The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched the 2017 National League Pennant last night by destroying the Chicago Cubs 11-1 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Winning the best of seven series in five games behind a gem from ace Clayton Kershaw was a fitting ending to a series that saw game-changing contributions from a variety of players. That has been the key in the playoffs for the Dodgers so far, and all season long.
Uncle Charlie. From the same arm slot, Kershaw throws the best curveball in the majors, (possibly one of the greatest hooks of all time), along with the well-located heat that hits the mid-90s on the radar gun.
Mixing in a slider, changeup and a cutter, it is no wonder why he has been hugely successful in his career. Three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, 2014 NL MVP, reigning NL ERA leader, seven straight All-Star selections…all these accolades, but there is still a considerable void.
King Kong on his back. The 29-year-old lefty has faced back problems the last couple years as if he was twice his age. Nobody knows the root cause of those issues precisely, but here is my guess.
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It is well known that the book on Kershaw is that he chokes in the playoffs. Owning a crappy (for him) 4.40 ERA with a 6-7 record in 21 games (17 started), surely highlights that.
Putting the entire team on your back en route to a world championship is something only a few have done. It is clear he has needed help to get over that hump, losing in the NLCS four different times and two other times in the NLDS, since he joined the big club in 2008.
Pick him up. While the Dodgers kept stride throughout the time Kershaw has been on the shelf with his bad back the last two seasons, they no doubt missed him and his contributions.
That has allowed so many different players to learn how to chip in when the team needs them. The culture that manager Dave Roberts has built has emphasized every single player in that clubhouse collectively carry the weight of the team’s success.
Put a ring on it. The players, coaches, everyone in the organization and us fans, love him so much. Not only is Kershaw a great player on the diamond, a well-respected leader in the locker room, but a remarkable human being as well.
Being the face of a storied franchise is a badge he has worn with pride and grace. Yes, a championship is a team victory that is a sum of individual efforts. But, no player on the Dodgers deserves that title more than Clayton Kershaw.
Time to make history. Kershaw is a first ballot Hall of Famer no matter what happens the rest of these 2017 playoffs. He is widely regarded as the best pitcher in our generation. The legend of his knee-buckling curveball will live on forever.
Yet, he still needs that elusive World Series championship ring on his finger, so he can comfortably walk-off into the sunset when he is ready to hang them up. Win it for Kershaw, LETS GO DODGERS!!!