Tribe Ace Kluber's the Latest Controversial Cy Young Recipient
A funny thing happened on my way home last Wednesday.
As I flipped the radio on to a local sports talk stations, a heated debate was in progress. Shut the front door! Shock jocks fired up over a controversial topic! Has the world gone mad?
Last Wed 12 Nov marked a special occasion in the Hot Stove League as the Cy Young Award winners were announced. Not shock-jockey surprising that Dodgers über-ace Clayton Kershaw was a unanimous selection in the National League. And then he joined select company by following that up with an MVP award on Thursday.
The voting was close with Kluber receiving 17 first place votes to Hernandez 13 first place votes.
Some voters cited Félix Hernandez start against the Toronto Blue Jays on 23 September when he last just 4⅔ innings, allowing eight runs, and four earned runs thanks to a rule change on an error he made during the game.
Never mind the 16 consecutive starts where he pitched at least seven innings and allowed two runs or less, breaking Tom Terrific Seaver’s record. Then there was his last start of the season on 28 September, when he allowed just one hit over 5⅓ innings against the Angels with a chance for the Mariners to reach the post-season for the first time since 2001. If it weren’t for the excellence of A’s pitcher Sonny Gray, the Wild Card game would’ve featured Seattle versus Kansas City.
The debate raged on all week about the travesty of King Félix not getting recognized for his fantastic season, with local sports fans reiterating the disrespect Seattle sports teams often receive. Apparently winning the Super Bowl just isn’t enough.
With the old adage that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure firmly in mind, it brought back fond memories of past Cy Young winners that were more trash than treasure.
We now count down the Top 10 worst Cy Young selections in baseball history, starting with none other than King Félix himself.
10. 2010 Félix Hernandez 13-12 W-L, 2.27 ERA, 249 IP, 232 K's
There was no clear-cut front runner for the Cy Young award this year as Félix received 21 first place votes, and runner-up David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays received four. East Coast media bias garnered three first-place votes for Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia. Baseball purists -- you know, the crusty writers who started covering the sport during the Herbert Hoover administration -- cried out that a pitcher with a winning record just a scratch over .500 had no business winning the Cy Young. It was classic New School vs Old School train of thought and quite the redemption for Felix, as he finished second to Zack Greinke in 2009 with a record of 19-5. Greinke compiled a record of 16-8 that season but was a very deserving winner. Félix has already said that this will make him work that much harder next season. Watch out, AL batters. You poked a sleeping bear!
9. 1998 Tom Glavine 20-6, 2.47 ERA, 229 IP, 157 K’s
Ah the height of the steroid era, it was such a simpler time. 44 home runs was good for fifth on the leader board, which was the number of bombs hit by Braves teammate Andrés 'Big Cat' Galarraga that year. San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman should’ve won the award, as he, too, finished second to Glavine and his 20 wins. Hoffman actually received more first-place votes (13) than Glavine (11), but some quirky scoring gave the nod to Tommy. Hoffman’s 53 saves and 1.48 ERA just weren’t good enough for voters to overlook the wins put up by Glavine. The Padres were overmatched by the Yankees in the World Series that season, so it was rather predictable that none of the Padres received any accolades that year. Hoffman's post-season failures are well documented, so a Cy Young would’ve been a nice consolation prize. As it was, he introduced AC/DC to stadiums everywhere in 1998, and the entrance followed him for the rest of his career.
8. 1984 Rick Sutcliffe 16-1, 2.69 ERA, 150 IP, 155 K’s
A mid-season trade with the Cleveland Indians brought Sutcliffe to the Windy City, where he dominated the National League the rest of the summer. This trade landed Joe Carter in Cleveland, so it wasn’t a complete loss for the Tribe. Sutcliffe only pitched 150 innings for the Cubs, but that 16-1 record was pretty awesome. What was more awesome in the NL that year was New York Mets rookie phenom Dwight Gooden, who went 17-9 and led the league in strikeouts with 276, breaking Herb Score’s previous record for whiffs by a rookie. Gooden also became the youngest player to appear in an All-Star Game at the tender age of 19, striking out the side in the fifth inning. Sutcliffe was a unanimous choice by voters, but Gooden did win the NL Cy Young the following year. That was an easy choice.
7. 1987 Steve Bedrosian 5-3, 2.83 ERA, 89 IP, 74 K’s, 40 Saves
In what turned out to be a very odd and interesting ballot, five different pitchers received first-place votes with third-place finisher Rick Reuschel receiving one less (8) than Bedrosian. Sutcliffe again out-dueled Gooden by finishing second. Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan was probably the best pitcher in the NL that year, leading the league in ERA (2.76) and strikeouts 270. However, the Ryan Express had a record of just 8-16, which immediately led to his candidacy falling off the ballot. See what I did there? If Sabermetrics were prevalent at the time, votes would astutely note that Ryan also led the NL in ERA+, FIP, K/9 IP, H/9 IP, and SO/W. Bedrosian led the league in saves and beard thickness. Mike Scott started the All-Star game. I don’t know why that matters, other than he was the reigning Cy Young winner.
6. 2005 Bartolo Colón 21-8, 3.48 ERA, 222 IP, 157 K’s
Pretty thin year in the AL for quality candidates, and Colón won on the strength of his record. Runner-up Mariano Rivera had yet another dominant season, closing out games for the Bronx Bombers and trotting in from the bullpen to the sounds of Metallica’s Enter Sandman blaring through the stadium speakers. Minnesota Twins pitcher Johan Santana finished third in the balloting; had he won, it would’ve made three straight Cy Youngs. That would've been a pretty cool feat. Incredibly, Rivera never won a Cy Young during his career, which is a crying shame. 2013 was his year and this moment was deservedly earned:
5. 1982 Pete Vukovich 18-6, 3.34 ERA, 223 IP, 105 K’s
Vukovich’s real claim to fame, besides that rad Fu Manchu, was bringing Yankees 1B Clu Haywood to life in the original Major League movie. What are you doing back up here, Taylor? he asks Indians catcher Jake Taylor as he steps into the batter’s box and promptly deposits a pitch from Ricky Vaughn into the bleachers. The Chief Wahoo faithful begin to lose faith in the team and one of them picks up his war drum and leaves. The original Wild Thing gets his revenge in the playoffs, striking out Haywood with a heater. All it took was some Coke-bottle glasses, and Vaughn was a force out of the bullpen and one of the most popular players in the league, even gathering a following of groupies. Vaughn would’ve given Vukovich a run for his money in the Cy Young balloting, but let’s get back to reality. Dave Stieb of the Blue Jays should’ve won, not Vukovich, nor Ricky Vaughn.
4. 1993 Jack McDowell 22-10, 3.37 ERA, 256 IP, 158 K’s
Black Jack McDowell pitched the Pale Hose to the post-season for the first time in 10 years, largely backed by AL MVP Frank Thomas, Tim Raines, Robin Ventura, Ron Karkovice, Ellis Burks, George Bell, and Ozzie Guillen. Throw in savvy veterans Bo Jackson, Steve Sax, and HOFer Carlton Fisk in his final season, and you’ve got yourself a solid playoff-caliber squad. Sadly, they ran into the Hosers from the Great White North and lost to eventual World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS. McDowell did throw four shutouts that year, which is impressive in its own right. Runner-up Randy Johnson didn’t even deserve second place, which must really get Ricky Bobby wound up. Kevin Appier of the Royals was the clear choice here, as he posted a WAR of 9.2 to McDowell’s 4.3 which dwarfs the Big Unit’s -- no pun intended -- WAR of 6.8. Appier also led the AL in ERA, ERA+, FIP -- what the flip is that, you ask? Here. You're welcome -- and had the lowest HR/9 rate for qualified pitchers. We can see you drooling over those stats, über-dorks. And your little dog, too!
3. 2001 Roger Clemens 20-3, 3.51 ERA, 220 IP, 213 K’s
Rocket Roger won seven Cy Youngs in his career, but this was not one of the seasons he should’ve taken home the hardware. Clemens won simply on reputation and those Yankee pinstripes. Four different pitchers received first-place votes in the balloting -- Mark Mulder, Freddy Garcia, and Jamie Moyer were the others -- which shows just how difficult it is for baseball writers to agree on what brand of coffee creamer should be available in the break room. Joe Mays made the All-Star team as the Twins representative, if that tells you anything. Freddy Garcia led the league in ERA at 3.05, which further proves how inflated the offensive numbers were, since he also led the AL in least HR/9 at 0.60. Garcia did lead the AL in IP with 238. Cripes! That’s only like 70 more innings than reliever Kent Tekulve used to throw in a season for the Pirates! Eggheads point to Mike Mussina having the best WAR (7.1) and FIP (2.92). I say give it to the Chief, Freddy Garcia, as he was the ace of the Seattle Mariners and their 116 victories. He actually received four first-place votes so a couple writers were paying attention.
2. 1976 Jim Palmer 22-13, 2.51 ERA, 315 IP, 159 K’s
America’s Bicentennial birthday not only brought yours truly into the world -- I’m a Leo, in case you’re wondering -- but 1976 also introduced the game to one of the most colorful and popular players of the decade, Detroit Tigers SP Mark 'The Bird' Fidrych. Whether he was smoothing the dirt on the mound or chatting up the resin bag, Fidrych had a style all his own. He seemed like the kind of guy who would join the raucous at Disco Demolition Night or Nickel Beer Night as just one of the fans enjoying a good time. Palmer had won the Cy Young in 1975, so I think voters got a little lazy here. The award should’ve gone to Fidrych, although he did win Rookie of the Year as a consolation prize.
1. 1990 Bob Welch 27-6, 2.95 ERA, 238 IP, 127 K’s
Welch posted the most wins in a season since Denny McLain in 1968, and that gaudy total obviously resonated with voters. How many of those 27 victories were a direct result of HOF pitcher Dennis Eckersley, who compiled one of the best seasons ever by a reliever? Eck finished fifth in the Cy Young ballot, and even White Sox closer Bobby Thigpen was ahead of Eck. Saving 57 games should cause a voter to pause and make sure that wasn’t a typo. Still, an ERA of 0.61, a WHIP of .61, and walking just four batters in 71 IP are things that make you go hmmm. If ever there was a season for a closer to win the Cy Young -- another controversial topic -- this was the year. Voters redeemed themselves by voting Eck as the Cy Young and MVP winner in 1992, and then totally redeemed themselves by voting Eck into the baseball HOF in 2004. They got it right eventually.
Amazing that the 1990 season is one in which most experts think that Roger Clemens should’ve won another Cy Young. I stand by my comments that 1990 Dennis Eckersley was so phenomenal that he was the reason Bob Welch won 27 games.
Those same experts think Clemens should’ve won the Cy Young in 1992 and not the Eck. Well, retribution is not designed to make everybody happy, only one person.
Will Clemens' retribution be the day he gets the call to Cooperstown? Eck already knows how that feels.