CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – It might not be a Cy Young Award, but when Corey Kluber won the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards’ Professional Athlete of the Year honor, he topped LeBron James. That in itself is impressive enough in these parts.
Kluber’s 2017 was beyond impressive, especially given how it started: 21 runs in 37 1/3 innings followed by a month off due to back troubles. What followed was enough to eclipse seeming runaway Cy Young winner Chris Sale to take his second honor.
How his regular season finished will be remembered for some time in Cleveland, despite the fact that the post-season’s end will be remembered for the opposite effect.
Kluber was not in attendance to accept the award, instead being received rather appropriately by Tribe catcher Roberto Perez, though Yan Gomes caught the majority of Kluber’s outings.
“I’d like to say thank you and how honored I am to be selected Cleveland’s 2017 top professional athlete. There’s so many great athletes around the city, not just in the Indians’ clubhouse, but the other teams as well. So, I think this is a huge honor for me, personally,” Kluber said. “2017 was a great year for us. It was very exciting. But, I think we’re all looking forward to bigger and better things in 2018, and we can’t wait to get started in a few weeks.”
The award winner also thanked both of his backstops in a video to fans in attendance, and when asked about their level of responsibility for Kluber’s excellence, Perez was willing to admit their input.
“We take a lot of pride in what we do,” he said, also complimenting Kluber’s work ethic. “Yeah, sometimes we think we deserve that. All the time he’s talking to us and we try to work together. Yan caught him most of the time, but when I catch him, I try to do my best and talk to Yan about what he likes to do with him.”
Though aware of his part in the action, Perez confessed it was mostly on Kluber and the coaching staff to get to where they want to go.
“He commands all his pitches,” Perez added. “Every time he throws the ball he throws it with conviction. He doesn’t shake you off a whole lot. As a catcher, you prepare yourself to get that game plan for that game. We just follow the game plan. He’s just a great pitcher.”
Kluber heads into 2018 in his age-31 season, on the fourth year of a five-year, $38.5 million deal, though the Indians hold team options for 2020 and 2021. Those options sit at $15.5 million and $16 million respectively, but increase by $1.5 million with each Cy Young win.
Spotrac.com currently estimates that Kluber is worth $33.7 million per year on the open market.