Monday, November 16, 2009

Why hasn't Mariano Rivera won the Cy Young?

One day in the (hopefully) far-off future, Mariano Rivera will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as the greatest closer ever. On that day, people will talk about him being the only reliever to win both American League Championship and World Series most valuable player awards. They will talk about him being a 10-time All-Star. They will talk about him having the second-most saves in baseball history (possibly the most if he pitches five more years like he said). But the one thing they can't say based on his resume up to this point is that he won a Cy Young award. There is still time to correct that incomprehensible oversight.

It's the eve of the announcement of the AL Cy Young Award winner for 2009 and there are several deserving candidates, including Kansas City's Zack Greinke. He won 16 games for a bad team and posted the lowest ERA in baseball at 2.16, a number hard to fathom in the American League. Mo's teammate CC Sabathia will get some well-earned votes, but he already has a Cy Young.
Mo's highest finish was in 2005, when he was the runner-up to Bartolo Colon. This year, he converted 36 straight save opportunities and 44 out of 46. Most notably, he saved his 500th game this year, a particularly sweet accomplishment because it came against the Mets. But he's still considered a long-shot for the Cy Young. Baseball writers apparently have a bias against relievers versus starters based on innings pitched. But no starter in baseball influences as many games as Mo does.
I can easily make the case that not only should Mo have a Cy Young, he should have won a regular season MVP award. I hate that some baseball writers exclude pitchers from MVP consideration. Mo is the most valuable player on the Yanks and in baseball because teams plan their entire game around avoiding him. The opposing manager knows that if he doesn't get a lead in the first seven innings, he's probably not winning the game. There are great players like Albert Pujols who managers have to think about pitching around or think about them batting several hitters before they are due up. But who else can you name that has the effect of actually shortening the game? Mo does that in every game and has since the 1996 season, when he was John Wetteland's set-up man.
I hope the Baseball Writers Association of America corrects this glaring oversight, if not tomorrow, than in the near future.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

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