McCullough: The Dodgers need to stop living in the past with Clayton Kershaw

From Andy McCullough at The Athletic on October 14, 2019:

In the hours before the beginning of the National League Division Series, as he announced his starting rotation against the Nationals, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts revealed a miscalculation in his team’s thought process. It would not become apparent until the final act of the series, but that’s how the Greeks handled hamartia. The flaw isn’t fatal until the end, when the audience realizes it had known all along what would happen.

The Dodgers determined Walker Buehler was their most effective starting pitcher; thus, he would throw Game 1. So why was Clayton Kershaw lined up for Game 2, when Hyun-Jin Ryu had been better for the entirety of 2019? Andrew Friedman’s front office and Roberts were already thinking ahead to an elimination game and how to weaponize Kershaw in it.

It was all about, Roberts explained, “just appreciating what Clayton has done in the ’pen.” He added: “Clayton has done it. He’s done it well. You’ve got to prepare for a Game 5 if it does happen. So what best prepares you for that?”

In that moment, Roberts displayed a deficiency within his franchise that not even a historic, 106-win team could overcome. Despite all their analytical resources and scouting acumen, despite their investments in biomechanical trackers, virtual-reality machines and sleep science, the Dodgers remain hopelessly wedded to the mythology of Clayton Kershaw. They treat him like a pitcher he no longer is. And in the fifth game of the NLDS, when Kershaw crumbled yet again, the Dodgers paid for their hubris with their season.

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Originally published: October 15, 2019. Last Updated: October 15, 2019.