Is Clayton Kershaw ready for it?  Can the Dodgers ace handle being the most hated man in baseball?  That’s not to say he will be, but the potential for that distinction is there.

Yesterday Kershaw and the Dodgers avoided arbitration by agreeing to the richest contract in Major League Baseball history and that distinction, as the highest paid player, puts quite a target on a man’s back.  Just ask Alex Rodriquez.  A-Rod without question, is the most hated player in the game and, if you look at the history, he had that distinction long before his current drug related issues.  Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that the already widely hated A-Rod was viewed as the guy who was going to save baseball from having to acknowlege Barry Bonds as it’s all time home run king.  A-Rod’s biggest offense at that time was being the highest paid player in baseball, and he was hated for it.

Red Sox fans hate him the most, even though the worst thing he ever did to them was try to become one of them.  He tried to sign on with the Sox for a three million dollar a year discount, but the union wouldn’t let him take the pay cut.  If the Sox wanted him they had to pay full price.  They passed and, at full pay, A-Rod became a Yankee.  How hated you are sometimes just has to do with how hated your team is, and, with 27 World Series titles and at least a half dozen decades over the last century in which they dominated the game, the Yankees were the most hated team in the world.

A-Rods problems grew when he failed to live up to his contract, though he was a prime mover behind the Yankees one World Series championship of his era, and even the fans of his own team started to dislike him.  The Dodgers aren’t the Yankees, not yet, but they seem bent on becoming that same kind of team, one that figures the best way to get a World Series title is buy one, and players at Chavez Ravine making less than 20 mil a year are soon to be the minority.  The Dodgers now have their sights set on Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who’s destined to become the most expensive import ever.

Once the Dodgers establish themselves as a team determined to blow the mid markets off the face of Major League Baseball they’ll become as hated as the Yankees and the focus will turn to Kershaw, the standard bearer of the new philosophy in L.A.

Of course, if he lives up to the numbers on his contract all will be well, but that’s no guarantee.  A six year major league veteran with a .626 regular season winning percentage and an ERA under three, he has just one 20 win season, last year he won 16.  It’s when the heat is the hottest and the lights are the brightest that he’s historically stumbled.  In five post season series he has a 1-3 record with a 4.23 ERA.  The deeper into the post season he goes, the worse it gets.  His NLCS record is 0-3 with a 7.23 ERA.  The potential is there for Kershaw to feel the wrath of other teams fans over the numbers on his contract, but it’s also there to hear it from his own fans.  The money isn’t the only thing on the table now.

As I said, Clayton Kershaw is no Alex Rodriquez.  The question is, is he prepared to be?

With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.


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