The 2020 World Series kicked off last week at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays, two teams that are very similar yet also very different, are meeting in the Fall Classic. The Dodgers are one win away from a title. They won Game 5 on Sunday to take a 3-2 series lead. Game 6 is set for Tuesday night. The Dodgers and Rays emerged as league champions from MLB's first ever 16-team postseason field.
In a year ripe for upsets and general baseball weirdness thanks to the 60-game regular season and 16-team postseason, the best team in each league still advanced to the World Series. That doesn't mean upsets aren't possible with this format. Hardly. It just means nothing crazy happened this season.
Here is the World Series schedule. The entire best-of-seven series will be played at Globe Life Field. It is the first neutral-site World Series in baseball history.
Tues. Oct. 20
LAD -172; TB +157
Weds., Oct. 21
LHP Blake Snell vs. RHP Tony Gonsolin
LAD -135; TB +125
Fri., Oct. 23
RHP Charlie Morton vs. RHP Walker Buehler
LAD -145; TB +135
Sat., Oct. 24
LHP Ryan Yarbrough vs. LHP Julio Urias
LAD -172; TB +157
Sun., Oct. 25
RHP Tyler Glasnow vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw
LAD -153; TB +143
Tues., Oct 27
LHP Blake Snell vs. RHP Tony Gonsolin
LAD -121; TB +110
Weds., Oct. 28
8:09 p.m. ET
TBD vs. TBD
* if necessary
(Odds via William Hill Sportsbook.)
Off days return to the World Series. There were no in-series off days during the LDS or LCS rounds, but the World Series will follow the usual 2-3-2 format despite being played at a neutral site and with no travel required. There will be the usual off-days following Game 2 and Game 5.
Now here are four things to know about the 2020 World Series matchup.
These are the two No. 1 seeds
As noted earlier, these are the No. 1 seeds in their respective leagues. The Dodgers paced the National League with a 43-17 record during the regular season. The Rays had the American League's best record at 40-20. This is the first time the two No. 1 seeds have met in the World Series since the 97-65 Red Sox defeated the 97-65 Cardinals in 2013. The Ringer's Zach Kram crunched the numbers and found the chances of a No. 1 vs. No. 1 matchup in the World Series with the 16-team format are 6.5 percent.
Both teams have long World Series droughts
Can you call it a World Series drought when you've never won a World Series? Sure, I think so. The Rays joined the league in 1998 and are still searching for their first ever championship. This is their second pennant though. They went to the 2008 World Series but lost to the Phillies in five games. To be fair, Tampa has only the 17th-longest World Series drought in baseball.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, are searching for their first World Series since 1988. They haven't won the World Series since the year Kirk Gibson hit maybe the most famous home run in baseball history.
The 32-year championship drought is the second longest in franchise history behind their 72-year drought spanning the franchise's birth in 1884 to its first ever championship in 1955. That includes their time as the Brooklyn Atlantics (1884), Brooklyn Grays (1885-87), Brooklyn Bridegrooms (1888-90, 1896-89), Brooklyn Grooms (1891-95), Brooklyn Superbas (1899-1910, 1913), Brooklyn Robins (1914-31), and Brooklyn Dodgers (1911-12, 1932-55). The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958.
Only nine teams have a longer World Series championship drought than the Dodgers: Cleveland, Rangers, Brewers, Padres, Mariners, Pirates, Orioles, Tigers, and Mets. The Rangers, Brewers, Padres, and Mariners joined MLB as expansion teams in the 1960s and 1970s and have never won a World Series.
The ties go deep
This is the Andrew Friedman World Series. Friedman originally joined the Rays in 2004 and served as their general manager from 2006 through his departure following the 2014 season, when he joined the Dodgers. He crafted Tampa's 2008 AL pennant-winning roster and mentored many executives still with the Rays, including current general manager Erik Neander.
"We joked when I left the team that we were going to meet up in the World Series one day and for it actually to happen is surreal," Friedman told reporters, including MLB.com's Adam Berry. "... It kind of hit me today, waking up and processing all the text messages and questions about it. It's definitely surreal. Some of my best friends in life are there."
It would be unfair to credit Friedman with Tampa's success in 2020 -- he has been gone for six years now, after all -- though he was a major figure in the organization's history. Maybe the major figure. Friedman is still looking for his first World Series championship. Either he's going to win it this year or he's going to watch his former team win it without him.
The payroll disparity is enormous
The Dodgers call the game's second-biggest market home and they run a payroll commensurate with their market size. The Rays, meanwhile, are a small-market team that runs small payrolls out of necessity. As a result, the payroll disparity this World Series is massive. Here are the 2020 payroll numbers (prorated payrolls for 60-game season):
1. Yankees: $109.4 million
2. Dodgers: $107.9 million
3. Red Sox: $83.7 million
28. Rays: $28.3 million
29: Pirates: $25.1 million
30. Orioles: $23.5 million
That's a $79.6 million gap in payroll, among the largest ever in the Fall Classic. You don't get any bonus points for winning with a lower payroll, a championship is a championship, but it is impressive the Rays have managed to construct a World Series team with a shoestring budget. Money doesn't guarantee titles -- just look at the Dodgers! -- but it sure does help.