COMMENTARY | While the Los Angeles Dodgers have excellent players in Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez, an up-and-coming phenom in Yasiel Puig, and a rehabbing stud in Matt Kemp, there can be only one face of any franchise. In Los Angeles, the answer to who holds that title is simple: the guy I wrote about as being the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw.
Selected seventh overall in the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft -- three spots ahead of Tim Lincecum and four ahead of Max Scherzer -- Kershaw was the buzz name in the Dodgers' organization before debuting in 2008.
Kershaw garnered a following amongst Dodgers' fans due to his limitless potential and unhittable curveball, dubbed by Vin Scully as "Public Enemy Number One" after he threw an incredible Uncle Charlie to Sean Casey in spring training. A grainy clip of the amazing pitch is all that exists, and it seems fitting considering the mythical status Kershaw achieved before arriving in the bigs.
Living Up To The Hype
Clayton arrived as one of the most hyped prospects in franchise history, with expectations sky-high for many reasons. He was a first-rounder with a ton of talent and also reminded fans of Sandy Koufax. However, a large factor was that the rival San Francisco Giants had selected Lincecum three picks later in the same draft. As Kershaw debuted, Lincecum was in the midst of what would be his first of back-to-back Cy Young Awards, so comparisons were inevitable.
In the roughly five seasons since his debut, Kid K has done nothing but exceed expectations as he dominates baseball. He won a Cy of his own in 2011 and finished runner-up in the vote a year later. His career ERA sits at 2.68, his FIP at 2.96, and he's fanned over a batter an inning while inducing weak contact with regularity.
Kershaw's only getting better and is just 25 years old. He's on a Cooperstown pace and is in line to become the richest pitcher in baseball history, potentially cracking the $200 million mark as the Dodgers prepare to throw all of King Midas' silver at him.
While the most important aspect of being the face of a franchise is to actually be a great and productive player, an athlete's off-the-field actions and reputation generally comes into play as well. Kershaw has earned himself a sterling reputation. He and his wife Ellen run Kershaw's Challenge and have partnered with Arise Africa to help raise money for and better the lives of those in need in both Africa and the United States.
Kershaw supports other charities as well including Mercy Street and Sharefest. He received the Roberto Clemente Award in 2012, given to the player "who best represents the game through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement."
With his on-the-field performance and off-the-field work in the community and abroad, Clayton Kershaw has cemented himself as the face of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He's young, dominant, an asset to the community, and a good person on and off the field (a trait I've experienced first-hand and written about before).
Clayton is everything you'd want as the face of your favorite franchise and the sport as a whole, and the Dodgers are certainly thankful to this day that six other teams passed on him.
Greg Zakwin is the founder of Plaschke, Thy Sweater Is Argyle, a Dodgers' and sports card blog. He writes with an analytical tilt about The Blue Crew at ChadMoriyama.com. You can find and follow him on Twitter @ArgyledPlaschke. A graduate of UCLA in 2011 with a Bachelor's in History, he's been a follower of the Dodgers since birth and still mourns the loss of both Mike Piazza and Carlos Santana.
- Sports & Recreation
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Clayton Kershaw
- Tim Lincecum