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Is it finally time for another NY-LA World Series?

@MikeLupica
February 14, 2020

The Yankees and the Dodgers have faced each other 11 times in the World Series, starting in 1941, when the Dodgers still played in Brooklyn. It’s the most any two teams have faced each other in the the history of the Fall Classic. Starting in 1941, the Yankees and Dodgers

The Yankees and the Dodgers have faced each other 11 times in the World Series, starting in 1941, when the Dodgers still played in Brooklyn. It’s the most any two teams have faced each other in the the history of the Fall Classic.

Starting in 1941, the Yankees and Dodgers faced each other at least once in the World Series in five consecutive decades. From 1977-81, they faced each other three times in the Fall Classic.

The Yankees got the Dodgers in 1977, the year Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in Game 6. Then the Yanks got them again in six games the next year. In ’81, it looked like New York was going to do it to Los Angeles again after going up 2-0 at Yankee Stadium. After that, the Yanks never won another game.

It was the last time they faced each other in the World Series. It’s been nearly 40 years. But, man oh man, does it look as if we have a great chance this year. It doesn’t mean that New York vs. LA again is a mortal lock. We saw what happened last October, when we thought the Dodgers, after winning 106 regular-season games, were on their way to their third World Series appearance in a row. Then they couldn’t hold on to a 2-1 series lead over the Nationals in the National League Division Series and Los Angeles ultimately couldn’t hold a 3-1, late-inning lead in Game 5.

It remains one of the enduring beauties of baseball -- not just the surprises we get across the long season, but the endless surprises of a short series.

Still, as we begin Spring Training, with Gerrit Cole joining a Yankees team that won 103 games without him last season and Mookie Betts and David Price now joining that 106-win Dodgers team, a Yankees-Dodgers World Series -- and the magic of New York against Los Angeles -- sure looks like the best bet right now.

Or maybe we can call it best Betts.

“Good time to be a Dodger,” Dave Roberts, the Los Angeles manager, told me the other day when the trade bringing Betts and Price to his team was complete.

Good time to be a Dodgers fan, too. As much excellence as they’ve shown the past four years under Roberts, with four NL West titles and two NL pennants (and a seven-game loss to the Astros in the 2017 World Series and a five-game loss to the Red Sox in the Fall Classic the next year) -- the Dodgers are still looking for their first World Series title since 1988. And even though they have averaged right around 98 victories per season since 2016, I felt all winter that they needed to make a big move to re-energize their fan base, and get it to believe that this is finally their year. Now they have.

Dodger fans can have a lively debate with Yankee fans about which team had the better offseason. The fact is that both of them did great.

The Yankees added someone they believe was the best starting pitcher in baseball last season. Not only do they add Cole, the Astros subtract him.

And by adding Mookie, the American League MVP Award winner in 2018, to Cody Bellinger, last year’s NL MVP Award winner, the Dodgers now have MVPs from the previous two seasons in the same outfield -- the first time any team could say that since Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris played for the 1963 Yankees.

You know who the 1963 Yankees played in the World Series that year? The Los Angeles Dodgers. Just saying.

By the way, we don’t get N.Y. vs. L.A. nearly enough in sports. We had the Knicks against the Lakers in the NBA Finals twice, the last time in 1973. We had the New York Rangers against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Stanley Cup finals. There was one time when the Lakers of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant played against the Nets, but the Nets were still in Jersey in those days. Other than that, you have to go all the way back to that last Yankees-Dodgers World Series in 1981. It really has been much too long.

You know how hard the Nationals will fight to become the first team since the 1999-2000 Yankees to win two World Series in a row. You know that the NL East looks stacked this year, with the Nats and Braves and Mets and Phillies ready to fight for the title. You know how hard Dusty Baker’s Astros will fight to win another pennant, and prove at the same time that they don’t need sign stealing. The Twins? They want to prove that last year’s 101 wins were no fluke.

But the Yankees and the Dodgers are loaded. Yankees get Cole. The Dodgers now add Mookie. In addition to everything he can do at the plate and on the bases, it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t so long ago that Buck Showalter said this about Mr. Betts:

“The best right-fielder I’ve ever seen with my own eyes.”

He’s in L.A. now. Dodgers try to make it to their third World Series in four years. Yankees try to make it to their first since 2009.

Maybe we finally get another World Series with both of them. New York vs. LA. Yankees vs. Dodgers. So much October history between them. None lately.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.