Time to talk a little change of philosophy in the Tap Room today.
And, no, we’re not getting political. Not enough beer in this joint to make me do that.
It’s BBWAA awards time, and the Orioles’ Buck Showalter finished third for AL Manager of the Year on Tuesday. If I had a vote (I had AL MVP, instead), I probably would have given it to the winner, Cleveland’s Terry Francona, but Showalter and Texas’ Jeff Banister would have rounded out my ballot.
Tonight, the American League and National League Cy Young winners will be announced on MLB Network. The drama was removed for Orioles’ fans last week when it was revealed that closer Zach Britton did not crack the Top 3; the finalists were all starters, Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, Boston’s Rick Porcello and Detroit’s Justin Verlander.
Britton was left out despite turning in arguably the greatest season ever for a reliever. He converted all 47 of his save chances and posted a 0.54 ERA (just four earned runs) in 67 innings pitched. None of the finalists had an ERA below 3.00, but they all threw at least 215 innings – and that workload disparity is apparently what sunk Britton.
As I wrote in my monthly column for PressBox.com, if a reliever couldn’t win this year, it’s hard to believe that a reliever will ever win again. In the history of the award, relievers have won nine times, but not since Los Angeles Dodgers’ closer Eric Gagne in 2003. An AL reliever hasn’t won since Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley captured the Cy Young and MVP in 1992. The argument can be made that Britton had a better campaign this season than Eckersley 24 years ago.
Basically, the significance of a “closer” has been devalued recently. On several occasions this postseason, the philosophy of using your best reliever in the ninth inning was ignored. And oftentimes with outstanding results.
The BBWAA voters for Cy Young, in turn, showed that they believe the job of a starter is more difficult – or least more-award worthy – than that of a closer. In theory, I understand the concept that more innings pitched should be rewarded, especially if there is no dominant closer in the conversation.
But the fact is a reliever is never going to have more innings than a starter. So, if that’s the case, my thought is we should just take relievers completely out of the Cy Young mix officially.
It should be a starting pitchers’ award now. Period. And more attention should be put on the reliever awards given out by Major League Baseball (the AL Mariano Rivera and NL Trevor Hoffman awards). It’s probably too late now, but maybe those relief awards should be transferred to the BBWAA as well, so those can get equal spotlight with MVP, Cy Young, Rookie and Manager.
But I’m a writer and a BBWAA member. Maybe I’m too close to this. Maybe it’s a big deal about nothing. Maybe you don’t care about postseason awards at all.
I guess what I’m asking today is not whether you think Britton should have won the Cy Young. My question is whether the Cy Young Award should be delineated only for starters, since it’s obvious these two roles are not viewed equally – or close to equally.
Tap-In Question: Should the Cy Young Award officially be a starters-only honor?