I can’t remember if I wrote this here or only on Twitter, but it’s been clear from the day the Dodgers won the 2020 World Series that thankfully, my angst over the team has diminished like — well, like the water supply in California.
It doesn’t hurt that they’ve continued to win about two-thirds of their games since then. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed that the Dodgers won 106 games in 2021 but lost their streak of division titles at eight. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have been annoyed if last year they had lost the NL Wild Card Game or the playoff series against the Giants. But I will say that as much as I wanted them to beat Atlanta and reach the World Series, I got over that defeat instantaneously.
Honestly, my No. 1, prime interest with the Dodgers is Clayton Kershaw.
I’ve been invested in Kershaw ever since the day he was drafted, and especially since before “Public Enemy No. 1” took off. By the way, let’s pause to take a look at the beginnings of Kershaw’s Dodger Thoughts career:
10:15 a.m.: The Dodgers take left-handed high school pitcher Clayton Kershaw with the seventh overall pick. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Kershaw is the first prep player picked this year.
“Considered to be the top high school arm in the draft,” MLB.com said, “Kershaw’s fastball sits in the mid-90s to go along with a big curve and workable changeup. An oblique injury hasn’t scared teams off.”
Not scared by an injury risk? Yeah, that sounds like the Dodgers.
I asked Nate Purcell, who studies the draft like it’s every final exam he will ever take at the University of Arizona rolled into one, what he thought of Kershaw. Purcell is very high on the pick.
“He is athletic and a competitor,” Purcell said. “He throws a heavy, heavy fastball with great late movement – ranges from 90-98 – and a plus curveball, and will only get better as he matures. He shows a feel for his change-up* that has a chance to be a good pitch as well. All in all, this is the best (the Dodgers) could have done, and Logan White made Dodger fans proud again. He could even take the (Chad) Billingsley route and be up in LA in three years.”
*Editor’s note: Ha!
At the beginning of his career, my main interest in Kershaw was his ability to get the Dodgers over the hump. Then, as the ups — yes, really — and downs of his postseason career revealed themselves, Kershaw’s individual triumph became almost as important as that of the team. Updating my Kershaw postseason chart after each game became serious business — I just got the shivers thinking about it.
In 2020, the Dodgers and Kershaw finally got over the hump, and in addition to the joy, the relief I felt was almost beyond comprehension. No more anger about the team, ever again. Just joy.
Since then, while it was always important to me, nothing has been more important to me as a Dodger fan than Kershaw finshing his career in Los Angeles. I want to be part of his journey from start to finish. I want his Hall of Fame plaque to have only “LOS ANGELES, N.L.” I want Kershaw all to myself.
(Of course, I mean ourselves.)
(But really, myself.)
Kershaw is without a doubt this generation’s Sandy Koufax, and think what a relief and pleasure it is for us not to have to share Koufax with any other group of fans.
A large part of me believes that Kershaw feels the same way. Even with the lure of pitching in his home state of Texas, I don’t think he wants that kind of coda on his career, that hints at the notion of hanging on. I believe he’ll pitch for Los Angeles as long as he’s willing and as long as the Dodgers want to sign him. And in my mind, there’s no way the Dodgers should ever do anything but offer him a contract. I don’t care if he’s overpaid. I don’t even care if his presence somehow diminishes the Dodgers’ chances of winning a World Series (not that it ever would). He has earned everything the Dodgers and the fans can possibly give him.
It does possibly mean that Kershaw could retire as soon as the end of this season. Man, I hope he doesn’t, mostly for us to see him pitch for as long as possible, but also in the hopes that he can round out some career numbers, however much they mean: 200 wins (he has 192) and 3,000 strikeouts (he has 2,745). I’d also really like to see him fnish with the lowest ERA of any starting pitcher in the past 100 years (currently 2.48), while also reaching WHIP nirvana.
Certainly, I’m looking forward to the day I can tweet the title of that upcoming sequel, Kershaw CD.
Entering tonight's game, Kershaw needed 11 perfect innings to get his career WHIP back below 1.000.
It is now 1.001.
That is the lowest of any starting pitcher in the past 100 years.
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) July 16, 2022
When the news broke out this week about the Washington Nationals likely trading Juan Soto, of course I want the Dodgers to be in that race. Soto is a generational talent who has already reached base more than 1,000 times at age 23. The idea of Soto and Mookie Betts in a Dodger outfield for the rest of the decade is mind-boggling. Those are two more players who can earn that Cooperstown plaque.
But if it ever came down to some kind of hypothetical or even karmic choice between Soto coming to Los Angeles and Kershaw finishing his career here, I’d take Kershaw, every time.
Clayton Kerhsaw, Los Angeles Dodger. Nothing, not one thing, in my baseball universe matters more.
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