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Saturday Sports: The Los Angeles Dodgers' World Series Win and Coronavirus Scare

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And to the tune of BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music, it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series for the first time in more than 30 years, but controversy grows over the coronavirus and analytics. Howard Bryant of ESPN joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine, thanks. But what about the Dodgers? They won with a powerful lineup, but did they risk turning the World Series into a coronavirus superspreader event?

BRYANT: Into a superspreader event. Let's talk about the good things first, shall we? The Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series - first time since 1988. It had been a long time coming and a lot of failed - a lot of false starts at the beginning of this decade in terms of winning so many division titles and just sputtering in the playoffs, losing to the infamous Houston Astros in the 2017 World Series, getting beaten by the Red Sox in 2018.

And this time, they were great. They were fantastic. Even Clayton Kershaw, that everyone talked about, couldn't get the monkey off of his back. He comes out and wins two games in the series. And it was great for them.

I think that they did it the way that great teams are supposed to. They scored more than half of their runs with two outs. Everyone's looking for all that clutch - all those clutch performances, and the Dodgers really did come through. They were fantastic, even with the crazy Game 4, 8-7 collapse...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...That we thought was going to turn the series around in a different direction. Tied it at two. But at the very - at the next turn, the Dodgers come back, and they never looked back. They are champions, and they very much deserved it. Even though it was an 80-game season, it was very much for playoffs and everything else...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...It's a legit championship.

SIMON: But, but, but, but, but Justin Turner removed from the game because...

BRYANT: And then that.

SIMON: ...He tested positive for coronavirus. He returned for a celebration, often maskless, hugging people. He sat next to Dave Roberts, the LA manager, who is a cancer survivor and, therefore, more at risk. How do you - finish that sentence. How do we characterize this?

BRYANT: Well, we characterize this as a massive, massive irresponsibility on the part of Justin Turner, on the part of the Dodgers and certainly on the part of Major League Baseball, even though Major League Baseball has tried to get out in front of this by laying the blame at the feet of Justin Turner. And it is his responsibility.

However, I have a hard time believing that he was allowed to play with an inconclusive test. So they took him off of the field after the test was found to be positive. But if you have an inconclusive test...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...How do you let him play in the first place? And so everyone's got to take responsibility for this.

But this is what we're seeing across the board. We're seeing this at the University of Florida with all of their positive tests. We're seeing it with the Big Ten as well. And the Big Ten had made the decision earlier not to play, and then they got bullied by the president into playing, and now they're canceling games.

This is the thing, Scott. We talked about this months ago. Everyone saw this coming, but this country has just made a decision not to care about it.

SIMON: And, of course, the discussion of the week - Kevin Cash, the Tampa manager, pulling Blake Snell, Tampa Cy Young Award-winning pitcher, after he struck out nine after just 5 1/2 innings because of analytics. Tampa lost with almost the next pitch. Has this decision become emblematic of these overanalyzed times?

BRYANT: Well, absolutely. But I had a revelation during this World Series, Scott, and I think I've always known it, but it wasn't crystallized until watching this. I don't watch baseball - or I don't watch sports for wins and losses.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: I watch sports for competition. And this thing - they did not let Blake Snell compete. And this happened at a time when look at who we lost during this baseball season, where you've lost the great pitcher Whitey Ford. You lost the great competitor Bob Gibson.

SIMON: Tom Seaver, yeah.

BRYANT: And these players, their legends come from competition. And if you're not going to let a player compete, what is the purpose of being a Cy Young Award-winner? You're not even going to be allowed to have these classic championship moments if they pull you out of the game. This is why we watch, and baseball - at least the Tampa Bay Rays - took that away from us.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN, well said. Thanks so much.

BRYANT: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.