By now, we are all familiar with the untimely playoff failures of three-time Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw, one of the baddest mofos you’ve ever seen tote an MLB mound.
His postseason mishaps have been well-documented. His stellar performances are less celebrated, like his 208 postseason K’s — an all-time record.
Clayton Kershaw has passed Justin Verlander for most career Postseason strikeouts! 👏 pic.twitter.com/V544JxHmHd
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 26, 2020
The last half decade of failure by the talented Dodgers to finish the job and complete a World Series victory coincides with his Kershaw’s big game failures. It’s the tragic lining in an otherwise mythical career and the only possible knock on Kershaw’s 175-76 career record with 2,526 K’s including a lauded 301-K season 2015.
After throwing lights out in Game 1, the Dodgers ace delivered in the clutch and hurled 5 2/3 effective innings in Los Angeles’ 4-2 victory over the feisty Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 at Globe Life Field in Arlington on Sunday night. Kershaw lifted his record to 2-0 in the 2020 MLB COVID World Series.
The clutch win puts the Dodgers on the cusp of their first WS crown since 1988, but Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts has been here before and doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.
#Dodgers Dave Roberts doesn't want to talk about a potential Game 7: "Our only focus is to win Game 6. That's it."
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) October 26, 2020
Carrying The Burden Of Second Best
Two of the most valuable assets to the team’s success, Kershaw and manager Dave Roberts, have been carrying around the weight of their playoff shortcomings for too long. If the Dodgers can wrap this up, these guys will have the two biggest exhales you’ve ever seen. You’ll stop hearing about Kershaw’s past failures. You’ll stop hearing calls to fire Roberts as well.
This is Roberts’ third World Series shot in four years. Despite his two 100-win seasons and .614 career winning percentage since taking over in 2016, he hasn’t been able to close. Some people blame his managerial decisions and some blame management for limiting the decisions he can make by overwhelming him with analytics at moments when he should be relying on game flow.
Either way, he is becoming the Marv Levy of MLB. Fortunately or unfortunately, most casual fans don’t remember Levy and how he led the Buffalo Bills to four-consecutive losses in the Super Bowl in the 90s. That’s kind of my point right there. Noone cares.
Roberts wants to be remembered as a champion manager, not an infamous footnote in history with regrets about what could have been. The fifth-year skipper almost went into cardiac arrest after the Dodgers blew Game 4. All of the previous optimism went out the window and he started flashing back to past World Series agony.
Kershaw needs this ring to assume his rightful place among the all-time elite hurlers. You don’t get GOAT status of any kind until you’ve done it in the postseason. It sounds unfair and too many even illogical, but championships and clutch playoff performances have become a mandatory criterion for crediting anyone with legendary status.
The consistency of Kershaw’s greatness is already established. He’s been a badass mound marauder since 2008. The ring is the thing. In addition, critics and fans alike wanted to see him be a leading contributor to that overdue championship. He’s done that and as he’s a “WS MVP candidate,” according to Stephen A. Smith.
If the Dodgers can close Tampa Bay out, then it would be a mission accomplished for Roberts, Kershaw and Magic Johnson’s ownership team. They spent a huge bag to bring a championship to LA.