Few fans, masked umps, muted celebrations for World Series
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - A World Series like no other opens on Tuesday evening. Clayton Kershaw's Los Angeles Dodgers strive for salvation, Kevin Kiermaier's Tampa Bay Rays for recognition, and Major League Baseball relieved to reach the pandemic delayed season championship.
Buzz numbers need to be muted, with about 11,000 attendance in the smallest amount for a series game since about 1909.
The entire series will be played on artificial turf for the first time since 1993 at the new $ 1.2 billion Globe Life Field, where a Texas Rangers team was eliminated on September 20. Traditional post-game victory celebrations are prohibited. But the environment is largely irrelevant to the preferred dodger and under-the-radar beams.
Los Angeles, the greatest baseball player, is back on the series for the third time in four years and is aiming for its first title since 1988.
The record referee Laz Diaz is masked - along with the rest of the crew.
"I don't know if you watched Game 7 last night, but it felt like postseason to me," Dodger's third baseman Justin Turner said Monday after the Dodgers rallied to celebrate Atlanta at Globe Life with 4: 3 for the NL pennant. "The back and forth, the dynamics shift, big games, big swings, big pitches - that was a playoff feeling like I've never experienced before."
Tampa Bay, one of the poorest draws and rosters with the lowest salaries in the major leagues, has only made it once so far, losing to Philadelphia in 2008. The Rays are constantly unable to build a new ballpark in St. Petersburg, Florida and Montreal.
While the Rays beat Houston for the AL pennant in San Diego on Saturday night, they had to wait until Monday to travel so the Braves could make room at the Dallas in Las Colinas - Four Seasons, where the Dodgers had been since before The Division Series started on October 6th. Los Angeles had optional training in the early afternoon with the stadium roof closed, and the Rays had full training in the evening at dusk.
"We'll be able to get out there tonight, get a feel for the area around the field and the bounce of the ball," said Ray outfielder Austin Meadows. "I'm looking forward to having fans. It was in sight for a long time."
The winner will give his city a 2-1 advantage in major US sports league titles during the novel coronavirus pandemic following championships for the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning on September 28 and the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers on October 11.
Both teams echo the impression of Andrew Friedman, general manager of Rays from 2005 to 2014 and the Dodgers' president for baseball operations since then.
"Some of my best friends in life are there," said Friedman, 43. "We joked when I left the team that one day we would meet in the World Series and that it actually happened is surreal."
After the regular season attendance fell from 68.5 million to 0 and the first two rounds of an extended postseason were played without fans, Major League Baseball sold 28% capacity for the NL Championship Series, which averaged 10,835 for the seven games totaled at 40,518. Capacity Globe Life Field. The Rays arrived in Dallas on Monday after playing the AL Division Series and AL Championship Series at empty Petco Park in San Diego.
Even so, it was a feat for MLB after a regular season in which 45 games were postponed for COVID-19 reasons, but only two were not invented. Rookie outfielder Randy Arozarena, the Cuban defector who led the Rays offensive with seven homers in the playoffs, missed the first month of the shortened season after contracting COVID-19 and didn't play his first game until August 30.
"I was throwing simulation games in Dallas in May and June and was thinking about it, man, are we even going to play this season?" said Kershaw, the starter of Dodgers' Game 1. "Is this going to be a wasted year in everyone's career and things like that? Is this going to be a wasted year for the Dodgers with the team we have? So yeah, I guess here now being able to be and four wins away from winning a World Series, I think that's really a will for a lot of people to make this season happen, a will for the players, even to Major League Baseball that we are could get to this point. I'm super grateful for that.
Kershaw, a 32-year-old left-hander with three Cy Young Awards and an MVP trophy, is 175-76 regular season, 11-12 postseason, including 1-2 in the World Series. It was slowed this month by a recurrence of back cramps.
Tampa Bay kicks off Tyler Glasnow, a 27-year-old righty whose fastball averages 97.5 mph and who grew up in California and admires Kershaw. It will be the Rays' first game in front of fans since spring training was suspended on March 12 and is near the end of a long bubble existence.
Glasnow and his teammates look forward to the end of the series when he can go to a bar or sit in a restaurant.
"Hug someone or see family," he said. "To be able to just be a normal person again."
This is the first World Series to take place entirely in a stadium between the Cardinals and Browns at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis since 1944 - and the fourth overall. The Yankees and Giants shared the New York Polo Grounds in 1921 and 1922.
According to data from MLB, Los Angeles had a payroll of $ 95.6 million as of Aug. 1. Tampa Bay finished 28.9 million US dollars ahead of Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The Rays eliminated the Yankees ($ 83.7 million) and Houston ($ 81.4 million) during the AL playoffs.
"Regardless of payroll, we know we can keep up with anyone," said Meadows.
Friedman added, "Payrolls don't make rankings, and I think we see evidence of that every year."
Tampa Bay is best known for innovative thinking and highly competitive tools, described by manager Kevin Cash as "the fucking stall of people throwing 98 mph."
"You didn't make it to the World Series by accident," said Dodger's star Mookie Betts. "It will by no means be easy."
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