The Los Angeles Dodgers are one win away from their first World Series win since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, since Crocodile Dundee II was released, since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It has been a long, painful wait for Dodgers fans, facing teams embroiled in scandal, seeing their rival Giants create a dynasty, and falling agonisingly short on multiple occasions. Clayton Kershaw has been through more than his fair share of postseason heartache, but the future Hall of Fame southpaw has stepped up when his Dodgers needed him to in the 2020 Fall Classic.
Kershaw’s playoff wounds have been the overbearing criticism of his all-time career. The attempted saves gone wrong, the dodgy starts in the biggest moments, are a weapon to attack Kershaw’s legacy, a means to downplay the greatness of one of the sport’s legends. To do that, one must overlook the work Kershaw did in regular seasons to repeatedly lead LA to the playoffs or the countless strong postseason starts that have guided his team deep into October.
That is the freak thing about baseball. Getting to and failing in the playoffs so obviously matters. Kershaw has let the Dodgers down on multiple occasions, costing them games, and sometimes their entire season. While it’s a shame for any neutral that Mike Trout hasn’t been in the post-season for most of his career, the lack of October baseball on his resume does not impact his legacy.
For Kershaw, though, finishing without a ring would be more meaningful than it is for other icons of baseball past and present. Of course, winning the Fall Classic is what every player wants, but getting so close, so frequently being among the top two or three teams in MLB, and failing to lift the Commissioner’s Trophy would be so much more painful than those who grind away without a realistic hope of October glory.
He might be past his peak, but winning this World Series would be legacy-defining for Kershaw. His two starts to date (he might not pitch again this season) have him in the mix for MVP. Add a ring and a World Series MVP to his Triple Crown, eight All-Star selections, five ERA titles and three Cy Young awards, and there is a career nearing on perfection.
The playoff question has been answered in this World Series. After a calamitous Game 4 loss, the Dodgers can win their first title since 1988 in Game 6. Kershaw put them on his back when they needed the familiarity, the safety, of a dominant start from the Dallas-born lefty. He delivered in one of the biggest outings of his career, and those 17 outs could go a long way to banishing the memories of previous playoff shortcomings.
Kershaw is still under contract for 2021, and although into his thirties, he looks like he could pitch for a few years yet. We can wait for this majestic career to end before we dive deep into his standing among the modern greats, but there’s no question his status will be enhanced if the Dodgers wrap up the World Series.