By Mel Antonen
WASHINGTON - At one point, my vote was for Felix Hernandez. I also considered CC Sabathia, but as a former baseball writer for USA TODAY, I voted for Tampa Bay's David Price to win the American League Cy Young Award.
Seattle's Hernandez won the Baseball Writers Association of America award Thursday, but Price should have won: Price's pitching in must-win games trumps Hernandez's stats in meaningless games.
This is not an anti-statistics stance. The stats explosion is valuable. I get that wins aren't ideal for judging pitchers. Hernandez's innings (249 2/3), strikeouts (232), WHIP (1.06), ERA (2.27), as well as a list of other statistics, show how impressive he was.
But, too much consideration can be given to statistics and not enough to pitching in games that teams have to win. Nobody did that better than Price, who was a big reason the Rays won the AL East.
Price gave up three earned runs or less in 28 of his 31 starts. His final log - 19 wins, 2.72 ERA, 188 strikeouts and a 1.19 WHIP - is Cy Young worthy.
Hernandez shouldn't get consideration because he was a victim of the Seattle Mariners' lousy offense. The argument, "He would have won 20 with a good offense,'' doesn't work.
Don't forget that the Rays scored two or fewer runs in seven of Price's starts, six of them losses. The Rays' .247 team average was fifth-lowest all-time among AL playoff teams.
Against the AL East, Price had a 2.12 ERA and 10 wins, three less than Hernandez had for the season. Price was 8-1 in 13 starts after a Rays loss. He and Boston's Jon Lester each had 12 wins vs. teams with winning records, tied for the best in the majors.
Price dominated when the Rays needed him most: In his last 20 starts, he increased his strikeouts from 6.36 to 9.21 per nine innings. And, he was 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA during September.
Hernandez's stats are incredible, but Price's performance made a bigger impression, especially because he won big games. That's why I voted for Price.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
By Mel Antonen
WASHINGTON - Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson, who died Thursday at age 76, will be remembered for his three World Series titles, white shock of hair, humility and story-telling ability.
On one spring day in 1995, when I visited at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where he was sitting out the Detroit Tigers' spring training and refusing to manage replacement players, he didn't disappoint. He was as colorful as ever.
Here's how the day went:
- I arrived at 10:30 a.m. He'd been up for three hours, drinking coffee, reading papers and watching CNN.
- We went to a deli, returned home and the Tigers-Dodgers Grapefruit League game was on LA radio. "I'm not listening,'' he said. "I'm not dumb. That's not the Dodgers and the Tigers.''
- The only baseball in his house was under glass and signed by Pope John Paul in Latin. "It says, 'Bless you My Son.''' Sparky said.
- His other baseball memorabilia was in the attic, stored in separate boxes for each of his kids.
- He wanted Pete Rose in the Hall. "What counts is on the field.''
- He smoked a pipe in the backyard, where he had two Tiger Stadium seats painted brown to match the fence.
- The family had one car, "So we don't get too big for our britches.''
- He didn't bother with church, because he said that if you're nice to people, you don't have to go to church.
- His wife, Carol, sitting in a chair doing crosswords puzzles, rolls her eyes. She said they were grade-school classmates, and joked, "He knew everything back then, too.''
- His usual routine was to play golf and put on pajamas at 4 p.m. He put on some that were red and white. "That's what I like about home,'' he said. "My job is to be out-going, but I don't like celebrity. Baseball is not real. Home is real.''