Dodgers Roundtable: Removing Clayton Kershaw From Perfect Game The Right Decision?

Clayton Kershaw was only at 80 pitches and six outs away from throwing the first perfect game of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He previously threw a no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies on June 18, 2014.

However, the left-hander was making his first start of the season and had only been stretched out to five innings and 75 pitches by way of a simulated game last week. Kershaw getting in an additional exhibition session came on the heels of a shortened Spring Training because of the ML lockout.

Although the three-time Cy Young Award winner has openly expressed his feelings if being removed from a game at what he considered a premature time, Kershaw was seen smiling in the dugout and hugging teammates after speaking with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

During a postgame interview Kershaw confirmed he agreed with Roberts’ decision and noted he didn’t yet have enough of an innings base to pursue the perfect game. Kershaw also emphasized the Dodgers’ goal of winning a World Series takes precedent.

Was removing Kershaw from perfect game the correct decision?

Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand):

I’m not gonna lie, as a fan I was very upset to see Kershaw pulled after seven perfect innings and only 80 pitches. I understand that he isn’t fully built up, but to me, the way he was cruising, the low stress level of all his pitches, I thought he had at least 20-25 bullets left in him to go and chase history.

Listening to what Roberts, and more importantly, Kershaw said after the game, it seems that they were in agreement on the decision. And with that being the case, it makes him coming out more acceptable.

We all are aware of Kershaw’s injury history and we all know that the only goal for this team is winning the World Series, so it is good to see that the manager and face of the franchise or in lockstep on that.

There has only been 23 perfect games in baseball history though, which is why I’m so torn here. At this point, all we can do is hope he stays healthy and gets another chance sometime later in the season when he’s built up.

Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015):

Logically, there is no arguing that removing Kershaw was the correct decision. It only becomes a bit unclear when factoring in emotion.

It was his first start of a long season, Kershaw is coming off a year that ended because of injury and Spring Training was condensed. Now, I will admit the fact that he had a perfect game did change the calculus a bit for me.

No-hitters are certainly worth accomplishments, but there have only been 23 perfect games in MLB history, and Kershaw was cruising.

Had it only been a no-hitter, then pulling Kershaw would’ve basically been a no-brainer for me. But since it was a perfect game, part of me felt like it was worth at least letting him start the eighth inning.

Matt Borelli (@mcborelli):

I’m torn over Roberts’ decision to pull Kershaw after seven innings and 80 pitches. On one hand, it would’ve been nice to see him stay in the game and chase MLB history. A perfect game is one of the only things missing from his Hall of Fame résumé.

But it’s easy to see why Roberts took Kershaw out. After missing the entire postseason last year with left forearm discomfort, not picking up a baseball until January and the shortened Spring Training preventing him from ramping up, the Dodgers are clearly looking at the bigger picture.

Kershaw himself said his slider didn’t have the same bite as earlier in the game, so all signs point to Roberts making the right choice — as difficult as it was.

Scott Geirman (@ScottGeirman):

It is easy to say Roberts made the correct decision and that pulling Kershaw after carving up the Twins lineup for seven perfect innings was the right move — because it was. Fans have a right to be upset and call this a ‘classic Roberts move’ — because it is.

But I’d be lying if a huge part of me wants to throw logic to the side and say that could’ve been his best shot at one of the last accomplishments for the surefire Hall of Famer.

If you look at his outing in a vacuum and say taking out Kershaw after 80 pitches, striking out 13 of the 21 hitters he faced, then leaving him in was a no-brainer. He already is one of baseball’s immortals, surely he had two more innings left in his bag, regardless of whether he was built up or not.

But this is the Dodgers, and they rarely toy with this level of risk, especially with a 34-year-old pitching in his first game back after left forearm discomfort shut him down for the 2021 postseason.

Kershaw will be needed in October, and his stuff looked as if he unlocked a part of his arsenal we haven’t seen in years.

It is hard to not be attached to Kershaw because he’s been the rock of the Dodgers for over a decade and he deserved this moment. Feel however you want about it, I just hope that what he had working in Minnesota is captured in a box and put to use for the rest of the year.

Blake Williams (@ByBlakeWilliams):

At the time of the decision, I believed Roberts should have let Kershaw go for the perfect game. If it was just a no-hitter, I would not have cared as much, but a perfect game is special with only 23 being completed in history.

The opportunity for ones rarely come around, and realistically, it’s the only thing Kershaw has yet to achieve in his career.

The justification seemed to be that having Kershaw pitch in the World Series is more important, but there is no guarantee the Dodgers even get there, no guarantee he would get hurt if he pitched longer, no guarantee he stays healthy regardless of coming out or staying in and no guarantee they couldn’t have done both anyways.

What was guaranteed was the opportunity for one of the most magical accomplishments in baseball.

No one will ever truly know how many pitches Kershaw would have been able to throw before it potentially caused an injury, but I don’t really think a few more would have been the risk many seem to think it was.

In his previous outing, he threw 75 pitches, so pushing that a little further doesn’t seem like a huge deal, especially after they placed him fifth in the rotation to give him more time. They could have even agreed to let him throw at 75% effort or less just to see what happened.

However, my mind has changed a bit based on the postgame comments. Roberts said Kershaw told him he was running low on gas, Austin Barnes said the slider wasn’t as sharp, and the future Hall of Famer knows his body better than anyone else. So if Kershaw was fine with being removed, then it’s hard to be upset about the decision.

At the end of the day, it should have been Kershaw’s decision to continue or not, and it seems like Roberts mostly gave him the opportunity to decide how long he would go. And at this point in his career, Kershaw is fully focused on winning another ring, or he’d probably be playing for the Texas Rangers right now.

I would have liked to see Kershaw go for the history, but I get where they are coming from. He’s 34 now with a lot of innings pitched throughout his career, coming off forearm trouble and with a long injury history in the past. And even though a World Series appearance is not guaranteed, their odds are better with him than without him.

Still, the question will always linger of could he have completed it, and in hindsight, the decision will hurt a little more if they don’t win the World Series. But even if they do, I think the question of could both have happened will always be in the back of our minds, which makes it simultaneously the wrong decision and the correct decision.

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