The Dodgers had lost the World Series two straight seasons when they returned a few years later for another shot with much the same nucleus.
It was 1981, a season shortened almost two months by a players strike, only adding questions about the legitimacy of the World Series champion. The Dodgers, who had lost the World Series in 1977 and ’78 to the Yankees, this time beat their nemesis in six games.
Finally, the talented team from Los Angeles loaded with All-Star talent — Steve Garvey, Ron Cey and Dusty Baker to name a few — could hoist the world championship trophy.
“There was extra incentive from us because of the bitter taste and disappointment of ’77 and ’78,” former Dodgers outfielder Rick Monday told The Post.
When the 2020 World Series begins Tuesday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, much of this latest generation of Dodgers will sense the same kind of urgency, as they face the AL champion Rays.
After reaching the World Series in 2017 and ’18, losing to the Astros and Red Sox, respectively, the Dodgers are back on a mission. Somehow, some way must end a World Series title drought that dates to 1988, when Kirk Gibson’s dramatic home run in Game 1 served as the springboard to an upset series victory over the Athletics.
Justin Turner noted Monday that celebration was somewhat muted after the Dodgers returned to their team hotel following Sunday’s 4-3 victory over the Braves in Game 7 of the NLCS a night earlier. Players converged in an outdoor space at the hotel and focused on what still had to be accomplished.
“A lot of guys were talking baseball and about the series we just went through and different situations and plays that came up,” Turner said. “So although I think we were trying to celebrate it a little bit, everyone’s mind just went straight back to baseball.”
Both team buses were full, according to Turner, for the Dodgers’ optional workout Monday.
Though you could question the validity of the Astros’ World Series title in ’17 after their illegal sign-stealing scheme, which was uncovered last offseason, the official record shows the Dodgers lost the series in seven games.
A year later, the Red Sox — with Mookie Betts — needed only five games to beat the Dodgers in the World Series.
Betts now plays for the Dodgers.
“I think we would have beat the Red Sox if we had Mookie Betts,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
Turner, Game 1 starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor, Kenley Jansen and Kiké Hernandez are among the Dodgers who played in both World Series losses. Corey Seager was a part of both teams, but missed the 2018 World Series after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
“The job is not done,” Hernandez said. “The goal wasn’t to get to the World Series, the goal is to win the World Series and now that we can shift the focus to the Tampa Bay Rays, they have a really good team and are playing real good baseball.
“The World Series is the World Series, however you get here. Seventeen happened, ’18 happened, last year we fell short. Now we’re back. The past is in the past, so this one feels super special because it’s what is in front of us and it’s happening.”
Monday, a longtime Dodgers broadcaster, recalled the controversy in 1981 because the season was divided into halves, placing the first-place team in each half into the playoffs. The Reds, who had the NL’s best record overall, were excluded from the playoffs.
This year the questions about the World Series’ legitimacy stem from the 60-game season that followed the game’s shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s some parallels in comparison terms that you’re not dealing with 162 games, you are dealing with an abbreviated season,” Monday said on the 39th anniversary of his dramatic homer against the Expos that sent the Dodgers to the World Series. “But this one is unlike any other season.”
Turner indicated there won’t be an asterisk placed next to this year’s winner.
“Playing good teams in a difficult format, not playing at home, being in a bubble, not seeing a lot of the teams all year long that we’re playing in the postseason,” Turner said. “There’s a lot of challenges that go into winning a championship this year and it’s still going to be special.”
Credit: Source link