GRAPHIC BY DENISE THUONG
By JACOB RAMOS
106. 106 was the magic number for Dodger players and faithful fans alike. 106 wins was the coveted number, marking a new high point in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season, certain to produce fruitful results come October.
Five games later, the blue crew is sitting at home, watching Washington Nationals fight for and ultimately win the World Series title they so desperately desired. What went wrong?
The obvious answer to this question points directly to Dave Roberts, Clayton “Chockeshaw” Kershaw and, of course, the appalling lack of trust within the Dodger bullpen.
Foremost, Dave Roberts, third year manager who has plenty of playoff experience as a player and manager, may be the easiest to blame.
In the fifth and final game of the post-season series, Roberts had done a phenomenal job of containing the Washington Nationals to a single run, riding the back of young right hander Walker Buehler and just in time for the acclaimed Clayton Kershaw to seal the deal.
As strong as the connotations are around Kershaw’s questionable postseason performance are, Clayton threw amazingly retiring the Nationals’ Adam Eaton on three pitches.
Despite Clayton’s phenomenal performance, Kershaw was not playing his best. Whereas most managers would remove any man who is infamous for poor performance, Roberts sent Kershaw out for another inning, hoping he could set the game up for the save in the frame.
Of course, all hell broke loose.
By the end of the inning, all Kershaw managed to do was cut the lead entirely.
If things could not get any worse, the Dodgers’ absolute lack of trust may have propelled them to their early finish. The absence of comradeship within the team may be a potential answer on why the boys in blue are at home early.
With Kershaw’s epic choke, heads turned towards the bullpen for answers which of course were hard to provide. The lack of trust that Roberts had in his bullpen leading him to bring reliever Joe Kelly on the field rather than more suitable players, such as Kenta Made or Kenley Jansen.
Despite this, Kelly saved Kershaw from getting a loss in the eighth inning and gave the Dodgers a sound pitching through the tenth inning. Unfortunately for the Dodgers and Kelly, a home run was given up which essentially ended the Dodger’s season.
Dave Robert’s poor decisions should have not only cost him his season, but also his job. For the blue crew, their team and especially their management is extremely analytics based. Nearly every move is calculated and rarely is there any semblance of a heartfelt or gut move.
However, this is not the first time the Dodgers may have choked at the most crucial times of their season. Some instances include winning over 100 games in the regular season, only to lose the World Series once October striked. Typically, this would change the mindset of a team by bringing adjustments to the roster. While the Dodger lineup changes periodically, the mindset of numbers over heart typically rules; thus, the Dodger’s downfall also serves as a painful reminder that statistics are not always correct and that human instinct will be the end-all be-all in sports.
Fortunately for Dodger players, this is not the end. Most players are locked into a lengthy contract which will keep them afloat for multiple years to come. Having these contracts will allow these players to reflect on their past mistakes, helping to build a better Dodgers team. On a larger scale, international scouting and draft picks continues to discover diamonds in the rough and occupy less than thriving Major League Baseball teams. Not to mention, the Dodger management is also undergoing improvements as Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations, continues to create a competitive team on the field year after year. From this, some fans are finally beginning to let go of that fateful night in early October as the postseason closes.
But no matter what this offseason brings, barring an unlikely Dave Roberts firing and more unsatisfactory performance, Clayton Kershaw, Dave Roberts and Joe Kelly will likely forever be remembered as the choke artists behind one of the greatest teams in baseball history’s collapse.