Let me begin by cosigning or at least acknowledging literally every argument, either analytical or human, for removing any pitcher at any time from any baseball game. Yes, fine: arm wear, and/or win probabilities, and a shortened spring training and heightened injury risk. It is better along perfectly mathematically upstanding ways of measuring these things for Clayton Kershaw’s Los Angeles Dodgers team to have a healthy Clayton Kershaw in October than for Clayton Kershaw to have a particular individual achievement in April. Whatever. Yes. OK. You’re right.
Now that we have cleared that up, please simply place Dodgers manager Dave Roberts in Space Prison immediately, for the crime of this:
That’s the Dodgers pulling Clayton Kershaw after seven perfect innings—a mere 80 total pitches—and 13 strikeouts, in a game they led the Minnesota Twins 3-0. (By the time the Twins came up to bat again, the lead had ballooned to six runs.) I hate this! Eighty pitches is not some huge number of pitches! Eighty pitches through seven complete innings is, in fact, a remarkably low number! Clayton Kershaw was not grinding. It is no exaggeration to say that when a big-league pitcher retires the game’s first 21 batters in order on only 80 pitches with 13 strikeouts, that pitcher is pitching about as well as it is possible for a person to pitch. If anyone in an MLB game has ever gotten that close to a perfect game that efficiently, I have not heard of it. He was cruising. And they damn pulled him out of it!
There have been only 23 perfect games in the 145-year history of Major League Baseball, and Kershaw was seven ninths of the way—77.77777 percent of the way—to recording the 24th. He is 34 years old; the odds against him ever again getting that close to perfection are like the odds that the same individual grain of sand will fly into your eye on two different continents. The odds that he could ever get that close on 80 goddamn pitches are like the odds that each of the two times the same individual grain of sand flies into your eye on two different continents, you will also simultaneously be struck by lightning.
It’s likely that baseball’s owners are the right targets for blame, here: Thanks to their lockout, and the resulting shortened preseason, it’s likely reasonable for managers and coaches—and pitchers themselves—to worry that pitching arms aren’t ready for the rigors of high pitch counts. Fine! Then maybe Kershaw would have given up a single to start the eighth inning, and then the Dodgers could yank him, and at least he and history (and I) would know that he didn’t have the juice to throw the 24th perfect game in history on April 13, 2022. That would have been a natural resolution to the effort. So would him miraculously recording the measly six fucking outs standing between him and the most special thing a starting baseball pitcher can do in their professional lifetime.
Not allowing that performance to end on its own terms, either with the completion of what was shaping up to be one of the great pitching performances in the history of baseball or with a single Twin reaching base, is a horror. An abomination. It is like cannibalism! And no, my beliefs on this matter will not be swayed by the fact that Kershaw himself agreed with his manager’s decision to remove him from the game.
This only confirms that Kershaw must join Roberts in Space Prison. Those are the rules.