Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw has three competing interests in his upcoming decision about whether — and where — to play a 16th season in the big leagues: health, effectiveness, and family.
As Dylan Hernandez writes in the Los Angeles Times, Kershaw is “leaning towards” pitching at least one more year.
“I hold the right to change my mind, but as of today, I think that I’ve got at least one more run,” he said.
Kershaw missed the postseason last year after suffering an elbow injury in the final weekend of the regular season. He was assured the elbow would heal without surgery, but it was months before he really felt right. In fact, he considers the delayed start to spring training because of the lockout a blessing in disguise for him personally. Around the time the lockout ended, he decided to return to the Dodgers, turning away from an offer to play for his hometown Texas Rangers.
Kershaw is careful with his words, never actually saying anything specific about the Rangers. It’s more vague thoughts about how anything can happen.
“If I was healthy and won the World Series, I don’t know what last offseason would have held,” Kershaw said. “Same thing goes for this offseason, right? I still don’t know.”
Does that mean Kershaw might hang up his spikes if the Dodgers go on to win another World Series? Or does it mean he might put less of a priority on winning and more on being close to home, choosing to wrap up his career within driving distance of his home in Dallas? Kershaw isn’t saying. But he definitely knows he doesn’t want to be hurt all the time.
“I don’t want to be hurt,” he said. “It’s just a horrible feeling. You just feel useless. You feel like you’re in the way. I don’t want to deal with that anymore. So if I felt like I was going to get hurt all the time, I don’t want to do that anymore.”
Kershaw has had two injured list stints this year, but he has been outstanding in the 19 starts around those injuries, posting a 2.39 ERA and an outstanding 6.16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His fastball velocity is down, but his offspeed pitches are as devastating as ever.
Clayton Kershaw, 73mph Cooperstown Curveball. ? pic.twitter.com/kmqODBXfU8
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 20, 2022
Kershaw is not interested in turning into a junkballer who sticks around just to stick around.
“I also don’t want to be mediocre. I want to be good at what I do. I don’t want to hang on just to pitch.”
So we have health, and we have effectiveness. The final piece of the puzzle is family. Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, now have four children, the oldest in second grade. Clayton is torn between wanting to be home with his family and wanting his children to remember the experience of him being one of the best pitchers on the planet.
“Cali’s playing soccer, playing basketball,” Kershaw said. “Charley’s doing all sorts of fun things, kind of getting into baseball a little bit. I don’t want to miss that stuff, either.”
But the children are also a reason for him to continue playing beyond this season.
“I think the cool part about it, too, is they’re getting older where they’re starting to understand what this is a little bit, especially Charley, getting to come into the clubhouse and stuff,” Kershaw said. “There’s part of me that wants them to know what I did, not just, ‘Hey, he did have a job at some point.’”
As the regular season comes to an end, we get closer and closer to a crossroads for Kershaw, who could spend next season either back in Dodger Blue, wearing a slightly different blue in Arlington, or wearing cargo shorts and flip flops to PTA meetings in Dallas.
Dodger fans are hoping for the first and could stomach the last. But Kershaw in a different uniform is too hard to think about.
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