To get Mookie Betts to Los Angeles, the Dodgers needed to pay a premium.
Looking back, the prospects sent to pry Betts from the Boston Red Sox last offseason weren’t the top-of-the-line talents one might expect to receive for a former AL MVP.
But the Red Sox were unwilling to give Betts the contract he was after while the Dodgers were — a 12-year, $365-million extension in July — in the hopes that splashing serious cash could turn around their recent October performances. The last time Los Angeles won the World Series came in 1988. And while they’ve threatened recently, the Dodgers came up short in 2017 and 2018.
Now, with Betts patrolling right field and wreaking havoc at the plate and on the base paths, Los Angeles is back in the World Series, winning Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Rays 8-3 on Tuesday night. And they did it with Betts showing just why he deserved his big payday.
Betts became the first player in World Series history to blast a home run, swipe two bags and score two runs in the same game. In all, it was the type of performance expected from a player with Betts’ star power, and he’s the type of player who may tip the series in Los Angeles’ favor.
“He just does things on a baseball field that not many people can do and he does it very consistently, which I think separates him from a lot of guys,” Clayton Kershaw told reporters after the game. “ … He does some special things and hits homers and takes the extra base and things like that, but I think the day-in and day-out consistency of what he does on a baseball field separates him.”
Betts helped extend the Dodgers’ lead in the fifth inning when, after walking, he stole second base (securing all of America free tacos from Taco Bell in doing so). Then he and Corey Seager executed a double steal, which set up a play at the plate one batter later — which Betts beat, covering 26.8 feet per second.
The 27-year-old touched home in a different manner the very next inning. He didn’t need to sprint, sliding in headfirst. He could take his time after launching a ball over the right field fence.
And Betts finished his night with a single in the eighth, bringing his 2020 postseason batting average to .327 to go along with seven extra-base hits, six RBIs and four steals. Betts may have come with a significant price tag, but how he played Tuesday night on the biggest stage seems to justify it.
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