The Rays’ current payroll for this season is £22million – the third lowest in Major League Baseball - in contrast to the £74m of the Dodgers.
But outfielder Austin Meadows warned: “Regardless of payroll, we know we can compete with anybody,” a sentiment backed by Dodgers general manager Andrew Friedman, who said: “Payrolls don’t decide the standings. We see evidence of that every year.”
No one knows the machinations of both teams quite like Friedman, who spent a decade at the Rays including a time as general manager during which he took the franchise to their only World Series in 2008.
In contrast at the Dodgers, he has been able to spend bigger, most notably with the closed season acquisition of Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox.
The Dodgers, though, are looking to break a hoodoo when game one gets under way tonight of not having won the World Series in 32 years in what is their third appearance in baseball’s end-of-season showpiece in four years.
Betts was key in instilling one of those defeats, a 4-1 Red Sox victory back in 2018, and was quick to downplay the favourites tag for the Dodgers, who bounced back from a 3-1 deficit against the Atlanta Braves to make the World Series.
“They didn’t make it to the World Series by accident,” said Betts. “It’s not going to be easy by any means.”
The leveller this year is that, for the first time in MLB history, the event will be held at a neutral venue, Globe Life Field, the new home of the Texas Rangers.
But the finalists are apt, the two best teams during the regular season, the Dodgers winning 43 games to the Rays’ 40.
The Dodgers are built around their star-studded offense line-up while the Rays’ trio of pitchers: Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow, have stolen the limelight both in the regular season and the play-offs.
While the Dodgers begin as strong favourites, it remains to be seen how much they are mentally affected by the losses of 2017 and 2018.
Dodgers infielder Enrique Hernandez said: “2017 happened, 2018 happened, we fell short. Now we are back. The past is in the past.
“We took care of business in the regular season… we took care of business against the Braves. It was a little harder than we thought it was going to be but I am glad we pulled it off. Being 3-1 down then coming back and winning in seven games, it’s something that I will never forget.”