Clayton Kershaw faced a shot at baseball history on Wednesday.
He came up two innings short. Not because of his performance on the mound. But because of a decision by Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
The three-time Dodgers Cy Young winner had a chance to add a coveted line to his already illustrious résumé with a perfect game through seven innings against the Minnesota Twins. But 80 pitches into his start, Roberts pulled him, opting to prioritize Kershaw's health over a chance at the 24th perfect game in MLB history.
Decision prompts heated debate
This, of course, elicited a passionate response from the baseball community and beyond. The old school couldn't fathom Roberts' decision to deny Kershaw his shot at history just 80 pitches in. The new school that saw a then-33-year-old Kershaw miss the postseason last year with forearm discomfort took a more understanding route. As in: It's April. Let's not wreck Kershaw's arm just yet.
Others pointed out that if baseball hadn't gone through a lockout that led to a truncated spring training, Roberts might not have had to make his difficult decision. This was Kershaw's first start of the season on a 36-degree day after a shortened spring. Prior to Wednesday, his longest outing of the year was 75 pitches in a simulated game last week.
So naturally, the takes were varied, some of them hot. Even players past and present were torn.
— Alex Wood (@Awood45) April 13, 2022
If you want to be mad at someone or something blame the lockout
— Brett Anderson (@_BAnderson30_) April 13, 2022
You HAVE to let Kershaw roll in the 8th. Doesn’t matter if it’s his 1st or 30th start. Hitter to hitter.. if any man has ever earned the right, it’s him. Roll the damn dice. @MLB
— Jake Arrieta (@JArrieta34) April 13, 2022
Clayton Kershaw Perfect game 80 pitches, take him OUT !!!!! WHAT THE! what’s the game coming to?1 of the era’s best, and you take him out with a perfect game in the 7th, 7-0 Dodgers winning. Take him OUT! THIS IS BASEBALL PLEASE PEOPLE THAT HAVE NEVER PLAYED GET OUT OF ITS WAY
— Reggie Jackson (@mroctober) April 13, 2022
Baltimore Orioles manager Brandon Hyde vowed that if ace John Means was perfect through seven innings, he would stay out there.
Hyde said if John Means has a perfect game through 7 innings at 80 pitches, he’s going back out there. Said that’s a promise. #orioles
— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) April 13, 2022
Media members, of course, had their takes. They were widely varied as well.
If it's a no-hitter, whatever. Yank him. Clayton Kershaw has thrown one.
But there have been more than 220,000 games in MLB history. There have been 23 perfect games.
Everything -- especially a pitch count of 80 -- is lining up to at least let Kershaw try. You cannot pull him.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) April 13, 2022
Clayton Kershaw has a perfect game thru 7 innings. Just 80 pitches. Dodgers pull him. Analytical sound (perhaps) but MLB is a tough follow these days.
— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) April 13, 2022
I don't know what the right decision was here. But I do know that baseball finds limitless ways to be annoying. https://t.co/dNID7xHhzK
— Pat Forde (@ByPatForde) April 13, 2022
Am I crazy to think it’s the right decision for Dave Roberts to take out Clayton Kershaw? Remember what happened to Johan Santana after his no-no with the Mets?
— Myles Simmons (@MylesASimmons) April 13, 2022
I’m guessing that you would have had to fight Sandy Koufax or Don Drysdale if you told them you were taking them out after 7 innings with a perfect game due to pitch count.
— Terry McCormick (@terrymc13) April 13, 2022
This is an absolute dork move. DORKS! https://t.co/cQSUFf1616
— Chris Mason (@ByChrisMason) April 13, 2022
Clayton Kershaw better have told Dave Roberts his arm was about to fall off after Roberts today pulled him from a perfect game after 7 and only 80 pitches.
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) April 13, 2022
What do the Dodgers think?
In the end there are only a few opinions that really matter on the subject — those of the people in the Dodgers dugout. And there, a consensus exists. Pulling Kershaw was the right call.
Kershaw's catcher Austin Barnes told reporters that Kershaw was getting tired on the mound.
"Later in the season, when he's a little more built up, I think he goes out there," Barnes said, per Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. "But I think that's the right call, taking him out there. It was the right move for sure. I think he was getting a little tired."
Roberts, meanwhile, told reporters that Kershaw had asked him to take him out at 80-85 pitches. He also noted that Kershaw's "stuff was starting to tick down" while citing conversations with Kershaw and Barnes.
What does Kershaw think? He's disappointed, naturally. But he's on board with the call.
"I knew going in that my pitch count wasn’t going to be 100. It’s a hard thing to do, to come out of a game when you’re doing that. We’re here to win. This was the right choice." @ClaytonKersh22 (7 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 13 Ks) on his perfect outing. pic.twitter.com/DtlnlrBTWE
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) April 13, 2022
"As much as I would've wanted to do it, I've thrown 75 pitches in a sim game, and I hadn't gone six innings, let alone seven," Kershaw told reporters. "Sure, I would've loved to do it. But maybe we'll get another chance, who knows?
"I would have loved to have stayed, but bigger things, man. Bigger things."
He also took note of the lockout.
"Earlier in my career, I'd be built up to 100 pitches," Kershaw continued. "Blame it on the lockout. Blame it on me not picking up a baseball until January. My slider was horrible the last two innings, it didn't have the bite. It was time."