As if Clayton Kershaw's 2013 resume wasn't dazzling enough, the Dodgers left-hander capped his remarkable season by winning the second National League Cy Young Award of his young career on Wednesday.
Thanks to his in-season dominance, Kershaw made certain the announcement -- part of an hour-long special on MLB Network -- came with little drama. In fact, the only surprise of the night, may have been that his selection wasn't unanimous.
Kershaw received 29 of 30 first-place votes, while St. Louis' Adam Wainwright, who finished second in the voting, earned one as well. Miami rookie Jose Fernandez finished third.
2013 NL Cy Young voting
|Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers||29||1||207|
|Adam Wainwright, Cardinals||1||15||4||1||5||86|
|Jose Fernandez, Marlins||9||3||5||7||62|
|Craig Kimbrel, Braves||4||1||8||4||39|
|Matt Harvey, Mets||1||8||4||3||39|
|Cliff Lee, Phillies||6||6||2||32|
|Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals||6||3||21|
|Zack Greinke, Dodgers||2||4||4||18|
|Madison Bumgarner, Giants||1||1||3|
|Francisco Liriano, Pirates||1||1||3|
"Whether you expect to win or you don't, just to hear your name called -- it does something to you," Kershaw said. "I'm not big on individual stats or awards or anything like that, because ultimately I think we play this game to win a World Series. No ifs, ands or buts about that. That's the goal.
"But any time that you get associated with this award, and you get to be a part of some of the names that come along with the Cy Young Award, it really is pretty special. I definitely don't take that for granted."
In 2013, Kershaw became the first player to lead the Majors in ERA in three consecutive seasons since Greg Maddux did so from 1993-95. He also led the NL in WHIP (0.92) and strikeouts (232), and he finished second with 236 innings pitched -- a career high.
After taking home the honor in 2011, Kershaw's two Cy Young Awards in three seasons have put him in elite company. He's just the 13th player in history to do so, and the first Dodgers pitcher since Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax won the award three times from 1963-66.
Naturally, Kershaw's success at such a young age has drawn comparisons to Koufax -- currently a special advisor with the club. But Kershaw was quick to dismiss those, as he has been throughout his career.
"I'm not trying to live up to his expectations, because honestly they're just so lofty, I don't know if anybody can," Kershaw said.
Kershaw joins Koufax -- the last NL left-hander with a lower single-season ERA -- as the only Dodgers with multiple Cy Young Awards. He also joins Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum and Johan Santana as the only active pitchers with more than one.
Throughout all his success, Kershaw has remained mum on a possible contract extension, which -- given his youth, the premium on his position and the Dodgers' deep pockets -- could net him quite a sum. A free agent after the '14 season, Kershaw said he is intrigued by the open market, but hasn't thought of playing anywhere other than Los Angeles.
"Anybody who works to get to that point to get to play six years in the big leagues and get to be a part of free agency -- that's kind of what you work for," Kershaw said. "But at the same time, I do love L.A. I love being there, I've loved my six years there so far, and I don't have any problems with it at all, and I really think we can win there, too."
Yes, Kershaw was dominant in 2011 and '12. (He finished second to R.A. Dickey in '12 and led the league in ERA and WHIP again.) But Kershaw seemed to take his game to new heights in '13.
In 19 of his 33 starts, Kershaw lasted at least seven innings and allowed one or no runs. He got stronger as the year went on, posting a 1.59 ERA in the season's second half.
So what's next for Kershaw? What could possibly be a worthy encore to his brilliant 2013 season?
His answer is simple: winning a World Series.
"I didn't pitch the way I should've in the last game, and we didn't get to win," Kershaw said. "For me, that's motivation. I don't need to throw up any more stats or anything like that. I want that ring. [Wainwright] hasn't won a Cy Young -- he's come in second a few times -- but he's won a World Series, and that's the most important thing. That's why we all play the game, and I would trade that in a heart beat."
Kershaw's accolades -- which, this offseason, also include a Players Choice Award for the NL's Most Outstanding Pitcher -- weren't limited to his on-field successes either. He took home the Branch Rickey Award in September, an honor given to "individuals in baseball who contribute unselfishly to their communities and who are strong role models for young people." Kershaw certainly fits the bill, having built a charity that maintains an orphanage in the African country of Zambia with his wife, Ellen.
The Kershaws will make a return trip to Zambia next week for what Clayton termed a "checkup" on the orphanage. The money the Kershaws raised over the last year will help build classrooms in the local schools.
Kershaw is also a finalist in two categories in the 2013 GIBBY (Greatness in Baseball Yearly) Awards, MLB MVP and best starting pitcher. GIBBYs are based on voting by media, front-office personnel, MLB alumni and the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as fan balloting on MLB.com, which runs through Sunday, Dec. 1.
Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke garnered two third-place votes, four fourth-place votes and four fifth-place votes. That was enough to merit an eighth-place finish among the 10 pitchers named on Baseball Writers' Asssociation of America ballots.