1998 NEWS

1998 News > 9/23/98


By Tim Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

If the National League Cy Young award were based on the first half of the season, Greg Maddux would win it. If it were based on the second half, John Smoltz would win it. If it were based on the final two months, Randy Johnson would win it. And if it were based on the ninth inning, Trevor Hoffman would win it.

But because the Cy Young is based on the full season and the full game, the winner should be . . .

Tom Glavine.

Here is the obligatory, superficial case for his candidacy: He has won more games than any other pitcher in the league (20), he has lost fewer games (6) than anybody who is within two wins of him, and he is fourth in the league in ERA (2.53). Those numbers alone might carry the vote. But there is some strong competition, so the electorate might need to look deeper.

Look at Glavine's record after Atlanta losses: 11-2. He has made it almost impossible for his team to have a losing streak.

Look at his record against the stronger opponents: 3-1 against the Yankees, Astros and Padres. The rest of the Braves' staff is 7-11 against those teams.

And look, at least in passing, at Glavine's importance in the clubhouse. His leadership value can be quantified by the Braves' 10-2 record since Sept. 9, when he reminded the team in no uncertain terms that it would be ousted from the playoffs quickly if it didn't get its act together.

There is another component to the vote, of course: the competition.

Nineteen-game winners Kevin Tapani and Shane Reynolds aren't serious candidates because their ERAs are too high; Smoltz and Al Leiter aren't serious candidates because of the time they lost on the disabled list. So Glavine's strongest competition among starting pitchers will come from Maddux and the Padres' Kevin Brown.

Maddux continues to lead the league in ERA (2.24), but his 5-7 record in the second half has allowed Glavine to surpass him as the Braves' leading candidate. Brown has a slightly lesser record than Glavine (18-7, including 8-2 after San Diego losses) and a slightly better ERA (2.36), and there is absolutely no reason not to vote for him--except that, when in doubt, go with the guy who has won more games.


Then there is the wild card in the competition: Hoffman, the San Diego closer who has had a phenomenal 51-save season.

Eight relief pitchers have won Cy Young awards in the two leagues, but the question remains difficult: How do you weigh a reliever's candidacy against a starter's? For me, the burden of proof is on the reliever; I'd vote for one only if his season were head-and-shoulders above that of any starter.

Consider the only two NL relievers to win the Cy Young since 1980. Steve Bedrosian won in '87, when the league had no 20-game winners and only one starter with an ERA under 3.00 (Nolan Ryan, whose record was 8-16). Mark Davis won in '89, when none of the league's top five winners ranked among the top five in ERA.

Glavine simply has had too good a season--too complete a season--for a relief pitcher to win the Cy Young this year.

He has had too good a season for anyone else to win it.