Clayton Kershaw is great, and most everyone knows he’s a true homegrown talent. But there are a lot of factors that went into him being a Dodger. I’m here to chronicle the journey.
There are many people and entities to thank, but I’m not going to go as far back as, say, his parents. I’m going to keep it to baseball.
The list of those to thank include (chronological order):
An odd list, for the most part. But hear me out.
Guerrero was a free agent following the 2003 season, and the Dodgers had a deal in place. At the time, it was 5 years, $70 million — chump change these days. Guerrero was coming off a .330/.426/.586 season with the Montreal Expos and was the premiere free agent hitter on the market.
Because the FOX ownership group was in the process of selling to Frank McCourt, all major transactions were temporarily frozen by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig (and rightfully so). Guerrero ended up signing with the Angels for the same number of years and dollars. It didn’t prevent the 2004 squad from winning the NL West (thanks Adrian Beltre and Steve Finley), but it did hurt its chance to compete in 2005. Guerrero won the 2004 AL MVP and put up this line from 2004-05: .328/.392/.583, 36 HR, 117 RBI, 34 2B, 155 OPS+, 152 wRC+ and a 4.5 fWAR (thought this would be higher). That bat in the middle of the order (despite Beltre’s departure) would have led to a better 2005 team. You know, the team that saw Jason Phillips bat cleanup in nine games? More on that shortly.
It’s tough to give McCourt credit for anything, but I have to here. Because he had to buy the team, essentially on credit, the sale process was delayed, which prevented the Guerrero signing. McCourt also OK’d the drafting and signing of Kershaw to a $2.3 million bonus — the most the Dodgers had given a draft pick at that point. Which leads me to …
Hochevar, famously, agreed to a $2.98 million bonus with the 40th overall selection in the 2005 draft. But he changed agents, backed out of the agreement and the Dodgers didn’t sign him (they got a supplemental pick for their troubles). Hochevar would go onto be the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft. That took one talent off the board in that draft (but it isn’t like they were going to select him again), and Hochevar is now rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and has pitched to a 5.10 ERA and 4.34 FIP in his career. Karma much?
DePodesta got a raw deal in LA, and much ink has been spilled about his 2-year tenure as Dodgers’ GM. But he constructed a 2005 roster that was so wafer-thin that it couldn’t withstand the multitude of injuries suffered and 1,100-plus disabled list days (not that many rosters could withstand that). He didn’t re-sign Beltre, but did replace him with J.D. Drew and Jeff Kent. In hindsight, that was the right move, though, Beltre has been an elite third baseman for the last few years.
Miller was one of the best prospects in the 2006 draft out of the University of North Carolina. If not for some unrealistic bonus demands, he might have gone No. 1 overall. But, he slipped and when he was on the board at No. 6, the Tigers scooped him up. Miller has a career 5.15 ERA and 4.30 FIP in 459 1/3 innings. He obviously never realized the potential he once showed.
Detroit Tigers/Dave Dombrowski
The 2005 Tigers had an identical record to the Dodgers that year (71-91), and have never been afraid to spend money. General Manager Dave Dombrowski has been in power there for awhile and has generally been really good at his job — except on Draft Day 2006. Because Miller was on the board, the Tigers opted to pass on Kershaw at No. 6. Detroit just couldn’t pass on the draft’s top talent and signed him for $3.55 million — the biggest bonus in the draft.
Of course Logan White is on this list. The story goes like this: White was prepared to draft Bryan Morris at No. 7, but when Kershaw fell to No. 7, he couldn’t get the pick in fast enough. It’s similar to this year’s draft, as a highly rated prep pitcher fell to the Dodgers at their pick, and White pulled the trigger on him. And, White was able to get Morris at No. 26, who was eventually traded (with Andy LaRoche) for Manny Ramirez. Kershaw was committed to Texas A&M, but the $2.3 million bonus easily got him out of that obligation. Good decision, Mr. Kershaw.
Kershaw was obviously White’s biggest hit in the draft since his tenure began in 2002. It has never been as apparent as it was last night. Kershaw’s performance was one of the most dominant in Major League history. It was the second-best start ever, according to Game Score, and was the only start in MLB history in which a pitcher struck out 15 hitters without allowing a hit or a walk.
So, let’s all thank the folks listed above for Kershaw being a Dodger. And guess what? We get to watch at least four more years of Kershaw in his prime. But, I’m guessing he’ll be a Dodger for life.