who won the World Series. I can’t get over saying that.”
Beyond their talent, farm system, and payroll, the Dodgers also have some important intangibles.
In Dave Roberts, they have a manager who overcame some postseason mistakes and grew along with his team.
“I try and not make things personal,” Roberts said. “I’m just really happy for the organization. I’m happy for the players and to help lead this team to a championship. There’s always going to be skeptics, but this is something no one can take away from us.”
There’s also the leadership Betts has added.
By now you’ve likely heard the story about Betts asking to address his new teammates early in spring training to remind them about working hard. There was more to it.
Betts first ran the idea by Roberts, then asked him for Kershaw’s phone number.
“I was surprised. He wanted to text [Kershaw] and ask his thoughts about it,” Roberts said. “I told him, ‘Whatever you want to say, I’m going to support it.’ For Mookie to step to the forefront, it was very genuine, very authentic.”
Betts ultimately decided to call Kershaw.
“He asked what I thought and I said, ‘Hey, do whatever you think.’ It’s not about superstar status or being a World Series champion like he is. He wanted to make us better as a team and be part of that,” Kershaw said.
“I appreciated his phone call, but he didn’t need to do that.”
Plenty of speeches are made in spring training that are forgotten a day later. But Betts made an impression by how he approached the team leaders and his commitment to being championship-driven from the start of the season.
It’s not hard to draw a line from how Derek Jeter influenced the Yankees at the turn of the century to what Betts could do for the Dodgers.
“Incredible baseball player. Does everything so well. He strives to be perfect; he strives to be excellent every single time out there,” Kershaw said. “That focus and that consistency, I don’t know how much better it made other guys in this clubhouse but I know it did . . . Obviously he made a huge impact on our team.”
Roberts still can’t quite believe the Dodgers were able to acquire Betts.
“That just does not happen, especially when you’re talking about the character of the person and everything that comes with Mookie Betts,” he said. "That just doesn’t happen.
"When [Dodgers president of baseball operations] Andrew [Friedman] brought it to me that it might happen, I just couldn’t believe it. I was trying not to get too excited.
"We got a steal. I’m just so grateful that the deal was done. Because it’s not only helping us this year, it’s going to help us for the next wave of young players and enhance what we have as a culture moving forward.
“It’s going to affect players who haven’t even been drafted by the Dodgers. That’s what I’m really excited about.”
Red Sox set to talk with Pedroia
I’m told that both the Red Sox and Dustin Pedroia are prepared to talk soon about a mutual understanding that would end his playing career.
Pedroia, 37, has played only nine games over the last three seasons because of numerous issues with his left knee. He is signed through 2021 for $12 million.
The ultimate result will be for the Sox to release Pedroia and pay off his remaining salary all at once or over time. The value in the move will be to reclaim his spot on the 40-man roster.
That would give the Sox more flexibility over what is sure to be an active winter of rebuilding the roster.
It’s unlikely Pedroia would take on any more than a ceremonial post with the Sox as he lives in Arizona with his wife and three sons.
Pedroia has not played a major league game since April 17, 2019, and did not attend spring training this season.
If this is it, Pedroia would finish his career seventh among position players in team history in WAR with 51.6. Of the six players ahead of him, four are in the Hall of Fame and David Ortiz is almost sure to join them.
A few other Red Sox observations:
▪ The managerial search appears to be centered on determining if Chaim Bloom and Alex Cora can work well together. If not, they have other possibilities lined up.
Don’t assume a Bloom-Cora partnership is automatic. Cora has a big personality and would be comfortable waiting to see what develops somewhere else. The Mets, for instance, would be a great fit.
And Bloom demonstrated his willingness to absorb public criticism by trading Mookie Betts and tanking this season.
▪ The Phillies waived Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman is a free agent. The Sox already won that deal. Nick Pivetta was worth 0.5 WAR in his two starts and Hembree and Workman were a combined negative-0.8 for Philadelphia.
▪ Whomever the next manager is, Triple A manager Billy McMillon would be a great fit on the major league coaching staff given his familiarity with the prospects set to play key roles.
▪ Rusney Castillo is officially a free agent after collecting $72.5 million over seven years and playing 99 major league games, the last of them in 2016. He played 467 games for Pawtucket and that was with skipping this season.
Castillo is 33 and, in theory, could be helpful to somebody as a fourth outfielder.
A sleeping giant arises in Queens?
The Mets have been a large-market afterthought for years, a team overshadowed in New York by the Yankees and outdone in their division by the Braves, Nationals, and Phillies.
The financial problems that beset the Wilpon family after being caught up in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme limited the team’s budget and eventually led to its sale to Steve Cohen.
MLB owners voted to approve Cohen during a conference call Friday. The only hurdle is closing the sale, which should happen soon.
Cohen, a lifelong Mets fan, has a net worth of $14 billion and would be baseball’s wealthiest owner. He is a white knight to a loyal fan base that has seen only two playoff teams in the last 14 years.
Not counting Carlos Beltran, who was hired and fired before managing a game, the Mets have had three managers in the last four years. They have been an organization prone to foolish mistakes and clumsy public-relations moves. Most of them lead back to Jeff Wilpon, the son of owner Fred Wilpon.
Cohen’s first act was to reinstitute the pre-pandemic salaries of all team employees who took cuts of 5-30 percent in March.
What comes next will have all of baseball watching.
With many teams scaling back on staffing and player payrolls because of financial losses caused by the pandemic and uncertainty about the future, Cohen can remake the organization quickly.
There are dozens of free agent players, coaches, executives, scouts, and front office staffers looking for work, many who were let go only because they made too much.
One decision that figures to be made quickly will be deciding the fate of general manager Brodie Van Wagenen. The former agent was hired by Jeff Wilpon to run the team two years ago. He has made some splashy moves — trading for Robinson Cano and Marcus Stroman, in particular — but the team is 112-110 in his tenure.
Cohen and incoming team president Sandy Alderson could come out of the offseason with an instant contender. Put Trevor Bauer on the mound, J.T. Realmuto behind the plate, and Andrelton Simmons at shortstop and see where that takes you.
Cohen, a hedge-fund magnate, was the inspiration for the ruthless Bobby Axelrod character on “Billions.” That should make for interesting times in New York.
Record month for Arozarena
Randy Arozarena finished the postseason with 29 hits, 13 extra-base hits, 19 runs, and 14 RBIs in 20 games.
He had 21 percent of Tampa Bay’s hits, 24.5 percent of its extra-base hits, 18 percent of its RBIs, and 24 percent of its runs.
Take Arozarena out of the mix and the Rays hit .189 for the postseason.
Arozarena’s 10 postseason home runs are a career franchise record. The old record of nine took 30 games by Evan Longoria.
Only Beltran (13) and Nelson Cruz (11) had more home runs in their first 25 playoff games than Arozarena. He also was the first rookie with three home runs in a World Series since Charlie Keller of the Yankees in 1939. Arozarena also has the record for most hits and total bases (64) in a postseason.
Yes, this was an extended postseason. But that doesn’t diminish what the 25-year-old did.
“He carried us,” manager Kevin Cash said. “I don’t know how else you could put it.”
Here’s how cold the free agent market is going to be this winter: The Indians placed closer Brad Hand on release waivers, hoping another team would claim his $10 million option. That would have saved Cleveland the $1 million buyout. But everybody passed. Hand, a 30-year-old lefthander, has been one of the best and most reliable relievers in the game since 2017 and normally would be considered a bargain at $10 million . . . Baseball isn’t making much of a dent in antiquated hiring practices. The White Sox — specifically owner Jerry Reinsdorf — centered on hiring 76-year-old Tony La Russa almost as soon as they fired Rick Renteria. Chicago did a token interview with Willie Harris, a Black former White Sox player who is coaching with the Reds. La Russa had an earnest interest in managing again, having watched from afar since 2011. But he’ll be 53 years older than center fielder Luis Robert on Opening Day. Cronyism remains an obstacle in baseball . . . The Hot Stove will be a virtual one this winter as MLB canceled the Winter Meetings that were set for Dallas from Dec. 7-10. The necessary meetings will be conducted remotely and the lobby rumor-mongering will have to wait for (hopefully) next year . . . Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on baseball taking a more active role in bringing attention to social justice issues this season: “When you’re an athlete or a baseball manager, this is my job. It’s not who I am. The things that have transpired over recent months have forced, in the best way, for us to come out of our comfort zones and how we see ourselves with the platform we have and pushing that to share our beliefs on what’s right and what’s wrong. To see Clayton [Kershaw] and Mookie [Betts] and teammates across the board do that and make a stand that’s united, I felt very proud. It motivated me to kind of follow them. Going forward I have no hesitation on speaking on what’s right and what I believe is right. This 2020, it’s been such a unique year to put it mildly. But I do think that when we look back there’s going to be a lot of good, in some crazy ways, that come out of it.” . . . Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer and former NESN anchor Kacie McDonnell got engaged in Miami on Monday . . . At least three former Red Sox executives are candidates to become general manager of the Angels: Arizona assistant GMs Jared Porter and Amiel Sawdaye, and Cubs vice president Jason McLeod . . . Betts and Joe Kelly are the only active players who have won World Series in both leagues. Kelly was little factor for the Dodgers in the playoffs, facing only 16 hitters in five appearances. Betts also is the only player to win an MVP, as well as World Series titles with two franchises, before turning 30 . . . A very happy birthday to Covelli “Coco” Crisp, who is 41. The Red Sox picked up Crisp to replace Johnny Damon as part of a seven-player deal with the Indians before the 2006 season. He hit .271 with a .720 OPS over three seasons in Boston then lost his job to Jacoby Ellsbury. Crisp made some memorable catches in center field but may be best known for charging the mound in the second inning against Tampa Bay on June 5, 2008, and sparking a brawl.