Like most in Redleg Nation, I celebrated when Trevor Bauer was selected as the Cy Young Award winner for 2020.
Hey, any good news in 2020 is worth savoring. And the selection of Bauer in a landslide vote will easily make my Top 10 list for this sordid, forgettable and horrible year.
What team will he play for next year? I don’t have a clue. But he was a Cincinnati Red this year and clearly the best pitcher in the National League. I like his attitude, his stuff and his presence on the mound. When Trevor Bauer took the mound, I felt like I did when Mario Soto, Jim Maloney or Johnny Cueto pitched. Total confidence.
His 5-4 record? Forget about it. When Bob Gibson had a spectacular 1.12 earned run average in 1968, he somehow had a 22-9 record. Go figure that one. That Gibson-Bauer connection is viable.
The amateur baseball historians correctly pointed out the Reds have never had a pitcher win it before this award was created in 1956 and they were accurate on that. But Cincinnati hurlers have come close before. I listed six years below in which a Reds hurler came close and gave reasons why they fell short and, in one instance, why a Reds pitcher should have won.
Here they are.
1962 Cy Young Award
Winner: Don Drysdale
Reds Pitcher: Bob Purkey (Third Place)
Purkey’s Season: Awesome. He was a workhorse for Fred Hutchinson and it was Purkey’s career season. The righthander posted a 23-5 record, an ERA of 2.81 and pitched 288.1 innings. The Reds actually had a better record in 1962 than the year before when they won the pennant. Frank Robinson’s numbers were even better than his MVP performance of 1961. But, as longtime sportswriter Earl Lawson referred to Purkey, the Reds “handsome change up artist” was clearly the Ace for the Reds in 1962. And Bob Purkey didn’t like Lawson’s description; he thought he had a good fastball.
Why Twin D won: Drysdale, Jack Sanford of San Francisco and Purkey all had similar numbers and basically split the vote three-ways. Drysdale and Sanford both pitched for West Coast teams and they finished 1-2 in the NL and in the voting, only Drysdale won the Award and the Giants won the pennant. All three had legitimate credentials. But Drysdale had 25 wins and pitched 314.1 innings that year, striking out 232 batters. His stats were marginally better.
1977 Cy Young Award
Winner: Steve Carlton
Reds Pitcher: Tom Seaver (Third Place)
Seaver’s Season: Acquired in a trade with the Mets in June, Seaver performed magnificently for the Reds, posting an overall record of 14-3 for the Reds after the trade in June of that season. The Reds and Sparky Anderson had their Ace but it wasn’t enough to catch the Dodgers that season.
Why Carlton won: “Lefty” had a dominant season for the Phillies, leading the NL in wins (23), strikeouts (198) and had a 2.64 ERA. Tommy John finished second (54 points) and Seaver third (18 points). No real beef here. Seaver was sensational for the Reds in his debut year, but Carlton was the winner.
1981 Cy Young Award
Winner: Fernando Valenzuela
Reds Pitcher: Tom Seaver (Second Place)
Seaver’s Season: In this “split” strike-shortened season, Seaver had a record of 14-2 – he was 7-1 in each “half” of the season.
Why Valenzuela won: Quite simply, Fernando-mania. Valenzuela threw eight shutouts and was the toast of baseball in the first half of the season. Playing for Los Angeles didn’t hurt and baseball touted his success in a strike-marred year. He cooled off in the second season but the Dodgers also won the World Series. Fernando led the National League in strikeouts (180), had a 13-7 record and an ERA of 2.48 and led the NL in innings pitched (192.1). Still, the vote was close. Valenzuela totaled 70 points, Seaver 67, and Steve Carlton was third with 50. Like 2020, this was a shortened season but for a different reason. But in 1981 Tom Seaver really was Tom Terrific. By virtue of votes, Seaver was the closest Cincinnati Red to ever win the Cy Young Award.
1983 Cy Young Award
Winner: John Denny
Reds Pitcher: Mario Soto (Second Place)
Soto’s Season: For a last place team, Soto had a 17-13 record, a 2.70 ERA, pitched 273.2 innings and fanned 242 hitters. His only ugly stat was home runs allowed (28). Other than that, Soto emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball. He had good hard stuff and a devastating change up.
Why Denny won: Good question. Denny’s record was 19-6 with a 2.37 ERA. But Soto pitched more innings, struck out more hitters and had more complete games. Denny had a little better ERA and two more wins for a team that finished in first place. Denny wound up with 103 points, with Soto finishing second with 61. The Phillies won the National League that year, which didn’t hurt, and the Reds were cellar-dwellers which probably didn’t help Soto’s cause. This is one of the years a Reds pitcher should have won it and Mario Soto was that pitcher. I’ve probably lost a few brain cells since ’83 but for one game that season, I would have taken Soto over Denny. No question about it.
1988 Cy Young Award
Winner: Orel Hershiser
Reds Pitcher: Danny Jackson (Tied for second place)
Jackson’s Season: If the Cy Young vote were taken in late August, Jackson would have won. Like Purkey, this was his career year – a 23-8 record, 2.73 ERA. Jackson was the best lefty in the National League.
Why Orel won: 59 consecutive scoreless innings, breaking Drysdale’s previous record from 1968. He dominated down the stretch leading LA to a World Series title. Jackson and David Cone did not receive a single first place vote. Still, Jackson and The Bulldog each had 23-8 records on the season and other similar, close statistics. But the 59-consecutive inning scoreless streak trumped it all.
2014 Cy Young Award
Winner: Clayton Kershaw
Reds Pitcher: Johnny Cueto (Second Place)
Cueto’s Season: Fantastic. A 20-9 record, 2.25 ERA, 243.2 innings pitched, Cueto was simply one of the best pitchers in baseball. His only weakness from a statistical perspective was like Soto, allowing home runs. Cueto gave up 22 that year.
Why Kershaw Won: Hard to argue about it. The Dodger lefty had a 21-3 record, an ERA of 1.77 and 237 strikeouts in 198.1 innings pitched. He allowed only 9 home runs. Both he and Cueto had two shutouts. It was one of Kershaw’s best years. Unfortunately, Cueto’s best wasn’t good enough. Adam Wainwright finished third and had stats close what Cueto posted. It would have been special for Johnny Cueto win the Cy Young Award for Reds fans but it wasn’t meant to be in 2014. But hey, we got three lefthanded pitchers from Kansas City for him in our rebuild – don’t forget that.