Column: Deep in the heart of Texas? Clayton Kershaw has big call to make

Clayton Kershaw pitches for the Dodgers in Game 1 of a National League Division Series against Arizona on Oct. 7, 2023.
Clayton Kershaw, pitching for the Dodgers in Game 1 of a National League Division Series against Arizona on Oct. 7, will be a free agent after the World Series.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

When the World Series opens Friday, the National League representative will be the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dodgers won 100 games in the regular season, zero in the postseason.

The snakes are alive. The Dodgers are dead.

For a Dodgers fan, is this enough despair for one autumn?

Maybe not. The American League representative will be the Texas Rangers, the host team for Game 1, at Globe Life Field.

After winning the 2020 World Series, the Dodgers looked poised to win more championships. But myriad issues have grounded the team short of another championship.

Oct. 22, 2023

The greatest pitcher of his generation lives 20 minutes from here. Clayton Kershaw has distinguished himself as a Dodger — and only a Dodger — for 16 years.


His hometown Rangers would love to have him. They have tried before. They are likely to try again this winter.

“I would give him my No. 22,” Texas pitcher Jon Gray said Thursday. “Happily. It would be cool.”

After the Diamondbacks ended the Dodgers’ season, Kershaw said he would take some time to decide his future. He could retire. He could return to the Dodgers.

He could come home and pitch for the Rangers. There really is nothing left to accomplish with the Dodgers. He delivered a World Series championship. He won a most valuable player award once and a Cy Young award three times, same as Sandy Koufax.

A plaque awaits Kershaw in Cooperstown. A statue awaits him at Dodger Stadium.

In 2022, when he turned down Texas, then-Rangers manager Chris Woodward said Kershaw had told the team “not to forget about him.” Kershaw and Rangers general manager Chris Young are friends and neighbors.

“We’ll definitely probably always have a desire to want Clayton Kershaw on our team,” Woodward said then.


Year after year, Kershaw has emphasized how appreciative he is of the Dodgers for providing a chance to win every year, and how he does not take that for granted.

That could make the decision Kershaw makes this winter particularly intriguing.

Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, left, and Austin Barnes hold the World Series championship trophy on Oct. 27, 2020 in Texas.
Clayton Kershaw, left, and Austin Barnes celebrated a World Series championship in Arlington, Texas, in 2020. Might Kershaw call Globe Life Field his home stadium in 2024?
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

In the six seasons preceding this one, the Rangers finished no fewer than 23 games out of first place, pandemic season excepted, while the Dodgers made the playoffs every year and appeared in the World Series three times. Frankly, if the criterion was winning, Kershaw should not have had to think hard about his decision.

Now? The Rangers are in the World Series, and they have staked their future on star power, with the likes of Corey Seager, Jacob deGrom, Marcus Semien, and Max Scherzer highlighting close to $800 million in spending.

They have spared no expense in securing pitching upgrades, so Kershaw could fit into the grand plan, particularly since he has said he wants to play on one-year contracts for the rest of his career.

“We still do keep in touch,” Seager said.

Seager declined to say whether he would take another run at recruiting Kershaw, as he did two years ago.


“That’s for another day,” Seager said.

Texas pitcher Andrew Heaney played with Kershaw in Los Angeles and said he would be “thrilled” if they could team up in Texas. For now, however, Heaney said he wants to focus on the World Series and give Kershaw the space he needs to make his decision.

“He’s probably labored over that decision for the last couple of years now — come back, not come back, come home, not play at all,” Heaney said. “That’s such a personal choice for him.

“He’s a great teammate. I really enjoyed playing with him. It’s up to him.”

Gray is 31, four years younger than Kershaw. He was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2013, five years after Kershaw made his major league debut.

Gray spent the first seven years of his career in Colorado, admiring Kershaw even as the two were rivals in the NL West.

Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers had everything going for them until Game 1 of the NLDS started and the Arizona Diamondbacks dominated in an 11-2 win.

Oct. 7, 2023

“I don’t want to say it’s like a video game, but it almost looks like that. He’s very locked into what he’s doing,” Gray said. “He really cares about what he’s doing, his craft.

“I feel like he’s been the guy since I was in middle school and high school. Now I’ve played against him. I feel like I’m on the back side of my career, and he is still the guy.”


As a respected veteran, Gray would be in a position to ask for something sweet should Kershaw sign with the Rangers and ask for No. 22 — a watch, some clothes, maybe a nice vacation for the family.

Nah. Gray isn’t sure he would want anything from Kershaw.

“Maybe,” he said, “a crisp high five.”