Kenley Jansen is the most fearsome closers in Dodger’s franchise history. He’s been pitching for over a decade now, and has been beloved by Dodger fans since the first time we heard California Love blaring over the Chavez Ravine speakers during his first trot to the mound in the ninth inning. But are we seeing the end of the line for Kenley?
It’s becoming painfully obvious that Kenley is not the same pitcher he once was during the days when he was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball. Look it’s nobody’s fault. These things just happen. Kenley’s biggest enemy has always been father time. Jansen is old. He’s now 32 years old and has been pitching for the Dodgers since 2010. Not many relievers last as long as he has. One of the most volatile positions in baseball is relief pitching, especially the closer role. With relievers you are literally here today and possibly gone tomorrow. We don’t see many pitchers that have the staying power that Kenley has. It’s admirable and we love him. I love Kenley, and always will.
But it’s time for the Dodgers and everyone to face the stark reality. Kenley just doesn’t have it anymore, and the longer the Dodgers draw this out, the more painful it will be for Kenley and all of us to watch. We watched a man named Kenley Jansen who barely resembles the Kenley that we know blow a three-run lead to the cheater Astros on a nationally televised loss on Saturday evening. Kenley allowed six consecutive batters to reach base and allowed four runs to cross the plate while not recording a single out.
It was a cringe worthy outing for Kenley who has actually fared pretty well this season. But if you watch him pitch you can tell there is no turning back for him and the Dodgers. It’s quite common for older pitchers in their 30’s to lose a couple ticks on the fastball (which Kenley already has) but for a pitcher like Kenley who relies so heavily on movement and spin (specifically his cutter), to lose that ability is akin to Michael Jordan losing his ability to shoot. Kenley doesn’t have that movement anymore on his pitches and without that he becomes very hittable, as we saw in Saturday’s loss to Houston.
I understand that with the Dodgers almost 20 games above .500 and the best record in baseball, the game wasn’t super important in the standings. I still didn’t think it was a good idea to just leave Kenley out there to blow the game. It was obvious he didn’t have it and Dave Roberts should have had someone warming, and should not have left Kenley out there to rot on the mound.
Regardless, this is not going to be easy for anybody. Would you trust Kenley in the playoffs, or in the World Series? I’m not sure the Dodgers need to take that risk. Jansen has one more year remaining on his contract before he enters free agency. Maybe the best way to show respect towards Kenley is to not let him embarrass himself in the postseason. Let him pitch in middle relief and allow someone else to close games. At this point the Dodgers are going to probably have to do that. Unless they believe that Kenley’s confidence is more important that winning a championship. Sometimes the needs of the many greatly outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. The Dodgers are going to have to make a touch decision soon.