Clayton Kershaw, baseball’s best pitcher over the past four years, has not received enough support to win a single game in almost a full month.
May 20, 2013 is now a key date in Dodgers’ history, and it grows in significance with each passing Kershaw start. May 20 was the date of his last victory, despite his leading the NL in both strikeouts and ERA and having a sub-1.00 WHIP for the season, and posting a 2.91 ERA over his five intervening starts. His last game was painful to watch, as the team blew a 3-0 lead, with the arson squad (i.e. “bullpen”) giving up a run in the eighth to get close and a ninth inning run to tie the game. Throughout Kershaw’s career, he has seldom had any measurable level of support. Despite CAREER stats of a 2.70 ERA, a three-to-one strikeout to walks ratio, more than a strikeout per inning, and a WHIP of 1.12, he has only in one season been able to win more than 14 games. That clearly has been due not to his pitching, which as been at a 20+ wins per season caliber since his rookie season, but rather it has been due to the terrible team behind him, a team that consistently features bad defense, erratic offense, poor bullpens, and above all else in the most recent years of his career, the empty uniform non-manager don mattingly, who makes all the wrong moves that have hurt Kershaw most of all.
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|At a time when Kershaw has been reported to have become upset because reports of his contract negotiations have been made public, one has to wonder, does he really want to sign a long-term contract with the Dodgers? They have the money and willingness to pay him, but he has to be thinking of what his record would be with a real team and a real manager behind him.
Kershaw has been quoted as saying the the Dodgers’ are the source of leaks about the negotiations, that while the negotiations have not themselves been a
distraction, public talk now has made it a distraction, and that he and the team “…had an agreement that we weren’t going to talk about it”.
The leaks have indicated that a new contract with the Dodgers would exceed what the team is paying Zack Greinke ($170 M) and what the Tigers are now paying Justin Verlander ($180 M) and what Felix Hernandez is getting from Seattle, and would likely be in the $200 M range. But if he waits, and stays healthy, he could get similar numbers from teams that might actually support his great pitching efforts with runs, with defense, and with a guy in the dugout who actually knows how to manage a major league team.
Upset at the Dodgers? You be I am. Kershaw is the best pitcher the Dodgers have had since Sandy Koufax, and that includes Orel Hershiser, Fernando Valenzuela, Don Sutton, Andy Messersmith, and all the rest, and I want to see him win games with the Dodgers. But with odd personnel moves, such as the trade for the over-the-hill Ramon Hernandez, who lasted a month or so before his release, and with the consistent mis-use of players by the empty uniform non-manager, games are painful to watch, and I really feel for Kershaw.
If he does not sign a new contract, next year he would go to arbitration, and the following season he would be a free agent. If I were him, I would bide my time, and hope, and maybe, just maybe, use a little influence, to see if the right change can first be made. In basketball, it seems like the inmates run the asylum, with star players dictating coaching changes. I’d hate to see that develop in baseball, but Kershaw has plenty of leverage, and with a real manager calling the shots, he might even get a sixth win this season.