The Los Angeles Lakers, playing 3,000 miles away from the Staples Center, defeated the Miami Heat earlier this month, bringing the Larry O’Brien trophy home to LA for the first time in a decade. Championship droughts for the Lakers aren’t something new, as the franchise has survived hills and valleys throughout its existence.
Dating back to 1988, the Lakers have won six championships in 32 years. That’s roughly one every five seasons. However, another team from the City of Angels hasn’t been so lucky, waiting that full 32 years for their first championship title. Because the last time the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series, the Lakers were also NBA Champs. That Lakers team just had a lot more Magic and a lot less LeBron.
And now the Dodgers are one game away from repeating history and erasing a 32 year World Series Championship drought.
It’s not the longest World Series drought in baseball history, but given the recent history of this team, it feels the heaviest. Having failed to win rings in their last two trips, the Dodgers came into the 2020 season looking to do something they hadn’t done since 1988: win the last game of the season.
Their previous two trips didn’t pan out as they had hoped. Going the distance against the Astros in 2017, and then getting dominated by the Red Sox in 2018, the Dodgers were earning the reputation of being the best team in Modern Baseball history to never win a World Series. However, after some offseason scandals hit the front page of every sports section, those losses seemed less destined and more stolen.
The Dodgers are a very good baseball team, and it almost seems insane to think that the 2017 Astros had to go seven rounds against them, despite their cheating. But the postseason has been an Achilles heel for two big pieces of their current clubhouse.
Clayton Kershaw could retire tomorrow and be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee. That’s a fact. One of the most decorated pitchers of the last few decades, Kershaw’s career has been stained by a run of bad appearances in the playoffs. How bad has he been?
For the sake of comparison, here are Kershaw’s career numbers for the regular season and the postseason (prior to 2020) side-by-side.
- Record – Regular Season: 169-74, Postseason: 9-11
- Win Percentage – Regular Season: .695 , Postseason: .450
- ERA – Regular Season: 2.44, Postseason: 4.33
- WHIP – Regular Season: 1.008, Postseason: 1.110
- Hits Per 9 – Regular Season: 6.8, Postseason: 7.4
- Home Runs Per 9 – Regular Season: 0.7, Postseason: 1.4
Is Playoff Kershaw real? Yes, absolutely, but there are two definitions. There’s Playoff Kershaw that gives up twice as many home runs in his starts. The same one who gives up more hits, but somehow strikes out more batters.
And then there’s the other Playoff Kershaw. It’s the guy who has this monkey on his back that he cannot shake, the narrative already against him, as he carries the weight on his team and of his legacy at the same time.
And now, in 2020, Clayton Kershaw has a chance to get the World Series ring that has eluded him for 12 seasons. And if you want to read more about Playoff Kershaw, check this article out.
The other member of the Dodgers clubhouse who hasn’t seen the same success from the regular season to the postseason is Dave Roberts.
Now, Dave Roberts took the LA skipper position in 2016 and had led the Dodgers to an NLCS berth in four out of his five seasons. Out of those four NLCS appearances, three became World Series berths, the two in 2017 and 2018, and now 2020’s.
Dave Roberts knows how to break a World Series drought. Back in 2004, after being traded to the Red Sox by the Los Angeles Dodgers (FUN FACT!) Roberts found himself on first base in the 9th inning of Game 4 in the ALCS.
With no outs, Roberts took off for second as Red Sox Nation held their breath. The throw from Posada was a hair too late. Roberts would score on a Bill Mueller single to Center. The Red Sox would advance to their first World Series in 86 years.
And now, Roberts is trying to ensure he doesn’t lose consecutive World Series as the Dodgers manager. So far he’s played excellent Chess against Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash, but he still has to win the last game of the season.
And that’s where we are as we go into tonight’s World Series face-off. The Dodgers are one win away from finishing off a crazy 2020 season and an even crazier five-season run. Can they win the last game of the season? Or is this Dodgers team destined to remain the greatest team in Modern Baseball to never win a World Series?