| USA TODAY
Dodgers return to mountaintop with first World Series title in 32 years
SportsPulse: The Los Angeles Dodgers are 2020 World Series champions. USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale reflects on the Dodgers finishing off the Rays to win the World Series for the first time since 1988.
No longer does Clayton Kershaw have to fear the Charles Barkley-Dan Marino treatment.
He and the Los Angeles Dodgers are World Series champions, an achievement that previously had represented the lone omission from the southpaw’s otherwise Hall of Fame resumé.
It’s not that Kershaw, who just completed his 13th season, needed a ring to validate a bust alongside the game’s greatest players in Cooperstown. But winning is paramount and titles are the currency. Championships will always be the highlights of one’s career, especially for the all-time greats, no matter which way it’s sliced.
Which current professional athletes bound to be remembered as one of his or her sport’s respective greats remains without a championship?
Back when they were the San Diego Chargers, Rivers led them to the playoffs five times (plus once as the Los Angeles Chargers). They made it to the AFC Championship Game once. The 38-year-old is currently pursuing a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts, which signed him to a one-year deal. The eight-time Pro Bowler’s contract will expire after this season, and will anyone be willing to hand him the keys to a contender (assuming the Colts don’t win it all this season)?
Trout could retire tomorrow and even his biggest hater would have to consider him a top-five baseball player of all time. A championship or two would cement his legacy as the player of a generation. The Los Angeles Angels need to help him out and put the team in a position to actually make the playoffs, something the team has done once in Trout’s career for a total of three postseason games.
One of the best soccer players of all time has won 10 La Liga crowns with FC Barcelona and four UEFA Champions League titles. Success on the international stage has proved more difficult to come by. Representing Argentina, Messi has yet to bring home a World Cup, despite finishing second in 2014, or even a Copa América title. (He was part of Argentina’s gold medal-winning U-23 squad at the 2008 Olympics.)
Anthony is the opposite of Messi, in the sense Melo has three Olympic gold medals (2008, 2012, 2016), an NCAA national title at Syracuse … but zero NBA titles. He led the Denver Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals in 2009, the closest Anthony has come to a championship. Still, he’s 15th all-time on the league’s scoring list.
The 36-year-old, 10-time All-Star and former scoring champ (2013) experienced a late-career revitalization this past season with the Portland Trail Blazers. Perhaps he can provide scoring and a veteran presence to a contender in his waning years to fulfill his winning ways.
The Swedish goalie has been among the best since he debuted in 2005-06 with the New York Rangers, whom he helped propel into the playoffs in 11 of 14 seasons, including a 2014 Stanley Cup Final loss. His 459 career regular-season wins rank sixth all-time and his .918 save percentage is 12th. Lundqvist won the 2012 Vezina Trophy award given to the league’s top goalie with a .930 SV%. While he has won gold medals in the Olympics and world championships, he has never hoisted the ultimate prize in the NHL.
After having his contract bought out by the Rangers this offseason, the 38-year-old joined the Washington Capitals on a one-year deal, looking to win a starting job and capitalize on their contender window.
The NBA’s active leader in assists, Paul’s career is first-ballot Hall of Fame-worthy. A 10-time All-Star, Paul has also led the league in steals six times, making nine all-NBA teams.
Across four organizations, Paul has participated in the playoffs 12 of the last 13 seasons. He’s made the conference finals once, with the Houston Rockets in 2018. Paul is under contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder for close to $40 million in each of the next two seasons.
The Brazilian soccer star finished as a runner-up at the 2007 World Cup and earned a silver medal at the Olympics the following year. Marta, 34, and Brazil lost to the U.S. at the 2011 World Cup in the quarterfinals, and the team has been bounced in the round-of-16 in 2015 and 2019. She is the World Cup’s leading scorer — male or female — with 17 goals.
He has played all of his 257 games for the Cardinals and is the team’s all-time leader in catches and receiving yards. Arizona made the playoffs for the first time with Fitzgerald on the roster in 2008, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. They’ve returned to the playoffs three times since, most recently losing in the NFC Championship Game in 2015.
The Cardinals (5-2 this season) compete in a difficult NFC West, and the 37-year-old Fitzgerald has 207 yards receiving.
Baker, 71, saw his most recent run at a first World Series (as a manager) end in Game 7 of the ALCS this year. With the San Francisco Giants in 2002, his team had a 3-2 lead in the World Series before losing in seven games. As the Chicago Cubs’ skipper the next year, he endured a loss in Game 7 of the NLCS to the Marlins a night after the Steve Bartman incident (and loss). The Washington Nationals won back-to-back NL East titles in 2016 and 2017 before departing in the division series.
If the Astros don’t retain Baker, will he receive another chance to manage a contender? His chances of making the Hall likely won’t be affected either way.
Phil Mickelson (US Open)
Three Masters titles, a PGA Championship and one Open Championship. The only thing missing for a career grand slam? That elusive U.S. Open.
Mickelson, 50, come close several times, finishing second or tied for second in 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2013.
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.