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Mookie is the man for this moment

@MikeLupica
October 27, 2020

Maybe this is Mookie Betts’ night for the Dodgers. They always talk about the best player in the gym when looking at potential deciding games in basketball. Another team in Los Angeles just had LeBron James in the gym when they were winning another NBA title. Then he gave Lakers

Maybe this is Mookie Betts’ night for the Dodgers.

They always talk about the best player in the gym when looking at potential deciding games in basketball. Another team in Los Angeles just had LeBron James in the gym when they were winning another NBA title. Then he gave Lakers fans as much LeBron as they could have ever wanted when their team put the Heat away in their own Game 6.

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 20 LAD 8, TB 3 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 21 TB 6, LAD 4 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 23 LAD 6, TB 2 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 24 TB 8, LAD 7 Watch
Gm 5 Oct. 25 LAD 4, TB 2 Watch
Gm 6 Oct. 27 LAD 3, TB 1 Watch

Mookie is the Dodgers’ best player, even though so many of his teammates have been playing the part of World Series heroes so far. But maybe this is Mookie’s night. Maybe this is when he does the most of all of them to finally put the Dodgers over the top, which is what he was brought to LA to do. Same as LeBron.

This is what Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said about Betts on Monday:

“It is not only helping us this year, it is going to help us for the next wave of young players and really enhance what we have as a culture going forward. It is going to affect players who haven’t been drafted by the Dodgers yet. That is what I am really excited about as well.’’

Every word of that is true. But what the Dodgers need is for Betts to help them in Game 6 -- or Game 7, if the Series ends up going the distance. Ernie Accorsi was the general manager of the football Giants when he made the draft-day trade for Eli Manning. Ernie was retired, but sitting in the stands in Glendale, Ariz., when the Giants got the ball, trailing, in Super Bowl 42 against the Patriots, and Eli was asked to take his team down the field to win it all.

Accorsi turned to his son and said, “If he’s what I thought he was going to be, he’ll be that now.”

We all know who Mookie Betts is by now. He has won one World Series already -- with the Red Sox, against the Dodgers, in 2018. He gets the chance, either Tuesday night or Wednesday night, to win another with the Dodgers. But the Dodgers made the trade for him because they thought Betts was the one who could put them over the top, the Red Sox right fielder with a ton of Willie Mays in him. And Mookie did get them jump-started by hitting a lead-off double in Game 5 and scoring right away after the Dodgers’ heartbreaking loss the night before.

But in a World Series where Clayton Kershaw has starred, and Walker Buehler and Justin Turner and Corey Seager and Max Muncy and, well ... on and on, Betts has not had that kind of Series yet.

Again: Maybe tonight.

So far he has just five hits against the Rays, and the same number of strikeouts. He has hit one home run and knocked in two and has a batting average of .227. Of course, the Dodgers would not be here without him, simply on the basis of his electrifying play in the field against the Braves in the National League Championship Series. He has done a lot for the Dodgers. He just hasn’t been the full Mookie. So far. It can happen that way, even for the biggest players, in a small sampling like this.

It happened, in fact, to Willie Mays in the World Series. Mays, the best all-around player of them all (and when Mike Trout’s career is over he will want a word about that), was never great in the World Series, despite making the most famous outfield play of them all, back-to-the-plate, Polo Grounds, 1954, on a ball hit by Vic Wertz. Willie played 20 Series games in his career, hit .239, had an OPS of .589 and a batting average of .239. He had six RBIs. He never hit a World Series home run.

Mookie Betts has now played 10 World Series games in his career. He has hit two home runs and has three RBIs. Ten hits in 10 games. Lifetime Series batting average, going into tonight, of .222. His OPS is .700. His team won two years ago and might win again this week. He sure had his moments against the Braves. Now he is looking for a moment in Game 6.

The Yankees had just been in the 1976 World Series, getting swept by the Reds, when they signed Reggie Jackson as a free agent. You know what happened after that. You know how his first season in New York ended, in a Game 6 of his own -- against the Dodgers -- when he hit three home runs against three pitchers on just three swings and the Yankees won their first World Series in 15 years. To Yankee fans, it felt as long as the drought the Dodgers have going for them, having not won the World Series since ’88.

It’s not all on Mookie Betts in this Game 6. This isn’t basketball, when one or two guys can drag you across the finish line, especially if one of them is LeBron. But Mookie is still looking for a night in the 2020 World Series. Maybe this one. In LeBron’s own words, maybe Mookie is the one to finish everybody’s breakfast.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.