ARLINGTON, Texas — Clayton Kershaw cut through the doubters, just like one of his curveballs through the strike zone.
Only took 13 seasons.
One of the most accomplished pitchers in baseball history attained the achievement he had sought most, winning the World Series for the first time when the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
“We won the World Series,” Kershaw said. “I don’t care about legacy, I don’t care about what happened last year, I don’t care about what people think. I don’t care at all, man. We won the World Series. The 2020 Dodgers won the World Series. Who cares about all that other stuff? To be a part of that team? All that other stuff is just pointless. It doesn’t matter. We won. It’s great.”
Kershaw went 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA over 11 2/3 innings in two starts, striking out 14 and walking three.
And he earned his title not far from his hometown of Dallas, with family and friends filling a ticket allotment supplemented with “nosebleed seats.”
Watching from the Dodgers bullpen in right-center field, Kershaw raised both arms and pointed fingers toward the sky, a huge smile across his face. His blue Dodgers sweatshirt still on, he ran through the bullpen door and to the infield to join his jumping teammates.
Manager Dave Roberts shared a moment with Kershaw on the field.
“I just told him how happy I was for him and thanking him and how grateful I was to be beside him and just kind for sharing and he was excited for me as well,” Roberts said.
Kershaw’s honors are too numerous to list on his likely Hall of Fame plaque: a five-time major league ERA champion, including four in a row from 2012-14; a three-time strikeout champion; a two-time 20-game winner in an era when innings are diminished; a pitching triple crown winner in 2011.
An eight-time All-Star; NL Cy Young Award winner in 2011, 2013 and 2014; the 2014 NL MVP. Winner of the 2012 Roberto Clemente and 2014 Marvin Miller Awards for off-the-field achievements focusing on his community and charitable work.
But he entered this year just 9-11 in postseason play, with poor outings in a pair of World Series Game 5s that resulted in a 2017 no-decision and a 2018 defeat.
He responded by going 4-1 with a 2.93 ERA and 37 strikeouts with five walks in 30 2/3 innings this postseason. For the first time since 2015, he wasn’t inserted into a bullpen role when he wasn’t starting. That seemed to ease issues with back pain that has flared up repeatedly for five years.
“Once again, man, it doesn’t matter. All those other years don’t make this any sweeter,” Kershaw said. “Winning the World Series if you’re in the playoffs your first year is just as sweet. This is what we’ve worked for our whole lives. Every one of those guys has worked their whole lives to be a part of a world championship team, myself included.
“The other years are done with — somebody won the World Series, and it wasn’t us — and now we are the ones that won the World Series, and that … I can’t get over saying that, it’s just amazing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Former All-Star reliever Corey Knebel, 29, traded by Milwaukee Brewers to Los Angeles Dodgers
Corey Knebel, a 29-year-old reliever who was seemingly on his way to being let go by the Milwaukee Brewers, was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers moments before the non-tender deadline came and went on Wednesday night.
The reigning World Series champions will send a player to be named later or cash considerations to the Brewers in exchange for a former All-Star, who struggled in his return from Tommy John surgery but might possess some upside.
Knebel broke out with a 1.78 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 76 innings in 2017 but tore his ulnar collateral ligament in March 2019 and spent most of the next 16 months working his way back. His 2020 surface numbers — 6.08 ERA, 15 strikeouts, eight walks and a fastball that averaged less than 95 mph — were discouraging.
But the Dodgers saw signs of Knebel recapturing his old self when he returned from a hamstring injury in early September and believe there are other adjustments they can help him through to trigger a bounce-back season.
Knebel will be a free agent after the 2021 season and was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make a little over $5 million in his final year of arbitration.
Minnesota Twins non-tender Eddie Rosario
The Twins also decided to non-tender reliever Matt Wisler prior to MLB’s deadline. They reached one-year deals with five of their arbitration-eligible players: Jose Berrios ($500,000 signing bonus and $5.6 million salary), center fielder Byron Buxton ($5,125,000), reliever Tyler Duffey ($2.2 million), catcher Mitch Garver ($1,875,000) and reliever Caleb Thielbar ($650,000).
Rosario cleared waivers this week, another sign of the economic uncertainty around the industry.
“We very much appreciate everything Eddie has done up to this point. He’s been a big part of this team over the last number of years. So those are always difficult decisions. But he was a pro about it,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said.
Though Rosario and Wisler were the only players on the 40-man roster not offered new contracts, Falvey said the team remains open to negotiating with them as free agents.
The 29-year-old Rosario made $7.75 million last season, batting .257 with 13 homers and 42 RBI with a .792 OPS in 57 games. He hit a career-high 32 homers with 109 RBI in 2019 and was voted the team’s most valuable player in 2018, but the club’s top prospects are in the outfield. Alex Kirilloff, a 2016 first-round draft pick, is likely ready for an everyday role after landing on the postseason roster. Brent Rooker and Trevor Larnach are close behind.
Rosario, who was eligible for his third and final year of arbitration that likely would have driven his salary over $10 million, became a free agent one season early. With the pandemic putting the squeeze on revenues and payrolls, Rosario, whose career on-base percentage is just .310, was a logical candidate to non-tender.
Wisler was a waiver claim success story for the Twins, posting a 1.07 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings after splitting the 2019 season with San Diego and Seattle. He made $725,000 in 2020.
The moves left only one player in the salary arbitration eligibility pool, closer Taylor Rogers, with two more months to reach an agreement before the Twins would be forced to go to a hearing. Rogers took a step back this season, compiling a 4.05 ERA in 21 appearances with nine saves and two blown chances. He made $4.45 million in 2020, after notching 30 saves with 90 strikeouts over 69 innings in 2019.
Berrios, a two-time All-Star, had a 4.00 ERA in 12 starts during the 60-game season to help the Twins win their second straight AL Central title. He made $4,025,000 in 2020.
Buxton battled injuries again but posted a career-best .844 OPS, with 13 homers in 39 games while providing elite defense in center field. He made $3,075,000 in 2020.
Duffey, who turns 30 on Dec. 27, had a career-best 1.88 ERA in 24 innings this year with 13 hits allowed and 31 strikeouts. Over the last two years, the right-hander has been a key late-game cog in Minnesota’s bullpen, logging a 2.31 ERA and 113 strikeouts over 81 2/3 innings with 57 hits allowed. He made $1.2 million in 2020.
Garver and Thielbar entered their first year of arbitration eligibility. After a breakout 2019 season with 31 homers in 93 games, Garver slumped in 2020 and spent much of the summer on the injured list.
In addition to Rosario and Wisler, the Twins have a long list of notable free agents: designated hitter Nelson Cruz, starting pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Rich Hill, multi-positional player Marwin Gonzalez, relievers Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard, and backup catcher Alex Avila. Relief pitcher Trevor May signed with the New York Mets.
Tampa Bay Rays tender Tyler Glasnow, 6 other arbitration-eligible players
Right-hander Edgar García, who was not yet eligible for arbitration, was non-tendered and becomes a free agent.
Glasnow went 5-1 in 11 regular-season starts in 2020. The 6-foot-8 right-hander was 2-3 during the postseason, including a pair of losses in two World Series outings against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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