Upon signing a three-year, $25 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers during the 2018 offseason, Joe Kelly knew he was going to be facing a challenge of not only helping the Dodgers win a World Series but to also win over the support of Dodger fans themselves.
The Former Villian
Kelly had built up a villain type resume against the Dodgers over his professional career. Just a little over a month prior to signing such a deal with LA, he helped the Boston Red Sox send the Dodgers home empty-handed in the second straight year. Over 5 appearances the right-hander threw six shutout innings allowing only 4 hits while striking out 10 en route to a Boston championship.
5 years prior to 2018, Kelly was involved in another painful memory that Dodger fans had been holding on to. During Game 1 of the 2013 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, Kelly was the starting pitcher who pegged and broke the ribs of then shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez who was one of the hottest hitters at the time wasn’t the same for the rest of the series. The Dodgers ended up losing to the Cardinals who went on to win the World Series.
The New Hero
2019 didn’t go well for Kelly as it was filled with many ups and downs as well as plenty of boos from Dodger fans. However, in just his second appearance of 2020, Kelly may have secured the love and support of fans who once despised him. After securing a 5-2 lead, Kelly entered in the 6th inning and made a statement to the Houston Asterisks. The former villain saw his opportunity to become the hero.
On the last pitch that lead to a walk, Kelly threw a fastball up and in that almost took off the head of Alex Bregman. Two batters later, a couple more close calls occurred during Yuli Gurriel’s at-bat. Then after some “missed” pitches in on the hands as well as one just over the head of Carlos Correa, Kelly punched him out to end the dramatic inning. To add icing on top of the cake, Kelly exchanged some words with Correa while walking off the mound as well as a pouting face that lead to the benches clearing.
Carlos Correa and Joe Kelly exchanged words after Kelly struck out Correa. Benches cleared following the exchange. pic.twitter.com/sVHaibpN2y
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 29, 2020
Joe Kelly wasn’t a part of the Dodgers team that was cheated out of a World Series but his actions show you the type of teammate and Dodger that he is. After struggling to gain the love of many fans, it took this one outing to make Dodger fans forget all his evildoings of the past. Fans took to social media and expressed how proud and appreciative they were with him. The once villain has finally become the hero. Welcome to Dodger Nation Joe Kelly!