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Clayton Kershaw’s Legacy, Heading Into His Possible Final Season

Clayton Kershaw’s devastating arsenal of pitches have confounded opposing hitters throughout his storied career as the face of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Father time catches up with all of us, even the seemingly immortal, and it seems to have caught up with the great Clayton.

His fastball has regressed into a near changeup, and he is giving up homeruns at a record pace. That said, his ERA consistently hovers around 3.00 because he is, above all things, smart. Most of the homeruns are solo-shots, and when it comes to pressure situations, he applies the right mix of pitches to get out of jams. With each fist pump by Clayton, after he throws the perfect cutter to illicit inning-ending soft contact in a two-on and two-out situation, baseball fans are further reminded that Clayton is truly special.

Clayton Kershaw
Credit: Harry How/Getty Images

Kershaw Contract Negotiations

When it was time to extend his contract, Clayton Kershaw, as the face of the Dodgers, could have commanded astronomical figures over multiple years. In Kershaw’s heyday, he was offered a lifetime contract by Los Angeles, but he politely asked the team to take a step back. In his last round of negotiations, Kershaw insisted on a three-year extension. He knew he had three years left of good baseball. When we see the bloated, back-loaded contracts held by those such as Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, our admiration for Clayton spikes even further. He knew that the second wind that has blessed Justin Verlander’s career was just not in the cards. He also did not want to hang around the game too long and transition into a shell of the player he once was. 

Astros Hurt Kershaw’s Legacy

Unless you have been under a rock, baseball has been infamously tainted by the Houston Astros. No one has been hurt more by this unfortunate situation than Clayton Kershaw. Ironically, born and raised in the Houston area, Clayton had his postseason ambitions and ERA destroyed by a team he grew up rooting for. Kershaw, who can no longer rely on his velocity, has quietly developed one of baseball’s greatest minds, next to that of Greg Maddux, whose fastball rarely eclipsed 90 mph and often pitched to contact and hitter’s negative tendencies, versus going for strikeouts. Kershaw has developed a similar style, although he can still rare back and throw a vintage heater when pressed.

However, the greatest of minds cannot subvert the fact that when a professional baseball player knows the approximate location, speed, and spin of a pitch before the baseball is even released, they are going to smack the daylights out of it. Not only did the Astros torch Kershaw, they knocked around hard-throwing pitchers, such as Yu Darvish and Kenley Jansen.

Kershaw did not shy away from the criticism. He took his lumps, admitted fault and took responsibility for his seemingly poor play. However, the word seemingly needs to be emphasized, because ordinarily the Astros may have kept some of those homeruns in fairground. The beauty of baseball is the unknown, and the Astros took that away from the game.

Clayton Kershaw’s Legacy

Kershaw is often compared to Sandy Koufax, one of the game’s greatest pitchers, and ironically a Dodgers lefty-legend who ended his brilliant career in his early 30’s. Both men are generally quiet, respectful and devout in their respective faiths. Koufax, a respected member of the Jewish community, famously missed games on the high holidays. Meanwhile, Kershaw’s Christian faith has been well-documented. He has participated in multiple missions during off-seasons and has provided sizable charitable contributions throughout his career. Kershaw, who has embraced Koufax as a mentor-type, recently passed Sandy on the all-time wins list. Yet, it was Sandy who guided the Dodgers to four titles in a ten-year span.

But what makes so Kershaw so special is that, even without a ring, he will be regarded as a tremendous pitcher and perhaps a better person. The city of Los Angeles is rooting for Kershaw to get one last honest shot at the World Series. As he is in the final year of perhaps his final contract, baseball fans everywhere want him to get over that playoff-hump and build upon a legacy that is already in place.

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