© Sarah Morris, 2020
When the Los Angeles Dodger President Andrew Friedman signed right-handed reliever Joe Kelly to a 3-year $27 million, many Dodger fans were not excited. Kelly’s 2019 performance was satisfactory, but his season was the most remembered for allowing a grand slam to Howie Kendrick during Game 5 of the 2019 NLDS. Kelly did not pitch much in the abbreviated 2020 season because of shoulder inflammation, but he endeared himself to Dodger fans forever.
Since 2013, Dodger fans had known about Kelly. No one on the baseball diamond is more competitive than Kelly. If he is on your favorite team, you will love him, but if your favorite team faces Kelly, you will hate him.
Throughout his career, Kelly has battled wildness. He hit Dodger shortstop Hanley Ramirez during the 2013 NLCS and broke his rib. Since Ramirez was the Dodgers’ best hitter during the 2013 season, the Dodgers could not do well in the 2013 NLCS.
In the 2018 World Series, Kelly as a member of the Boston Red Sox dominated the Dodgers. He was an excellent closer just before becoming a free agent.
President Friedman identified the Dodgers could not win a world championship without a better bullpen. Signing Kelly should have improved the Dodger bullpen; so far, it has not worked out yet. Kelly has great quality and repertoire pitches. His rising fastball can touch 102 mile-per-hour. He has a heavy sinker that produces many ground balls. He has both a changeup and a rainbow curveball. In the abbreviated 2020 season, Kelly had developed a reliance on his curveball, causing a problem. It became apparent that throwing a fastball hurt his shoulder.
In the 2020 season, Kelly only appeared in 12 games and pitched 10 innings with a 1.80 ERA. When the Dodgers faced the Houston Astros for the first time in the 2020 season, Kelly pitched. While Kelly did not hit an Astro, he pitched inside, making the Astros uncomfortable. When Carlos Correa complained, Kelly made a pouting face and replied, “Nice swing, Bitch.”
Major League Baseball unfairly issued an 8-game suspension to Kelly to protect the Astros. No baseball player liked how MLB punished the Astros for cheating during the 2017 season, including the World Series. MLB did not want teams to punish the Astros at all. For over 100 years, baseball had policed itself, but Commissioner Rob Manfred did not want any player to make an Astro uncomfortable. This is nonsense. Everyone who followed baseball thought Manfred’s punishment of the Astros was weak.
Many Dodger fans celebrated Kelly’s courage to let the Astros how the Dodgers disliked them cheating them out of a world championship. One talented Dodger fan painted a picture of Kelly’s pouted face on a wall in Los Angeles.
While Kelly did not pitch much in the 2020 postseason, he was an integral member of the 2020 Dodgers’ world championship. If he is healthy, Kelly will play a crucial role in the success of the Dodgers.
© Sarah Morris, 2020