NEW YORK — Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw might be the only one not comparing himself with former Dodgers great Sandy Koufax.
Both are lefthanders and both are now Cy Young Award winners.
“I’m still uncomfortable with it,” Kershaw said Thursday after winning his first NL Cy Young in a runway. “I don’t want to have any disrespect for Mr. Koufax. He did it for a long time. He won a lot of awards and he won World Series. He threw no-hitters. Just a lot of things I’m not anywhere close to accomplishing yet. I have tremendous respect for him and would never want to ever put myself in the same category as him.”
Kershaw received 27 of 32 first-place votes and 207 points in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay, last year’s winner, was second with four first-place votes and 133 points. Phillies teammate Cliff Lee was third with 90 points, followed by Arizona’s Ian Kennedy with 76 points.
“I always dreamed about playing in the big leagues. I never dreamed about doing anything special in the big leagues. I don’t think any kid ever does,” Kershaw said. “The people I’m now associated with, just by having this award, is something that I never thought would ever happen.”
Koufax, among the greatest left-handers in baseball history, won three Cy Youngs for the Dodgers in 1963, 1965 and 1966. Kershaw has a long was to go before he matches those accomplishments.
“Whenever you have a Cy Young next to your name, there’s going to be expectations that go along with it,” Kershaw said. “Whenever I look at a pitcher and I see that he’s won a Cy Young Award, I think, you know, this guy, he better be good. And that’s what I hope to be. I hope people have that expectation for me.”
With a big curveball that might be the best in baseball, Kershaw won the NL’s pitching triple crown. Pitching on a team that went 82-79, he led the league with a 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts and with a 21-5 record tied Kennedy for most wins.
The 23-year-old left-hander, whose previous high for victories was 13 in 2010, dominated the league during the final two months of the season, going 8-0 with a 0.96 ERA in his final nine starts.
Kershaw was 5-0 against the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants, going 4-0 with a 0.30 ERA in head-to-head matchups with Tim Lincecum, the 2008 and 2009 winner.
Orel Hershiser, who won the 1988 Cy Young for the Dodgers, said Kershaw moved from “‘good to great.”
“He’s just scratching the surface of what he can become and I know he can reach much higher limits,” Hershiser said.
Kershaw’s .207 opponents’ batting average was the second-lowest in the major leagues among qualified pitchers, trailing only Detroit’s Justin Verlander (.192), the unanimous AL Cy Young winner. Kershaw was especially effective at Dodger Stadium, where he went 12-1 with the lowest home ERA in the big leagues at 1.69.
Los Angeles has a chance to sweep the two major NL awards. Matt Kemp is a favorite to win the MVP, which is announced Tuesday.
It was the 10th Cy Young won by the Dodgers, following Don Newcombe (1956), Don Drysdale (1962), Koufax, Mike Marshall (1974), Fernando Valenzuela (1981), Hershiser and Eric Gagne (2003).
“It’s a really cool feeling and amazing for him,” Gagne said. “He’s just getting started. He’ll probably win a couple more of these.”
A bargain with a $500,000 salary, Kershaw did not have a bonus provision. Halladay won $75,000 for finishing second and Lee $50,000 for finishing third.
A Dallas native who still lives in Texas, Kershaw said he comes from an area where “football is king.”
Still, if kids want to emulate him, they can play baseball in the springtime.
“Anything to stay away from lacrosse, in my opinion,” he said, laughing.