Thursday was Clayton Kershaw's day to shine, as he captured the 10th Cy Young Award in the history of the Dodgers. The team held a press conference for Kershaw at Dodger Stadium, which included former Dodgers Cy Young winners Fernando Valenzuela and Don Newcombe in attendance.
Vin Scully opened the press conference, remembering back to 2008. "I didn't have any idea how great his ability really was, 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 new he belonged, which is quite a step in the major leagues to begin with," Scully said. "He not only belonged, but in four years he has retained the heights of today, the Cy Young Award winner, and what a group he joins."
Kershaw, much as he was on the Baseball Writers Association of America conference call earlier in the day, said all the right things, and was very humble. "I always dreamed about playing baseball as a kid, maybe one day making it to the big leagues, but I never dreamed about anything like this. It really is special, and I'm just really thankful for it," Kershaw said.
"I am so very proud of Clayton Kershaw and his outstanding performances that led to his receiving the 2011 Cy Young Award," Newcombe said of Kershaw in a statement. "I am reminded of Sandy Koufax whenever I see Clayton pitch and feel that there is a deep comparison between the two. Clayton has an outstanding work ethic, as did Sandy, which will show itself through Clayton's baseball career."
Kershaw had to beat another great pitcher in Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies to win the award. Jack Moore at Fangraphs wrote a wonderful article comparing the two pitchers and the significance of age 23 for both of them.
"Although he put up one of his best seasons in a fantastic career, today Roy Halladay gives Clayton Kershaw his time in the spotlight," wrote Moore. "They have reached this point in vastly different ways, but going forward, there should be no doubt: when it comes to the National League, these two set the standard for pitching.
Both Matt Kemp and James Loney were in attendance at the press conference at Dodger Stadium, supporting their teammate. Kershaw acknowledged them:
"It felt like towards the second half of the season when we really started playing well we always had one or two runs in the first or second inning when I was pitching, and a lot can be attributed to Matt. I'm thankful to have him in center field hopefully for what looks like to be a really really really long time."
There was laughter and applause when Kershaw mentioned this, as Kemp is expected to finalize his eight-year, $160 million contract extension on Friday, per Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
Cliff Corcoran at Sports Illustrated, while concerned about Kershaw's workload, identified him as a perennial Cy Young Award candidate and worthy of a long-term contract extension of his own: "It is best the Dodgers not do what the Giants did with Tim Lincecum and wait until he wins another Cy Young before trying to sign him long-term, and even better for the Dodgers if they not wait until Lincecum, who is eligible for arbitration again this year, sets the market even higher."
Kershaw said unfortunately he wouldn't be in Los Angeles on Tuesday, when the National League MVP gets announced, as he will be back home in Dallas with his wife Ellen. However, Kershaw said he supported his teammate. "I'm looking forward to Tuesday. I hope they get it right."