In his first public comments since the Dodgers were eliminated from the postseason in stunning fashion two months ago, Clayton Kershaw on Friday said he was keeping close tabs on the activity that generated from this week’s winter meetings, he did not recruit Gerrit Cole before the ace chose to sign elsewhere, and he welcomed the possibility of playing with nemesis Madison Bumgarner.
As for the sign-stealing allegations levied against the Houston Astros that have outraged the industry and generated speculation about the Astros cheating during the 2017 World Series against the Dodgers, Kershaw admitted being somewhat stunned.
“A little shocked, honestly,” Kershaw said at the Dodgers’ annual holiday party for more than 300 children experiencing homelessness. “During the ’17 World Series, we all took as many precautions as we could. Just because it’s the playoffs and you want to do your due diligence.
“I guess all I can say is when the team and the players are doing what they can on the field to get the signs, that’s obviously part of the game, you know? But when technology comes into play, if that is really true, it sucks. And unless we get to win the World Series, I don’t really care what the punishment is. But it just, it does suck, no matter what.”
Major League Baseball’s exhaustive investigation into the matter remains ongoing. It may produce unprecedented punishment, including a loss of draft picks, a significant fine, and lifetime bans for team officials involved.
Two years after falling to the Astros in seven games, the Dodgers failed to advanced past the National League Division Series for the first time since 2015. Kershaw was at the center of the Game 5 collapse against the Washington Nationals, the eventual World Series champions, allowing back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning to tie the score. He was visibly distraught that night, on the bench and in the clubhouse after the defeat. Two months later, he’s turned the page.
“Every year is no fun,” Kershaw said. “This year, the abruptness, the way it happened, it’s no fun. It’s not. It continues not to be. But you have two options: You can either crawl into a hole, or you can move on and try to get better for the next year. I don’t want to crawl into a hole yet, so I’m going to try to get better for next year.”
There was a chance that next year — and the seven after that — could have included Cole. The Dodgers offered him an eight-year, $300-million contract only to watch him sign with the New York Yankees for nine years and $324 million. The team’s attention shifted to other possible additions, including Bumgarner, the former San Francisco Giants ace whose career includes three World Series titles and a few heated moments against the Dodgers.
“I love Bum. Great pitcher. Good dude. Great competitor,” Kershaw said. “I know [Andrew Friedman is] working on all sorts of things. Whether it be trade, free agent, any of that stuff. We signed [reliever] Blake Treinen. He’s got amazing stuff. It’s a good signing for us and, yeah, if I was able to play with Mad Bum, it’d be great. He’s great.”
Verdugo progressing slowly
Three months after aggravating a back injury, outfielder Alex Verdugo has still not resumed baseball activities as he continues his rehab. Verdugo, 23, hurt his back in a minor league rehab game Sept. 3.
“My goal is, obviously, starting opening day,” Verdugo said. “I want to be out there opening day. we’ll just go from there. We’ll see how the days and the weeks start compiling and how we recover.”
Verdugo has proven he belongs in the majors — he batted .294 with an .817 OPS while playing plus defense as a rookie last season — but the back problems are a troubling sign and could hurt his value in the trade market as the Dodgers seek to acquire elite players.