It has been an impressive start to 2022 for Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. He’s got a 3-0 record, broke the franchise’s all-time strikeout record and came close to completing just the 24th perfect game in MLB history. Losing out on the perfect game against the Minnesota Twins wasn’t even on him as manager Dave Roberts pulled him from the game in the seventh inning while he was still perfect.
The decision was met with ire from many Dodgers baseball fans, as perfect games are among the rarest achievements in sports. Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford and Kershaw have been close friends dating back to high school. The two are now two of the biggest sports figures in Los Angeles and both have brought championships to the city. During the recent Courtyard by Marriott’s “Bistro & Banter” event in Las Vegas, Stafford opened up about Roberts’ decision to take Kershaw out of the perfect game bid.
“I was really proud and happy for Clayton that he made it healthy through that thing, and had it rolling the way he had it rolling,” Stafford told Heavy. “I know him as a person, as a competitor, I’m sure he wanted to stay in that game, but I also know him as a teammate and I know he knows what’s best for the team is best for him as well. I know he understands getting pulled out of that thing, and really the goal for him, I’m sure at this point is at the end of the season having the chance to win the World Series. I’m sure it was a tough pill to swallow at the moment, it was a tough pill to swallow as a fan and as a friend, but probably a good move.”
Kershaw Didn’t Have Problem With Roberts’ Decision
Fans obviously wanted to see Kershaw make history. He’s already cemented himself as one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history and arguably the greatest pitcher of the 2000s. The only real achievement he’s missing is a perfect game. He already has a no-hitter under his belt but a perfect game is a much rarer achievement. While he likely would’ve wanted to get a shot at finishing the game, Kershaw remained a team player and defended Roberts for taking him out.
“Blame it on the lockout, blame it on me not picking up a baseball until January,” Kershaw said at the time. “My slider was horrible the last two innings. It didn’t have the bite. It was time.”
Roberts Understood What He Was Doing
Roberts is a former player himself, so he fully understands how Kershaw may have felt as a competitor. He knew what was at stake when he pulled the pitcher from the perfect game. Despite that, Roberts wouldn’t have changed his decision in hindsight.
“I’d like to think that we’re all fans of baseball,” Roberts said, via ESPN. “I know I am. And so fans want to see great moments. I absolutely understand that. Clayton wants to see a great moment for himself, personally. But I can’t manage a ballclub and players with my fan cap on.”
It’s early in the season for the Dodgers and Kershaw is an important part of the team. He’s 34 now and doesn’t have the endurance that he used to. While it was a disappointing development for the pitcher, it’s easy to understand why Roberts made the call.