Let’s forget the narrative, because it’s no longer a narrative- it is a fact. Forget about how Clayton Kershaw does in the postseason relative to his regular season, which is no longer the best but still better than most. Clayton Kershaw’s October performances are AT BEST comparable to a typical number three starter. This is even more unacceptable, when considering that he opted out for more money, and got it. A normally pragmatic front office gave him everything he wanted. And in his first postseason performance of 2019, he gave them more of the same.
Stephen Strasburg, Kershaw’s counterpart in more ways than one, dominated the way he typically does in the postseason. Once removed from the game- one of two highly controversial moves by Dave Martinez- Max Muncy did what he normally does, putting the ball into the seats, making the game a one run affair. But the Nationals quickly got the run back, and while the Dodgers threatened in the ninth- thanks in part to Martinez’s other questionable move, intentionally putting the tying run (Muncy) on base- it was not to be. Ironically, the unintentional walk of Will Smith to load the bases probably saved the Nats from another bullpen meltdown, as Corey Seager came up short. Seager and Bellinger, and especially Bellinger, have been pretty disappointing in their postseason careers.
But again, this comes back to Kershaw. I shouldn’t be surprised by now, but the reaction from the public at large continues to be very different from other athletes in similar positions. At this point, it’s unavoidable even for them to point out how many times he’s been lousy in October. But the kind of reaction isn’t nearly as rabid as we’d see for other athletes in a similar position. In fact, Kenley Jansen, the greatest closer in Dodger history, has endured more wrath for a few bad months this season than Kershaw has heard in his entire postseason career! And sorry, but it’s not enough that he’s the greatest regular season pitcher of his generation, or that he’s a great guy, or a great philanthropist. Others have gotten more wrath for his failings (“Why was he left in so long?” “Why doesn’t the offense score more?” “Why wasn’t he the starter for game 7?”) than Kershaw himself has. Most Dodger fans and bigwigs throughout sports media are “sad”, “disappointed”, or “confused” about Kershaw’s failings. Given the prestige, the expectations, and the contract situation, it’s not unfair to point out that Kershaw’s actually been lucky to not hear more- WAY more- how often he’s come up short.
Anyway, the 2019 Dodgers go to Washington now, where they will have two chances to earn a plane ride back. At least we won’t have to talk about Kershaw’s shortcomings over there. But Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger might be another matter. We shall see.