By T.J. Simers
I read the Times’ terrific column Friday by Dylan Hernandez on the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and I was jealous.
First of all, these are two of my favorite people, but enough about Hernandez.
I miss interviewing Kershaw and ducking an occasional verbal jab. I was still a young man when Kershaw came to the Dodgers, and I ordinarily pay no attention to rookies or the children of other people. But Kershaw was different, he was already stupendous and so grownup.
He became one of my all-time favorites, and I’ve gone through a lot of contenders.
When I met him, he was just a kid. He certainly wasn’t married. Hernandez mentioned in his column that Kershaw now has four kids. So, I presume he’s married now. That suggests a serious passage of time, and Kershaw always acted older than he appeared so he must be acting really old these days.
But he told Hernandez he wants to keep pitching, and I wish I had gotten that out of him, but it wasn’t like Hernandez tackled him and forced him to give up his most inner competitive thoughts.
He asked the question. Granted at the right time, and he knew what to do with it, but it takes a certain amount of trust for a superstar to reveal himself.
Right from the beginning Kershaw was respectful but with an edge to his demeanor, and interesting. You might find this hard to believe but there aren’t that many interesting athletes. The really good ones have been really good most of their lives, which means they don’t have the life experiences to spice up their resumes.
Kershaw was 20 when he came to the big leagues with the Dodgers, making him the youngest player in the game, but so much more than that.
Kershaw could talk, and even make sense. I remember when I was writing for the Times, Kershaw was developing an orphanage in Africa. I made some kind of mistake in the story about it and felt absolutely terrible when discussing it with Kershaw, who thank heavens didn’t throw a high hard one back at me in disgust.
I loved his competitiveness, trashing him, of course, like everyone else when he went ten toes up in postseason play. And then later would marvel at his maturity to put it all on himself, no excuses, no what-ifs.
If I had a son, he wouldn’t be as effective a pitcher given his genes, but the way Kershaw conducted himself, he was obviously raised right. His parents were divorced when he was 10, no easy thing for any kid, but somebody knew what they were doing.
I noticed in Hernandez’s column that Manager Dave Roberts had Kershaw say a few words to the team before letting the champagne flow. Smart move, and while I can only take Hernandez’s word that it was Roberts’ idea, Kershaw is one of those rarest of athletes who can stand consistent year after year as a role model should.
Hernandez has always had an affinity for Kershaw, and I’m not surprised. He likes good guys, and while Kershaw likes to play the tough guy on occasion with the media, he would respect Hernandez’s relentless push to get what he thinks is best for Times’ readers.
He’s also not Plaschke; enough said.
I was so happy to hear Kershaw would be starting the All-Star game in Dodger Stadium earlier this season, and I could make a case that Hernandez suggesting that when he did, helped Kershaw’s cause.
The Dodgers need players like Kershaw, and while the high-priced mercenaries have made the Dodgers dominant, there is still something old-fashioned about home-grown talent. A first-round pick and the seventh player taken in the 2006 draft, he went four picks before Arizona took Max Scherzer, and that’s a pretty good one-two lock on proven talent.
Scherzer has a 200-101 record with a 3.11 earned run average, while Kershaw is 194-87 with a 2.49 earned run average. It’s a matching pair, all right, and baseball has been better off with their contributions.
Beyond the stats, though, Kershaw has stood tall for every parent in the L.A. area wanting the very best for their baseball following kids. That makes him the perfect Dodger for baseball fans here, and it sounds like we’re going to get another year from him.
But it’s up to Hernandez to make sure the Dodgers don’t let Kershaw wander off to another team for his closing act.
Get on it, Dylan.