Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw is many things. A multi-time Cy Young winner, an MVP, a Gold Glover, seven-time All-Star, division winner, the best pitcher in baseball. But one thing he isn’t is a champion.
Clayton Kershaw has had a career that we can only dream of having as kids. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be the best pitcher of his generation? Who would not want to make over $200 million in his/her career before 30? Who wouldn’t want to be the face of a historic franchise, in the Dodgers, for over half a decade and counting?
In just ten seasons, he’s pitched 1,935 innings and has accumulated a 2.36 career ERA, 1.002 WHIP and 2,120 strikeouts. Along with this, he has three Cy Youngs (could have easily been five and can still win in 2017), an NL MVP, five NL ERA titles (4-time MLB leader), a 300-strikeout season, a triple crown, 25 complete games, 15 shutouts and a 57.4 WAR. Simply remarkable.
His ERA is one of only two (Mariano Rivera is the other) from the live-ball era whose ERA is in the top-50 of all time (1,000 innings minimum). And since integration right after World War II, he has the second lowest ERA, right after Rivera.
Remarkable how much he has accomplished in just a decade. At 29-years-old, he is still in his prime and has a lot of time to pad the stats. If he were to retire today, he’d have an excellent Hall of Fame case. That’s when you know he’s been truly unique.
He has an argument, off of just pure numbers and talent, to be considered the GOAT (greatest of all time). Many experts believe that he is on track to becoming the GOAT but needs a championship, or two, to solidify it.
He’s definitely had the best start to a pitcher’s career. However, that’s not always how sports work. To many people, his greatness won’t be validated until he wins a championship.
There is some truth to that, but it’s largely ridiculous in my opinion because one player cannot win by himself in baseball. It’s not basketball, where one superstar can have a substantially greater effect on a game because there are only ten guys on the court and a superstar’s usage rate is much much higher.
A starting pitcher usually only plays in one out of every five games and even in that single game, does not control his team’s offense.
But that’s just how it works, and there is no denying that Kershaw’s 4.55 career playoff ERA is ugly. In his defense, though, he’s had terrific outings but has had a few terrible ones that have skewed his numbers.
And those terrible numbers have come from bad luck, a terrible bullpen and a terrible bullpen that has caused the manager to leave the ace out to dry thus getting him fatigued.
But at the same time, he is not the same pitcher as he is in the regular season. Maybe it is because he cares too much, so the pressure he puts on himself lumps onto the external pressure, and it gets to him.
Whatever the case, his performance does take a dip come October. But in my opinion, baseball is the one sport where production in the postseason should not outweigh the regular season because of how much of a crapshoot and fluky the playoffs are.
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But if he wants to silence all of the doubters, all he needs is one Clayton Kershaw-esque postseason run to help bring the Dodgers to at least a World Series appearance.
It doesn’t have to be like Madison Bumgarner’s run in 2014. In fact, it shouldn’t have to because this Dodgers team is much more talented and deeper than that Giants team.
But if he remains himself, the Dodgers’ chances of winning it all improve drastically. It would be interesting to see the different routes his reputation would take if he was to have an excellent playoff run but the team comes up short compared to if he was pedestrian but the team wins it all.
Would he still be berated with the “He has no rings” argument even though he earned his money on the team with the best record that happened to let him down? Or would he be given credit for finally showing up consistently and not blamed for his teammates’ letdown?
If the latter, would he be given no credit for a ring because he did not live up to the billing but instead “rode the bandwagon?” Or would he get let off the hook and finally be respected because he got the ship?
Hopefully, it’s a mix of both. He pitches like the Clayton Kershaw we all know which is a big reason for Los Angeles winning it all. If he can do this and the Dodgers win it all, then his name and legacy would officially be among the greatest ever, possibly the GOAT, and that proverbial monkey would be off his back. From there, everything is just icing on the cake.
As LeBron James has shown, all it takes one, and from thereon out, it gets easier, and no one can (rather should) say anything or take anything away from it.