By Dave Wischnowsky
On Nov. 4, 1955, Cy Young – the all-time winningest (and losingest) pitcher in Major League Baseball history – died at the age of 88 on his farm in Newcomerstown, Ohio.
One year later, in honor of the late, great hurler, MLB commissioner Ford Frick introduced the Cy Young Award and bestowed it upon the Dodgers’ Don Newcombe, declaring the tall right-hander to be the best pitcher in all the game for 1956.
In an interesting twist, Newcombe – who went 27-7 with a 3.06 ERA for Brooklyn – also was named the National League MVP for that season.
You know, just like Detroit’s Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander was for the AL this past week.
Verlander capturing both awards created a stir in some baseball circles as critics complained that a pitcher who only competes once every five games shouldn’t be named Most Valuable Player. A hitter deserves that honor, they say.
Now, personally, I have no problem with a pitcher winning the MVP if he deserves it (and Verlander did). What I do have a problem with, though, is that for the past five decades MLB pitchers have had their own specific award tailored just for them – the aforementioned Cy Young – while MLB hitters do not.
Tell me, why isn’t there a Babe Ruth Award for the best hitter in each league? Shouldn’t there be?
If I were running Major League Baseball, there sure as heck would be one. That way, we could avoid these petty beefs such as the controversy that Verlander’s MVP generated this week. By establishing a Babe Ruth Award, MLB could recognize the best hitter in each league in addition to recognizing the best pitcher in each league with the Cy Young Award.
And then it could recognize the best player of them all – no matter their position – by naming them MVP.
A friend also pointed out that by establishing a Babe Ruth Award, MLB also would eliminate conflicts such as the debate in 1987 when the Chicago Cubs’ Andre Dawson won the MVP when on a last-place team. Give Dawson the Babe, and name a guy on a winning team the MVP. Problem solved.
If a player did win both a Babe Ruth or Cy Young and an MVP in the same year, then there likely would be less argument about that, as well since both hitters and pitchers were being recognized with high-profile honors. With the absence of a Babe Ruth Award, however, the MVP traditionally seems to default into the MVPP – The Most Valuable Position Player – and that really isn’t fair to pitchers.
After capturing the both awards this week, Verlander made a prediction.
“I think this set a precedent,” the Tigers ace said after becoming the first starting pitcher to be voted MVP since Boston’s Roger Clemens in 1986. “I’m happy that the voters acknowledged that, that we [the pitchers] do have a major impact in this game and we can be extremely valuable to our team and its success.
“Obviously pitchers are not just written off all of a sudden because they’re pitchers.”
They shouldn’t be. But hitters should have their own award, too.
And then we can argue over who gets the MVP on top of those.