NORMAN — Sandy Koufax, once upon a time, said that he’d rather have Dwight Gooden’s future than his very own past.
The great southpaw was wrong about that one, but it’s interesting to remember Koufax’s incorrect thought a day after two-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, still just 25 and the best Dodger to take the mound since Koufax, signed a seven-year, $215 million contract, the largest contract ever signed by a pitcher for the largest per-season salary any player’s ever enjoyed in the history of the game.
In a sport in which veterans tend to be paid for what they’ve already done — hello Albert Pujols (and Carl Crawford, Marx Teixira, to say nothing of the $61 million still owed Alex Rodriguez) — rather than what’s expected of them through the length of the contract; even a sport in which the teams themselves understand they’re unlikely to get any real return on the back end of the high eight- and nine-figure deals they strike, Kershaw’s deal is almost a breath of fresh air because it’s pretty likely he’ll remain one of the game’s best through its length.
But there’s also this:
Though he’s had no real arm trouble and has started 30, 32, 33, 33 and 33 games each of his last five seasons, real durability in today’s MLB, at $30.7 million per season, pretty much, he’s being paid a million every time he takes the mound and that’s insane.
Also, guess how many pitchers have started at least 215 big league games the last seven seasons?
It’s four: Bronson Arroyo (230), Matt Cain (227), Mark Buehrle (225) and A.J. Burnett (218).
So, unless Kershaw is as durable over his next seven seasons as all but four have been over the previous seven, he will be making at least a million per start.