Saturday, October 02, 2004

Johan Santana and the Cy Young Award 

For about a week or so, I've been gearing up to write an angry, self-righteous piece about how Johan Santana is going to get hosed out of the A.L. Cy Young Award this year, despite the fact that he's been by far the most dominant pitcher in the American League this year, and may possibly be deserving of the M.V.P. award, as well.

I was going to talk about how the mainstream sports media had already come into the season ready to anoint Curt Schilling, whose arrival in Boston has been played in the media like the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy, the culmination of the inevitable, a pairing that ranks right up there with chocolate and peanut butter, with the Cy Young bestowed upon Schilling as the media's acknowledgement of the greatness which is the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup of his season with the Red Sox.

I was going lament the fact that Santana has flown under the radar because he's pitching in Minnesota, because he got off to an awful start this season, because he's young and was a long reliever until late last season and has been a household name only to baseball geeks like myself. I was going to bemoan how Schilling's win total and leadership overshadowed the fact that Santana is running away with the ERA title (despite pitching in a very hitter-friendly park), and the fact that, since late May, he's been on one of the most incredible runs ever by a pitcher, including a 1.21 post-ASB ERA with 129 strikeouts and 23 walks in 104 1/3 innings pitched.

A strange thing happened, though...people starting coming out in support of Santana. Ken Rosenthal picked Santana as his A.L. Cy Young winner. So did Jayson Stark, John Donovan, even Black Jack McDowell, one of the biggest proponents of leadership and intangibles. On ESPN's Baseball Tonight the other day, after Keith Foulke blew a save that would have given Schilling a victory, the cast stated flatly that that eliminated Schilling from the Cy Young race.

To my shock, it looks like Santana isn't just the favorite, but the race may be turning into a landslide.

So it may be that I'm tending to underestimate the willingness of the mainstream press to recognize unexpected dominance when it occurs, to honor the small-market relative unknown even if it means shunning one of the icons.

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