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Classic moments in BBWAA buffoonery: Take 1

Sep 3, 2009, 4:13 PM EDT

Since it seems we’re all set up for at least one and and maybe two potentially lousy choices in AL award balloting, I thought it’d be fun to look at some historical low points.
I’ll take suggestions for future episodes — I could probably do a week’s worth of blogs on 1987 alone — but here’s my personal favorite and a big reason why I don’t let myself get dragged into the discussions like I used to.
The 2005 AL Cy Young Award balloting
1. Bartolo Colon – 118 points – 17 first-place votes
2. Mariano Rivera – 68 points – 8 first-place votes
3. Johan Santana – 51 points – 3 first-place votes
It was a classic example of wins overriding everything else, but it was particularly disgusting in this case.
Let’s just ignore Rivera here. He was his typical outstanding self, finishing with a career-best 1.38 ERA in 78 1/3 innings. However, he did blow four saves and take four losses. He also gave up a career-high six unearned runs. I’m not a big fan of putting closers into the Cy Young mix even in historic seasons, and Rivera’s campaign doesn’t qualify. It was just the game’s most outstanding closer doing his usual thing.
No, this was all about Colon versus Santana. And in every number besides wins, it was a non-contest. Santana had a 2.88 ERA, Colon finished at 3.48. Santana led the league in strikeouts by 27, finishing at 238. Colon finished tied for eighth with Daniel Cabrera at 157. Santana finished second in the league in innings, Colon finished seventh (though it was just a nine-inning difference). Santana was first in WHIP at 0.97, Colon third at 1.16.
Santana’s ERA+, after adjusting for ballpark, was 155, easily tops in the league. Kevin Millwood, who barely edged him out for the actual ERA title, was second at 146. Colon was 11th at 122.
Of course, in the end, only one fact mattered to the vast majority of the voters: Colon won 21 games, leading the circuit by three. Santana finished tied for fifth with 16 victories.
But even if had to be boiled down to wins and losses entirely, the voters still chose blind idiocy. While Santana was credited with only 16 victories, the Twins went 24-10 in his 34 starts. The Angels went 22-11 when Colon pitched. Yes, the Twins, a significantly worse team overall, had a better record in Santana’s starts than the Angels did in Colon’s.
To add a little more perspective, the Twins were 59-69 in games not started by Santana, while the Angels were 73-56 when Colon didn’t pitch.

  1. Grant - Sep 3, 2009 at 4:39 PM

    I remember being outraged by this at the time. Now it just makes me shake my head and feel a little sad.

  2. Bill@TDS - Sep 3, 2009 at 4:42 PM

    I have to admit I’m still pretty mad about it.
    It’s not healthy.

  3. rdawg - Sep 3, 2009 at 5:02 PM

    Another bad one: Roger Clemens (20-3, 3.51) beating Freddy Garcia (18-6, 3.05) in 2001.

  4. Frug - Sep 3, 2009 at 9:07 PM

    How about Maddux in ’94 and ’95 and Pedro in ’99 and ’00. It’s like in the mid-’90s the writers collectively decided pitchers just don’t deserve MVP awards. But I will say that Colon beating Santana (and for that matter Rivera and Buerhle) was probably the worst decision of my lifetime.

  5. merk - Sep 3, 2009 at 11:07 PM

    2006 AL MVP. morneau over mauer and jeter.

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