Clayton Kershaw will Continue to Build his Dodgers Legacy
If you build it, they will come. They’ll come to Dodger Stadium for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up through the stadium gates, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at the door as innocent as children, longing for the past and now, praying for the future.
The Dodgers passed over the money without even thinking about it, for it is money they had and peace they lacked. In Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers found that peace, building a culture and a baseball team around one man who has helped shape the history of the game but still longs to do so much more. Without Kershaw, Chavez Ravine may not be a Field of Dreams. But, for the next three seasons, Kershaw will be back in blue to continue building his Dodger legacy.
When Kershaw walked through the halls of the stadium and onto the field for Opening Day it was impossible to miss what is so clearly displayed on the faces of the upper deck in both right and left field. On the right, the years. The years the Dodgers wrote their name down in history, winning what Clayton Kershaw has yearned so long for- a championship. On the left, the names. The names that wore blue so proudly, etching themselves down in the history books- the Hall of Fame.
Those players are the history, they are the past. For the last ten years and the next three to come, a living, breathing connection to that history will take the mound every fifth day.
Kershaw has already scribed his name in franchise lore. His no-hitter, two straight runs to the World Series and three Cy Young awards have taken care of that. Now, Kershaw must return to prove himself. He is not back to pick up where he left off. Rather, he is here to change what he will now leave behind.
The Dodgers have struggled as a franchise to win the World Series. They have not brought a title back to the city of Los Angeles since 1988 and year after year that drought gets longer and longer. Kershaw has been on the ride since 2008, his debut season.
The Dodger won but continued to lose all at the same time and as Kershaw became more prominent in the rotation, the Dodgers’ Fall Classic hopes grew as well.
In 2011 Kershaw won his first Cy Young, just 23-years-old at the time. He began cementing himself in the history of the game.
In 2012 Kershaw finished in second in Cy Young voting and the Dodgers were first in the division. Again though, no championship.
That pattern continued: Kershaw would shine brighter than almost everyone in the league but his team was just one star amongst millions.
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He won another Cy Young award, he won the ERA title five times, a gold glove, a triple crown, seven straight All-Star appearances, an MVP but all of this felt trivial as this player was not here for himself, he was here to win one award and one award only, a ring.
So when the Dodgers brought Kershaw back he knew he had underachieved. The person was incredible but the team was second place at best.
“I know I need to prove myself, ” Kershaw said. “This new contract will give me an opportunity to prove to the people who think I’m in decline wrong.”
So when the Dodgers brought back one of the best arms to ever live they did not invest in decline. Sure, his fastball velocity has taken a hit and his statistics hit lows they have not seen since 2010 but Kershaw is more than the numbers.
What happens to Kershaw when his dreams crumble?
He has seen the game seven losses in the World Series and the late-inning failures to win a crucial game. Kershaw put his head down and charges forward. If he were a car he puts himself in drive, plants his foot on the gas and does not release until he gets what he wants.
The Dodgers signed work ethic, the Dodgers signed a leader and the Dodgers signed history.
The deal was a steal. For the next three years, the Dodgers will pay Kershaw what works out to be $31 million in annual base salary with incentives to add onto that.
For Kershaw, this renewed lease on his tenure with the team he has always called home will mark the first years of a new era. Kershaw is back to prove himself but more so to prove that his team can do what has not been done in 30 years. Kershaw returned to win a ring wearing that same blue and white that the players on the stadium walls once did. Kershaw is back to put another year on that wall. Kershaw is back. Kershaw is back to continue to build his legacy as a Dodger.