If only Vin Scully had stayed one more year.

Results of Monday’s trade deadline reinforced the already strong possibility that the Los Angeles Dodgers could finally make it to the World Series. The Dodgers snagged one of the most coveted players on the market, right-handed pitcher Yu Darvish, from the Texas Rangers within the last few minutes before the 4 p.m. deadline. With the arrival of Darvish came relief to anyone worried that the Dodgers’s Clayton Kershaw’s back injury would be a detriment to the team’s incredible record and a potential World Series appearance.

Before the deadline, the Dodgers were already one of the few almost-perfect teams this year. Sluggers were plentiful. Anyone who follows baseball in any capacity knows that the Dodgers’s young phenom, first baseman Cody Bellinger, is the west coast’s response to rookie slugger Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees. Cory Seager, Chris Taylor and Justin Turner were all batting over .300 as of Tuesday, with Puig and Grandal not far behind. The Dodgers’ bullpen, too, boasts multiple ERAs under two, recently added contingency lefties, and the starting lineup included the best pitcher in baseball — what more is there to say?

If the Dodgers seemed unstoppable before, they are unequivocally unstoppable now. Right?

Wrong. The most valuable reason for the Dodgers’ acquisition of Darvish is not to improve upon an almost-perfect team; it is to attempt to preserve a team with an unexpected Achilles heel — Clayton Kershaw.

I know, I know. Kershaw, one of the Dodgers number one assets, is their Achilles heel? Sit down and let me explain.

In the regular season, Clayton Kershaw is one of the Dodgers’ greatest strengths. But in the postseason, he has been one their greatest weaknesses. From the very beginning of his postseason appearance in 2008, Kershaw has been notorious for delivering shockingly disappointing postseason performances. This is one of the main reasons that, despite the many postseason appearances as the Dodgers have made in the last decade, the Dodgers have been unable to win a single World Series title.

Kershaw almost ditched his reputation last season, when he posted four wins in a row —though, really, only three should count as one of the wins came when Kershaw was used as a closer — but doubts resurfaced after another loss on Oct. 22, 2016 against the Chicago Cubs. Kershaw let up five runs, four earned, in five innings — a score that is very uncharacteristic for the ace.

It is important to note however, that Kershaw’s failure in his fifth game is understandable, seeing as he pitched on short rest almost the entirety of last October.

But even if Kershaw has largely ended his streak of postseason failure, he still might not be capable of sustaining short rest through the postseason.

Whether or not Kershaw’s injury will throw a wrench in his rhythm remains to be seen, as even the smallest injuries can completely upset a pitcher’s mojo. Chances of re-injury are also always high, especially if Kershaw is rushed.

And the postseason jitters question will remain until the beginning of the postseason. So the overall reliability of the best pitcher in baseball is lower than usually expected.

While their ticket to the playoffs seems nearly guaranteed at this point, the Dodgers could never survive the postseason if they lost Kershaw to injury or postseason jitters. Yu Darvish serves a much greater purpose than being the potential second-best pitcher in the Dodgers’ starting rotation — if something goes wrong with Kershaw, Darvish will hopefully be his replacement.

In the regular season, the Dodgers dominate. But in October, Los Angeles does not only need a great addition to the starting lineup and a replacement for the injured Kershaw, they need a pitcher to possibly replace the healthy ace too.

The acquisition of Yu Darvish could fix the glaring mistake the Dodgers have made year after year in October, the mistake that frankly may have kept them from winning the World Series: Relying on Clayton Kershaw.

 

 

 

 

 

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