Column: There’s no way the Dodgers should even consider bringing Yu Darvish back after his World Series meltdown

Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish recoils as Astros center fielder George Springer hits a two-run homer in the second inning in Game 7 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium on Nov. 1, 2017.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers could soon be making a huge mistake on a certain powder keg of a pitcher, so forgive the hurriedly shot-off pun.

No Thank Yu!

Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi are out of their brilliant minds if they think there’s any way Yu Darvish should be allowed to again wear a Dodgers uniform.

Nobody is saying this is probable, but it is certainly possible in the wake of reports that the Dodgers are among six teams in the running to acquire baseball’s most attractive unsigned free-agent pitcher.


His price of at least $100 million over five years wouldn’t seem to mesh with the Dodgers’ current fiscal tightening, but they could dump salaries of players such as Logan Forsythe or Yasmani Grandal to help it work. Friedman and Zaidi have already proven that if they want someone, they are smart enough to make it happen, so never count them out of any acquisition.

The question isn’t whether they could do it. The question is why would they do it?

Why would they want to do this to Dodgers fans? Why would they want to do this to Darvish?

No reminder is necessary to anyone living within 1,000 miles of Chavez Ravine, but we’ll put it out there anyway.

Many people believe Darvish cost the Dodgers last season’s World Series championship. If there’s one shoulder carrying the blame, it’s his. If there was an October villain, it’s him.

Darvish wasn’t just the losing pitcher of Game 7 of the World Series, he was basically the entire loss. He turned the celebration of a lifetime into the embodiment of a nightmare in just 47 pitches, allowing the Houston Astros to score five runs before the end of the second inning. Dodger Stadium was filled and loud for the biggest baseball game in this city’s history, yet he quickly stole the moment, hastily ended the party, and turned the night silent at the start of a 5-1 defeat.

“What I did today affected everyone on the Dodgers,’’ he said tearfully afterward, and he was speaking of an entire mournful city.

Darvish coughed it up not only in Game 7, but also in Game 3 when he also didn’t get out of the second inning by allowing four earned runs in a 5-3 loss. For the World Series he was 0-2 with a 21.60 earned-run average while throwing tipped pitches, wayward pitches and just plain fat pitches.


It was arguably the worst big-moment performance ever by a Dodgers pitcher — yes, worse than even Clayton Kershaw’s worst postseasons — while being one of the worst efforts by a World Series starter in major league history.

When Dodgers fans think of how a 29-year drought will now reach three decades, they’ll think of him until that drought has ended. If he’s not exactly Bill Buckner in Boston, he’s pretty close. The only blessing was that after Game 7 he took off the uniform with the assumption he would never wear it again.

And now the Dodgers would give it back to him?

There is, as always, logic in the front-office thinking. Darvish is still a good pitcher. He fit well into last year’s division-winning rotation after being acquired at the July 31 trade deadline.

He was 4-3 with a 3.44 ERA in nine Dodgers starts. He finished the year with a 0.47 ERA with 21 strikeouts and one walk in his final three regular-season starts. He was unbeaten in two starts in the first two rounds of the postseason, with a 1.59 ERA.

As the days progressed, he kept getting better and more comfortable and, on the eve of the World Series, it could have been argued that he was one of the Dodgers’ safest bets.

But something happened to him on that big stage. He suddenly appeared uneasy at the thought of pitching under those bright lights. There was a marked unsteadiness in his words and body language. He seemed to lose his nerve.

Some observers were not surprised by his Game 3 meltdown. By the time it happened again in Game 7, the only question was whether manager Dave Roberts should have pulled him sooner.

The answer in this space has always been no. Darvish had just retired two consecutive hitters on grounders and the Dodgers had to believe that the once-unhittable pitcher could regain his footing and get out of the inning. Of course, he didn’t. George Springer homered and Darvish had seemingly thrown his final pitch for a fan base that booed him into winter.

It’s difficult to imagine those fans ever forgetting that moment. It would be a miracle if Darvish ever forgets that moment. It’s impossible to see how a return to that setting would work for anyone.

Just ask Tom Niedenfuer. He was an effective Dodgers reliever, the nicest of men, a true pro who began his Dodgers career in 1981 with four sturdy seasons that included a World Series ring and five scoreless postseason appearances.

But then, in October of 1985, the big righty nicknamed “Buff’’ kept the Dodgers out of the World Series by allowing a walk-off homer to St. Louis’ Ozzie Smith one day, and then a game-winning homer to Jack Clark two days later to give the Cardinals the National League pennant.

Niedenfuer was never the same Dodgers pitcher, lasting only one more season before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles in May of 1987. Upon his infrequent returns to Dodger Stadium since then, Niedenfuer would talk about how he was still reminded of his failings by everyone from parking lot attendants to older fans. He took it all with good humor, but it showed how Dodgers fans never forget.

They will never forget Darvish, either, so why put him through this?

Their rotation will be fine. Their season will be fine. They will be the favorite to return to the World Series even without Darvish, and they certainly don’t want him once they get there.

“From that experience, I want to go back on that stage, and I want to pitch better,’’ Darvish told Sports Illustrated this winter when talking about Game 7. “That’s the only occasion in which I can redeem myself. I want to be part of a team where I can get that chance.”

Strong words. Admirable goal. That team can be the Chicago Cubs or New York Yankees or Houston Astros or any one of 29 major league franchises.

That team cannot be the Dodgers.

Get more of Bill Plaschke’s work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke