It Was Perfect…Until It Wasn’t
Or, how an over-protective manager robbed a player of a chance at immortality.
Of course Dodger manager Dave Roberts should have pulled Clayton Kershaw from the game after 80 pitches and a perfect game after seven innings. After all…um…nope. What I mean to say is, it’s better for Kershaw to be denied the opp…ur…nuh uh. Let’s try…cooler heads will prevail when we discuss…hmmm…not any better. The teammmmm benefits by keeping Clay…well…that’s insufficient, too.
Let’s call it what it is.
A hall-of-famer, not at the peak of his physical powers perhaps, but with 15 years of experience, a nasty slider, a developing changeup, an occasionally-devastating curve ball and a deadly-accurate fastball was averaging 11 pitches an inning against a Minnesota Twins team that might as well have been dressed in inflatable sumo costumes. And then, Roberts pulled him.
Of course there are concerns about Kershaw’s ability to finish a season, what with back troubles and all. Of course there are concerns about a pitch count so early in the season. Of course there are…an endless number of reasons why you pull your starter.
A perfect game trumps all of those reasons. Period. There have been only 23 perfect games thrown in 120 years of modern baseball. One of the game’s greats had a chance to make it 24.
Alex Vesia surrendered the team no-hitter almost immediately with a single to Gary Sanchez. Really? Gary Sanchez broke up the no-no? Don’t blame Vesia. It wasn’t his fault he was put in an unbelievably unfair position. Simply put, he shouldn’t have been in the game.
Kershaw after did the right thing and said the right things, blaming his slider “horrible” in the last two innings and saying, “it was time.” He blamed the lockout and a plasma injection and a strained forearm from last year. He did seem kind of OK with the decision as it was happening. But there has to be a piece of him that will always wonder… what if?
He can get in line to wonder.
This is the fourth time I’ve seen this movie. Six years ago, Roberts pulled Rich Hill after seven perfect innings because Hill was just coming back from missing more than a month with a blister. Ross Stripling also got the hook that year in his big league debut after 7 1/3 no-hit innings. He had four walks in that game, though. Four years ago, Walker Buehler was pulled after 93 pitches and five no-hit innings in his third start.
One of the great things about competition is that it gives the participants the chance to accomplish something rare…to compete at the highest level and to display perfection. To put it another way, it affords them the chance to be…immortal. It doesn’t happen often. When it does, we should protect it and cherish it.
Today…that didn’t happen.