The Los Angeles Dodgers looked history in the eyes on Wednesday afternoon in Minnesota, stared for a few minutes, then opted to let it bypass them and stepped aside.
Though the decision to remove Clayton Kershaw after seven perfect innings lines up perfectly with the current baseball dichotomy of always making decisions with the future in mind at any cost, you can’t blame fans who ache for the left-hander and are left wondering, “If not now, when will we ever see a perfect game again?”
If not after seven ruthlessly efficient innings against the Minnesota Twins on 80 pitches, when? If not with a generational superstar on the mound trying to add to his Hall of Fame resume with certified MOMENTS, when?
And if not immediately after a lockout with fans slowly trickling back after an offseason of dissent and doldrums, when?
Dodgers deserve heat for Clayton Kershaw decision
Believe you me, I understand the reasoning behind the call. If Kershaw could pinpoint when he’d be hurling seven perfect innings, he certainly wouldn’t have picked: A Freezing Cold Opener on the Road in Minnesota Coming off an Elbow Injury.
But this wasn’t a situation where an escalating pitch count essentially disqualifies a veteran from completing the task at hand before his manager can intervene. This also felt next to nothing like Johan Santana’s no-hitter with the Mets, other than the handedness of the starter involved. New York received endless heat for that high-stress, career-high 134-pitch masterpiece that ultimately led to Santana’s final downfall as a big-league starter.
Kershaw, a master of his craft, had just ticked past 80 pitches. Even if Dave Roberts had chosen to go batter-to-batter and base his gut reaction on immediate feel, fans would likely have been more sympathetic to his caution.
But to pull Kershaw with a premeditated move before even giving him a chance to face the middle and bottom of the order reeks of being a step or two too cute. Whether it stands as a symbolic failure of modern baseball or whether it’s just a delayed result of the lockout, robbing both fans and player of a shot at history without any clear-cut documented injury correlation between pitch count and breakdown stings.
Clayton Kershaw threw seven innings of a perfect game. Reliever Alex Vesia threw 0.1 innings before Gary Sánchez smacked the single that made Wednesday an historical footnote — not in the Baseball Encyclopedia, but in April 14’s sports page, forgotten nationwide by the end of the week.
And whether it would’ve happened with a full camp or not, any fan who unequivocally backed Roberts’ caution has bought all the way in on modern baseball’s relentless dedication to ignoring the value of tentpole events.