Clayton Kershaw emphasized that he wasn’t taking his latest Cy Young Award for granted.
“You don’t want to have anything take away from that,” he said.
“For me, personally, the season didn’t end the way I wanted it to,” he said. “I didn’t pitch well enough to win games. That’s ultimately why we all play the game, to win a World Series.”
Regardless of what happened in that October playoff series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Kershaw cemented his place among the greatest pitchers in baseball history Wednesday when he won his third National League Cy Young Award in four years.
Receiving all 30 first-place votes submitted by the Baseball Writers Assn. of America, Kershaw became one of only nine pitchers to win three or more Cy Young Awards. The others: Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, Steve Carlton, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson.
At 26, Kershaw is the youngest three-time winner.
“I try to think about where I was five years ago, where I was six years ago, just starting out,” Kershaw said. “If you were to tell me I would be in that kind of company, I would have laughed at you. I just wanted to make it. Never really thought that any of this could happen. It’s overwhelming. It really is.”
Kershaw could join even more exclusive company Thursday when the winners of the most-valuable-player awards are announced. If Kershaw wins the NL award, as expected, he would be the first pitcher to do so since Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1968. The last pitcher to win an MVP award in the American League was Justin Verlander in 2011.
“I can’t even really fathom it happening,” Kershaw said. “It’s such an amazing honor to be associated with the guys that have done that in the past, to have the recognition of not only your peers, but the writers, that think that you deserve the most valuable player.”
Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians won the AL Cy Young Award, edging Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners.
Kluber, a 28-year-old right-hander, received 17 first-place votes and had 169 points. Hernandez had 13 first-place votes and 159 points. Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox was third with 78 points.
Kluber had a record of 18-9 with a 2.44 earned-run average.
Kershaw won his Cy Young Award over Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds, who had 112 points to Kershaw’s perfect score of 210, and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals (97 points). Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke was seventh in the voting.
“The unanimous choice is something that is really, really special to me,” Kershaw said.
Kershaw pitched in the Dodgers’ season-opening victory in Australia against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but returned to the United States with a strained back muscle that sidelined him for the entire month of April.
Nonetheless, he finished with a league-best record of 21-3. His ERA of 1.77 was the lowest in baseball — something he’s accomplished the last four seasons — and he had a major league-high six shutouts.
“Obviously, going to Australia and stuff, that probably wasn’t the best thing for me, but it’s OK,” he said. “It might have been a blessing. I got to stay strong down the stretch.”
Kershaw spoke fondly of his first career no-hitter, which he threw against the Colorado Rockies on June 8.
Kershaw credited his success on the lack of change around him. A.J. Ellis has been his primary catcher for the last three seasons. Don Mattingly has managed him for the last four. Rick Honeycutt has been his pitching coach for his entire major league career.
“It’s really important for me to have those guys there,” he said. “It’s something not a lot of teams get, to have the same guys back over and over again.”
Kershaw acknowledged he was still bothered by his two losses to the Cardinals in the NL division series.
“Obviously, it’s going to be in the back of my mind all next year,” he said.
Kershaw praised Madison Bumgarner, the star pitcher for the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, who finished fourth in Cy Young voting but dominated the postseason.
“He pitched great,” Kershaw said. “Everybody knew how good he was. He’s obviously a bulldog. He’s a great guy too.”
As for the Giants, who finished behind the Dodgers in the NL West, Kershaw said, “I don’t know if it makes me feel better or worse because, on paper, I definitely think our team can compete with those guys. Especially during the regular season, we proved that.
“But it’s a different animal, I guess, in October. They showed that. They won and we didn’t, so I don’t know if it’s necessarily fair to say that we were a better team.”