Clayton Kershaw has Become the Fran Tarkenton of Baseball

There are few things in life more disheartening  than having to admit our heroes are less than we once believed them to be. If one lives long enough, it happens a little too often, but that frequency does not make it any easier.

Athletes probably shouldn’t be held as close to our hearts as they are, but that’s what we tend to do. Many of us defend our favorite players like we would a family member. To say something bad about someone else’s favorite ballplayer can be taken as a personal insult. One can be dropped down a level in friend status, be thought of as less intelligent, and on occasion, catch a knuckle sandwich, over criticism of a hallowed sports star. Such is the case with Clayton Kershaw.

The man is not even considered to be a man in Los Angeles. He is the GOAT (Greatest of all Time) to many. He’s a deity. He is seen as walking on water as he approaches the mound. His curve ball was special enough to earn a Vin Scully nickname: Public Enemy Number One. Woe to the one who dares question Kershaw as the best pitcher on the planet.

I’ve sung Kershaw’s praises, but I never fully bought into calling him the greatest. I’ve always been the type who believes that can’t be applied until one succeeds on the biggest stage of the sport. That’s where the spotlights burn the brightest. That’s where the pressure is the biggest. That’s where every mistake is magnified the largest. They have to dig deeper than they ever have before, to find that which the greatest all hold deep inside – the power to endure and overcome it all – and win. Unfortunately, Clayton Kershaw  just doesn’t have it.

Have you heard of Fran Tarkenton? He played thirteen years for the Minnesota Vikings, and he led them to three Super Bowls in the 1970’s.  By the time he retired, he held just about every quarterback record there is. He’s in the Hall of Fame. His stats were the bar, but he lost every Super Bowl. He couldn’t get his team to the promised land, and that’s what separates the greatest from the also-rans.

Tarkenton is forever labeled as “Great, but couldn’t win the big one.” He fumbled when it counted the most. Kershaw has now enshrined himself in the Tarkenton Zone. He’s got all the stats, but he comes up short in The Big Game.

Of all the Dodgers greats – Koufax, Hershiser, Valenzuela, Sutton, Drysdale – Kershaw holds the highest postseason ERA (4.50). He now holds the record for the most home runs allowed in a single postseason (8). He allowed at least one homer in each of his postseason appearances this year.

In Game 5 of the World Series, Kershaw was spotted leads of 4-0 and 7-4, and he managed to blow both of them. The Dodgers’ loss last night can be laid at a few different places, but it starts and ends with leads of four runs and three runs his offense handed him, and he erased them both.

This young Dodgers team is very talented. Win or lose in this World Series, they’ve proved equal to the task, and shown to be one heck of a baseball powerhouse. I’m confident they have more Fall Classics ahead of them. I’m not so sure about Kershaw. He’s been hampered by back injuries the past two seasons. This year, he gave up the most home runs in his career. Next season, he’ll be another year older, and climbing the mountain will be that much more difficult. This may have been his last shot at a World Series title.

I can’t imagine the heartache that Kershaw must be feeling this morning. Each and every one of his fans are feeling disappointed as well. The emperor has no curve ball.

Oscar Martinez

Oscar Martinez

I was born in the shadow of Dodger Stadium and immediately drenched in Dodger Blue. Chavez Ravine is my baseball cathedral, Vin Scully was the golden voice of summer all my life, and Tommy Lasorda remains the greatest Dodgers manager ever. My favorite things are coffee, beer, and the Dodgers beating the Giants. I also blog about my baseball card hobby at All Trade Bait, All the Time.

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22 thoughts on “Clayton Kershaw has Become the Fran Tarkenton of Baseball

  1. Kershaw is a great pitcher. But he is not even close to being the greatest of all time. Hanging that moniker on a guy who is just turning 30 is just plain stupid. Kersh is one of the BEST pitchers of his era. He has posted numbers no other pitcher has approached. But greatest? Please. To those of us who watched baseball in the 50’s and on, he is a very good pitcher. Today, they do not let pitchers get past a certain pitch count. Pitchers RARELY throw complete games. Todays game is analytics and numbers. What do they hit the 3rd time around, what’s this guys OBP vs a certain pitcher. Last night was a perfect example. Maeda. who had dominated the RH hitting middle of the Astros lineup was asked to get 1 stinking out with 2 men on. Well, I guess Altuve had seen just enough of him to blast a pitch deep into left center for a 3 run game tying homer. Dave Roberts has managed this World Series using the new formula. And 3 times it has bit him on the ass. Instead of pulling Kershaw as soon as he walked the first guy in the 5th, he let him stay in. I know he is not afraid of CK, he pulled him early in the NLCS. CK has had back problems the last 2 seasons. We cannot expect the guy to pitch up to what we have seen his 10 years in the majors. I would love to see the guy get a ring. We all would. That would at least assuage somewhat the tag that he cannot win in the post season. But as someone who has seen Koufax, Drysdale, Marichal, Gibson, Spahn, Maddux, Glavine, Sutton, Nolan Ryan, and some other greats pitch, Kershaw is merely very good. In another era, who knows.

    1. Michael

      Although I don’t agree that Kershaw is a great pitcher,, because the obvious, but I agree with everything else you said.

      But I don’t put a thing on Maeda, because Robert by allowing Kershaw to go out for another inning, put Maeda in a bad situation, he should have never been put in!

  2. I think and truly believe that Kershaw will not opt out when he has a chance after 2018. My reasons are that this ownership and front office are intent on winning the title and building a team that consistently wins. There are plenty of really good players on this team and some good ones on the way. I think they will revamp the pitching staff again this winter. Cut some dead wood from payroll, and possibly sign at least 1 big name free agent pitcher. A starter. They might even bring back Darvish. But they need a real solid #2 to go with Kersh next year. And I am not talking about Hill. He is a good pitcher, but no #2 starter. He will have to have a game like that near no hitter against the Pirates tomorrow. The Dodger hitters are going to have to attack Verlander and not let him get deep into counts. The first inning tomorrow will be huge for Hill. He needs to be clean. No runs and do not put the Dodgers in a hole early because you know Roberts is going to have a quick hook tomorrow. Their backs are firmly against the wall. I also believe the ball being used in this series is different. More than 1 pitcher has said the ball is slicker. And look at all the HR’s. What is it, 22 so far? Crazy. Kersh has given up 8 HR’s in the playoffs this year.

  3. Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. He is up till now the best pitcher of the 21st century. He will go down as the best pitcher of his generation. I give him the ball in game 7 over anyone else.

    In fact I have a sneaking suspicion that, if we go to a game 7, we will see kid K one more time!

      1. Dud

        Of course I agree with you, about that!

        And I thought all of the play that Kershaw got last year, when he came out of the bullpen, was ridiculous, because it was Kenley that carried the load in that game!

    1. Yes, in this generation he is probably the best. But is he the best right now? Verlander went 9-0 with Houston. Kershaw struggled after the back problem, which is not an injury, it seems to be chronic. But comparing Kershaw with any of those guys I mentioned earlier is ludicrous. Even comparisons to Sandy. When Koufax pitched, you got a sense that something very special was going to happen. I never get that sense with Kershaw, and lately there has been a feeling of dread because of the obscene amount of homers he had given up. Totally different era’s, totally different approach to pitching. And as good as Kershaw’s curve is, Koufax’s was better.

  4. seem like we leave someone at 3rd every game ..send them home if they get out oh well ..we live them there any way .. the other team has to make a perfect throw , that one throw was 10 ft up the line ..every one said he would of been out ..no way ..we had one of the fastest man on the team there .he would of make it easy what do you think

    1. I wrote about that. One of many under-the-radar plays that helped determine the outcome.

      Would have been a tough choice, but given the pressure on Reddick, might have been a
      good one to send him.

      1. The outcome was determined not by the offense. It was determined by a pitching staff that pitched maybe it’s worse game of the year. They had the lead 3 times and gave it away each time. That is not on the hitters.

      1. That mistake can not be made by any professional team, hell it can be made in a beer league softball game, but especially in the WS. that is beyond ridiculous, where I played it was pretty simple the signal was GO & STOP, nothing else. The was a stupid stupid stupid situation and it likely cost us the game (among many).

      2. The third base coach said, got to go, got to go, everyone could actually hear that exchange, between Taylor and Woodward, when it happened , on the third base line, after the play was over, on TV.

  5. Oscar:

    Aside from the mistaken testimony about who was riding into game 5 with confidence because
    the ace who is not an ace in second series starts was starting his second game, that there up above
    was a nice piece of writing, in difficult circumstances.

    A shame that more folks are apparently not getting a chance to read it:-(.

  6. Former Dodger Micah Johnson is now a Giant. Claimed off waivers from the Reds. Tim Federowitz waived by the Giants. Gabe Kapler named manager of the Phillies and Dave Martinez manager of the Nationals.

  7. By the way Oscar. The only Hero’s I know of are in National Cemeteries’. I have never in my life thought of a ball player as a hero. An idol maybe, someone you would like to grow up to be like. But my dad taught me about hero’s….and they do not play ball.

    1. I get what you’re saying about heroes. To each his own.
      Lots of folks think of athletes and family members as heroes too.
      Just for the record, my old man is one of my heroes. He might fit your category also. He earned a Bronze Star in the Battle of the Bulge, and he’s now buried (with mom beside him) in the National Cemetery.

  8. The series is not over yet. I am curious to see what we are made off. We are at home, both teams’ bats are red hot. I hope Kershaw gets the save in Game 7.

    1. I want any dodger to get the save, kershaw or tiny tim, i don’t give a damn. Just get it do.en, loyalties to any one player, except Ed Dinger of course, are over. Roberts showed you what over the top loyalty to any one player leads to.

      1. True

        Exactly it is about the team and a team win, not somebody’s legacy.

        But have you been tip toeing through the tulips, again?

        And want LA to give Gurriel a welcome he will never forget!

        And Ken Rosenthal made me sick, with his pity story, about what Gurriel has been going through!

        He shouldn’t be in this series, and I hope we beat the Astros, and Darvish pitches the game of his life, if we win tomorrow!

        I read in Japanese Darvish really said, that Gurriel had no class, but that got lost in the translation.

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