The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Los Angeles Dodgers are beginning a weekend set with the Tampa Bay Rays, the first meeting between the two teams since the COVID era 2020 World Series.
That feels like a lifetime ago for the world, and to a lesser degree, the MLB. Restrictions and disagreements between players and owners resulted in a 60-game season with the champion being crowned at neutral Globe Life Field (Texas Rangers stadium). Roberts reflected a bit on just how different everything is two-and-a-half years later.
“The world’s certainly changed since the last time we’ve seen these guys,” the skipper told The Athletic's Fabian Ardaya Friday.
And yet, both the Dodgers (31-20) and Rays (37-15) remain powerhouses and two of the favorites to win their respective leagues. They keep producing top homegrown talent and survive major injuries due to their never-ending depth. Tampa's lineup was riddled with questions going into the season and LA's pitching staff is rife with young call-ups and fill-ins. None of that seems to really matter, though.
They already feel like postseason locks and it is not even June. But there is another thing that hasn't changed, a rare yet crucial drawback both franchises have to overcome. Coming through on the big stage. Of course, the Dodgers won that 2020 Fall Classic, but if this Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts and now Freddie Freeman core just wins one “unconventional” title, that would objectively be considered a disappointment.
The Rays face similar pressure, despite remaining near the top of baseball with one of the lowest payrolls in the league. Their ability to navigate through all other issues is just too impressive to then give them a pass on not winning a championship. 2023 is another big opportunity for both to rise to the grand October occasion.
Their greatness will not be negated, regardless, given how difficult it is to be consistently successful in the modern game. Though, it will come with that dreaded “but.”