Clayton Kershaw joins elite Dodgers company by winning Cy Young Award
The faces and names of the greatest pitchers in franchise history were on the electronic panels covering the facade of Dodger Stadium’s second deck.
Don Newcombe, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Mike Marshall, Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser and Eric Gagne.
And, closest to home plate, Clayton Kershaw.
Standing in front of the Dodgers’ dugout Thursday, Kershaw looked up at the display, knowing there was now something tangible that linked him to these greats of the Dodgers’ storied past. He was a National League Cy Young Award winner.
“A lot of things go through my mind,” Kershaw said. “Just thankful to be a part of it. Undeserving when you see some of the other names up there. I’ve got a long way to go to have the career that those guys did.”
Still only 23, Kershaw won the award in a landslide, earning 27 of 32 first-place votes cast by the Baseball Writers’ Assn. of America. Kershaw was listed in the top three on every ballot, receiving three second-place votes and two third-place votes.
With 207 points, he easily outdistanced Roy Halladay (133) and Cliff Lee (90) of the Philadelphia Phillies, as well as Ian Kennedy (76) of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Halladay (four) and Kennedy (one) were the other pitchers to receive first-place votes.
Kershaw, Halladay and Lee had statistically similar seasons, but the vote was probably as lopsided as it was because Kershaw won the NL’s triple-crown of pitching. The left-hander led the league with a 2.28 earned-run average, 21 wins and 248 strikeouts.
Kershaw became the Dodgers’ eighth Cy Young Award winner and first since Gagne in 2003.
Valenzuela and Newcombe attended Kershaw’s afternoon news conference, which was emceed by Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully.
“One reason, I think, that I was asked to have this honor, I was privileged to see all of the other Cy Young Award winners at their very peak of performance,” Scully said. “The other reason is because I’m left-handed.”
When the laughs subsided, Scully talked about how he first met Koufax when the pitcher was trying out for the Dodgers at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.
Because Koufax had a full tan rather than a farmer’s tan, Scully said he could tell Koufax hadn’t played much baseball.
“As soon as I looked at him I said, ‘He can’t be much of a player,’” Scully said.
Scully said he had a vastly different first impression of Kershaw.
“When I first saw Clayton Kershaw, I didn’t have any idea how great his ability really was,” Scully said. “But there was something about him, the way he handled himself. In his first year, in his first few games, it was as if he knew he belonged.”
Scully wasn’t alone in continuing the long-standing practice of comparing Kershaw to Koufax.
“He reminds me so much of Koufax,” said Maury Wills, a former NL most valuable player who was Koufax’s teammate.
Wills said that, like Koufax, Kershaw is ready to deliver his next pitch as soon as he receives the ball from the catcher. And, like Koufax, he has a habit of pulling up his pants by tugging his belt.
“I’m sure he’s not emulating Koufax — he doesn’t even know about it — but he does the same thing,” Wills said.
Kershaw said he remains uncomfortable of the comparisons to Koufax, who won the Cy Young Award in 1963, 1965 and 1966.
“He did it for a long time,” Kershaw said. “He won a lot of awards. He won the World Series. He threw no-hitters. Just a lot of things I’m not even close to accomplishing yet. So I have tremendous respect for him and would never want to put myself in the same category as him.”
As well as Kershaw performed this year, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said he expects him to improve next season.
“He hasn’t shown true confidence in his changeup, and he has a good changeup,” Honeycutt said. “When he adds that to his repertoire he can be even better.”
Asked how he could top a year in which he married his high school sweetheart and won a Cy Young Award, Kershaw replied, “A second anniversary and a World Series sounds pretty good.”
The recently completed eight-year, $160-million deal between Matt Kemp and the Dodgers will be officially announced at a Friday morning news conference at Dodger Stadium, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because plans for the event haven’t been made public yet.
Kemp and first baseman James Loney were at Dodger Stadium on Thursday for Kershaw’s news conference.
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