In 2017, the Los Angeles Dodgers played the Houston Astros in the most exhilarating, thrilling, unforgettable World Series in baseball history. The series, as all good playoff series do, lasted seven games – though this was the least exciting part. There were massive homers, dramatic strikeouts, and extra-inning games galore. Each at-bat was a test of endurance; both for pitcher, batter, and fan. Every pitch was an experiment to see how long the average fan’s heart would last before giving out. It was a brilliant series.
I attended Game 6 of the World Series with my family – shelling out hundreds of dollars to watch the Dodgers come back against the indomitable Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander; to watch fellow fans stream out in victorious shades of Dodger blue. When closer Kenley Jansen threw that pitch – well, it felt like we’d already won the entire series. Nothing could bring us – us – down. Not the team, not the fans, not the players.
And then the next day, the Los Angeles Dodgers lost Game 7 of the World Series by a score of 5-1. It was an anticlimactic end to the greatest series in MLB history. During star shortstop Corey Seager’s final groundout to second base – I do believe the hearts of millions of Dodgers fans broke that day.
This all happened three years ago, so why do I mention it now?
On January 13, 2020, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced that he was officially punishing the Houston Astros. The punishment: year-long suspensions for general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, as well as four stripped draft picks and a fine of $5 million dollars.
The first rumblings began in November. Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers accused his old team of stealing catching signs using a camera located in center field, which would be relayed to batters through some sort of system. For those unfamiliar with the dynamics of catcher-pitcher batteries: in baseball, the catcher acts as essentially the guiding presence for the pitcher. The catcher relies on a system of hand signals devised by the team to essentially tell the pitcher what pitch to throw, and where to throw it. It is one of the most important aspects of baseball – and as such, exploiting this system would naturally give the other team a significant advantage.
An MLB investigation into the allegations came up with conclusive proof: the Astros had cheated. Immediately attention turned to the 2017 World Series. If the Astros had truly cheated, then that meant that their World Series title was illegitimate – and that the Dodgers deserved to be the true victors.
When I heard the news, I could think of just one thing: Game 6. The Dodgers have not won a World Series in over 30 years. Game 6 was the closest they came. Game 6 was the closest feeling I ever had to witnessing my home team win the championship. Game 6 was Blue Heaven – the penultimate game of the greatest series ever played at Dodger Stadium; ever played at any stadium.
By cheating, the Astros invalidated this chance; invalidated the greatest series in baseball history. It invalidated our loss; our acceptance of the loss. And now? MLB witnesses the invalidation of the efforts of not just one, but two great teams. It witnesses the invalidation of an entire season of Astros baseball; the invalidation of an entire World Series.
How will Dodgers fans recover? As they always do, I suppose: by moving on. Because the sport will, indeed, move on from this cheating scandal, no matter how painful it is. So will the Dodgers, and so will their fans. But no matter how many years pass, nothing will remove the stain on what should have been the greatest series ever played. On what should have been a Dodgers victory – their first in 30 years.
Brandon Kim, Grade 11
Culver City High School