As if the Los Angeles Dodgers weren’t feeling enough pressure already to end their 29-year World Series drought, co-owner Magic Johnson managed to crank things a little tighter this week.
Appearing at Clayton Kershaw’s annual Ping Pong 4 Purpose event at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, the basketball Hall of Famer called his shot. And no, it wasn’t banking a three-pointer from midcourt, it was guaranteeing a Dodgers World Series victory this fall.
— ESPN (@espn) July 28, 2017
“And last but not least, the Dodgers are going to win the World Series this year. This is our year,” Magic told the gathering after accepting Kershaw’s Challenge Impact Award, which acknowledges the charitable work Johnson and his foundation have put in over the years.
In one sense, Johnson isn’t going out on a limb here. With a 71-31 record and a 12-game lead in the NL West, the Dodgers are basically a lock to make the postseason. You can’t win it all if you don’t get in, so Johnson at least knows that hurdle will be cleared.
As we’ve learned in recent seasons though, regular-season dominance doesn’t necessarily translate to postseason success. Getting in is a huge step, but it’s only one step. Once in, everything resets and it’s all about winning the next game against a quality opponent. The Dodgers should know this better than anyone too. They’ve won four straight division titles, and that hasn’t yet led to a World Series appearance.
Another key factor here is the man who was standing next to Magic while he was making this prediction. That would be Clayton Kershaw. The veteran left-hander is the most important piece of the Dodgers puzzle, and he’s also currently on the disabled list with a back injury that won’t end his season, but could potentially limit his effectiveness down the stretch.
In order for Johnson to be right, Kershaw needs to be right physically, and it’s clear Johnson knew as much when he told Kershaw to “get healthy” and “lead us.”
Though the mood at the event was light, that still comes across as an owner challenging his player to be there when they need him most.
If there’s one thing Johnson can be confident of, it’s that Kershaw will accept that challenge to the best of his ability. That’s because Johnson’s confidence in the Dodgers will be surpassed only by Kershaw’s determination to make a World Series championship a reality.
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