Dodgers Opening Day: All Kershaw, Koufax Comparisons Are on the Table
Jill Weisleder/LA Dodgers
There was no time stamp from Vin Scully as Clayton Kershaw prepared to face the final batter. You know, "On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California."
This was only San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval, not Chicago's Harvey Kuenn. And this was only Opening Day -- only! -- not September 9, 1965, otherwise known as Perfect Game Evening. Kershaw had actually allowed four singles on the day, "a murmur of protest," as Scully might have said.
But this was the same City of Angels; the City of Dodgers, really. The same ballpark, the same pitcher's mound, the very same play-by-play man at the mike; even a few of the same people in attendance. Sandy Koufax was there, as public a figure in Blue as he's been in years.
Kershaw pitched a complete game shutout to open the season yesterday at Chavez Ravine, issued a grand total of zero free passes, throwing 65 of 94 pitches for strikes, while fanning seven. One Cy Young Award-winning franchise pitcher lead his Dodgers to a maximum one-game lead with 161 to play while another another one watched.
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The comparisons were inevitable, and they've been coming early and often in the hours since. Tim Brown got the ball rolling, with Steve Dilbeck and Jon Weisman to follow. There will be others, certainly. There must be.
And as I said about the year 2013 in my predictions column at the old publication, "all comparisons to Sandy Koufax are deemed not just on the table, but welcome, fair and very much appropriate." They were before yesterday's heroics -- just a little thing called a game-deciding home run from Kershaw, to go along with the brilliant pitching -- and they are now.
Look, because of the changes to the game, there are some things Kershaw is never going to be able to accomplish. He's never going to start 41 games. He's never going to strike out 382 men. He's not going to strike out 300 in a single year, much less do it three times, and he's never going to throw 335 innings, or 323 or 311, as Sandy Koufax did.
Kershaw won't win three Cy Youngs when his sport only gives out one for both leagues, of course, but he might win three in the National League. Might get that second one this year, in fact. Might win a second Gold Glove Award too. Koufax never did that, the slacker.
Sandy won 25, 26 and 27 games; Clayton probably won't match him. Koufax paced the NL in earned run average five straight years, leading the majors in two of those seasons. Kershaw's led baseball in the category the last two years, and of course, he's got that 0.00 to start 2013. If there's a fan in Los Angeles that doesn't think Kersh is capable of those types of accomplishments, I've yet to meet him.
Four no-hitters, a la Sandy Koufax? A stretch for Clayton Kershaw, perhaps, and with the Houston Astros not on the 2013 schedule, there's a monkey wrench in the equation for you. Of course, the Dodgers will be in the Bronx to play the Yankees June 16, 17 and 18, so Kershaw will have an opportunity there. My guess is he'll get a no-no somewhere along the line this year. So what if he doesn't get four, not that I'm conceding the number.
The young Dodger, with his first career homer yesterday, is halfway to the lifetime total of the old one. If you care about such things, Kershaw's hit .200 in two season already, and he's at .333 now. Koufax never hit .200, and only managed as much as a buck four times in 12 years.
Kershaw hasn't started an All-Star Game yet, as Koufax did in 1965, but that's coming, and soon. July 16 at Citi Field in New York works for me.
Kersh is the ace of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He's the leader of the staff, if not the whole team. He's captured the confidence, imagination and admiration of the biggest city on the planet, he's smart and savvy as can possibly be, and he had the flair for the dramatic before yesterday. He's got more of it now, but he had it plenty before yesterday. In his own way he's developing a Koufax-like mystique. He's a bleeping god, is what he is. Just like Sandy.
All that's missing from the CV is some October history making; World Series October, to be precise. Kershaw won't win a Fall Classic Game Seven on two days rest -- probably -- but he very well might win a Series clincher, maybe even this October. He might strikeout 15 in the process. They won't be Yankees, most likely, but you can't blame the left-hander for that one.
Yom Kippur falls on September 13 this year. We might see Kersh that night, opposite San Francisco's Giants once again, right here in L.A. Plan ahead for the 7:10 start. Thousands of tickets are available.
"Two and 2 to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away. Sandy into his windup, here's the pitch. Swung on and missed, a perfect game!" We all know the call, down to the final syllable.
What you may not remember is that Vinny finished his broadcast with this: "Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flurry. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that "K" stands out even more than the O-U-F-A-X."
"K" for Koufax, "K" for Kershaw. It's fitting, isn't it? So maybe "K" doesn't stand out even more than the E-R-S-HA-W. Let's reserve the honor for Sandy, who'd no doubt agree, as would Clayton, that the truly important letter in the alphabet is the "W."
The "W" and the D-O-D-G-E-R-S.
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