LOS ANGELES - On a mid-January day last year, Clayton Kershaw politely excused himself from an interview at his Dallas home to take a call from his agent. The news was big: the Dodgers had just agreed to pay him $215 million over seven years.
Then, as if nothing had happened, he returned to his seat and said to the interviewer, author Molly Knight, "Now, where were we?"
The point is, Kershaw handles fortune and failure just the same. He has had plenty of the latter in postseasons, compiling a 1-5 record and 5.12 ERA and putting a huge stain on a fabulous career. Still, he is placid about diving into the deep water again Friday night when he faces the Mets in Game 1 of their National League Division Series.
"The way I look at it, 29 teams fail every year and one team succeeds. So no different for us. No different for me personally," he said, insisting he is not particularly motivated by his October history. "I don't need to be fueled by too much. I definitely remember, but it's a new team, new season and, hopefully for me, a new outcome."
Success certainly would change the baseball world's view of Kershaw, who was born seven months before the Dodgers' most recent World Series triumph in 1988. Sitting in a packed interview room at Dodger Stadium Thursday, his hair unkempt, his beard scruffy, his smile easy, he seemed no more flummoxed than he had on the day agent Casey Close called and provided the dramatic opening to Knight's book, "The Best Team Money Can Buy."
On the surface, at least, he is just the guy who married the girl he met in eighth grade, who spends part of his offseason doing charity work in Zambia, something he sees as living his Christian faith. On the outside, at least, he showed no agitation Thursday about what teammates, fans and observers will say about him if he falls on his face again.
An intense devotee of habit, he joked about having his precise regimen thrown off by a 6:47 p.m. start, local time. "I've got to move everything up 25 minutes," he said with a grin that suggested it was no big deal.
As much as contracts are earned in the course of 162 games, legacies are formed in the postseason. He knows this.
"I don't really judge myself, I guess. I don't really judge other players," he said. "My goal is to win just for the teammates and the guys in our room . . . So you look at guys' success, guys' careers. I think you have to take everything into account, but, yeah, at the end of the day, you want to win the World Series."
The Mets sure expect to see the best Kershaw. "We just have to be aggressive. We have to match his intensity," said Curtis Granderson, likely the first batter who will face him.
Jacob deGrom, who will start opposite him, said, "I mean, he's one of the best pitchers in the game if not the best, the way he goes out there and attacks hitters."
The Dodgers also think they know what to expect. Outfielder Justin Ruggiano said, "I expect him to dominate."