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Zito edges Pedro to win AL Cy Young

Posted: Thursday November 07, 2002 2:06 PM
Updated: Friday November 08, 2002 2:20 AM
  Barry Zito Armed with a knee-buckling curveball and veteran poise, Barry Zito led the American League with 23 victories. AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- Now Barry Zito can stare at a Cy Young Award every day.

After winning the American League honor for the first time Thursday, he thought back to his youth, when his parents paid former major leaguer Randy Jones $50 a lesson and he went to his teacher's house after workouts.

"It was sitting there in his living room every day," Zito said, "and I would kind of marvel at it."

Zito, 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA as Oakland won the AL West, received 17 first-place votes, nine seconds and two thirds for 114 points from a panel of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Boston's Pedro Martinez, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, got 11 firsts, 12 seconds and five thirds for 96 points after going 20-4 with a 2.26 ERA. Red Sox teammate Derek Lowe, 21-8 with a 2.58 ERA, was third with 41 points, and Anaheim's Jarrod Washburn (18-6, 3.15) got one point.

"It's amazing just to be mentioned in the same category as guys like Pedro," Zito said. "He's one of the greatest pitchers by far, of my era at least. To be mentioned in the same category is mind-blowing."

While saying Zito deserved to win, Martinez said he was "disappointed about all the excuses I have heard about why I didn't win."

AL Cy Young Balloting
With first-, second- and third-place votes and total points on a 5-3-1 basis:
Player, Team 1st 2nd 3rd Total
Barry Zito
Oakland Athletics
17 9 2 114
Pedro Martinez
Boston Red Sox
11 12 5 96
Derek Lowe
Boston Red Sox
-- 7 20 41
Jarrod Washburn 
Anaheim Angels
-- -- 1 1

"I had a great year," Martinez said. "I would have liked it better if they just say they are giving it to him. ... I ask you, if it was about numbers of wins, then why didn't (Mark) Mulder win last year? Isn't that an interesting question? If it had been Clemens or (Randy) Johnson going through what I went through coming back from injury and rehabbing like I did, would we be asking these questions now or be having these discussions right now?"

Zito, a 24-year-old left-hander, grew up in the San Diego area. When he was 12 years old, his parents saw an ad in a newspaper placed by Jones, who won the NL Cy Young Award in 1976.

"I remember vividly the four, five years we spent in the backyard with Randy," Zito said. "When I did something incorrectly, he'd spit tobacco juice on my shoes, Nike hightops we could barely afford, he's spitting tobacco juice on them."

Told of those remarks Thursday, Jones chuckled.

"I had to get his attention, and that worked with Barry," he said. "He didn't focus really well when we first started. By the time he got into his teens, he locked in. He just kept getting better."

Jones, like Zito a left-hander, saved the trips to his living room for the best of his 35 pupils.

"I would use that as inspiration for the ones that showed a burning desire. I'd show it to them and tell them, 'Your goal is to be one of the two best pitchers in the world in any given year,'" Jones remembered. "It's a real joy for me to watch him. He ain't quite level because he's left-handed. That's what I love about him."

Zito, who loves surfing as much as pitching, talks glowingly of Jones in the Padres' mustard-and-mud jersey, "wearing those great-looking uniforms that I loved." He still speaks with Jones several times a year. What he learned most from his mentor was "the mental side, never giving in."

"He would always tell me, 'You have to do 500,000 windups,'" Zito recalled. "Get the damn sock, throw it in front of the mirror and get the mechanics down."

Young Guns
Pitchers who have won a Cy Young Award before their 25th birthday:
Player, Team  Year  Age (DOB)
Dwight Gooden
New York Mets
1985 20
F. Valenzuela
Los Angeles
1981 20
Bret Saberhagen 
Kansas City Royals
1985 21
Vida Blue
Oakland A's
1971 22
Dean Chance
Los Angeles Angels
1964 23
Roger Clemens
Boston Red Sox
1986 24
Barry Zito
Oakland A's
2002 24
Denny McLain
Detroit Tigers
1968 24
Tom Seaver
New York Mets
1969 24

He got them down.

Zito led the AL in wins, was third in ERA behind Martinez and Lowe, and tied the Yankees' Mike Mussina for third in strikeouts at 182 behind Martinez (239) and New York's Roger Clemens (192).

Opposing batters had a .185 average with runners in scoring position against Zito, the lowest in the AL.

Zito's 47-17 career record gives him a .734 winning percentage, the best since 1900 among pitchers with 50 or more decisions. He became the fifth Oakland pitcher to win the award, following Vida Blue (1971), Catfish Hunter (1974), Bob Welch (1990) and Dennis Eckersley (1992).

Zito hopes to win many more honors.

"My dad always told me dream big and dream always," he said. "It's not like I shoot for the Cy Young Award. I have big aspirations of what I want to do in this game and what I want to achieve in, hopefully, a long career."

While he said winning the award "makes me less bummed out about what happened in the playoffs," where Oakland lost to Minnesota in the first round, "it hurt to see us not there."

"We thought this was the year, we thought this was the team. We almost knew it was," he said.

Zito gets a $100,000 bonus for winning and Martinez, who won the NL award with Montreal in 1997 and the AL award in 1999 and 2000, gets a $500,000 bonus for finishing second. Lowe, who pitched a no-hitter against Tampa Bay on April 27, gets $50,000 for finishing third.

On Tuesday, Arizona's Randy Johnson won his fourth straight NL Cy Young Award. He earned a $1 million bonus and a $3 million raise next season.

Zito clearly is enjoying his offseason. He's excited about getting his digital recording studio this weekend and playing guitar for his sister Sally's band in Los Angeles on Nov. 16.

"It's a gas, dude," he said. "I'm just playing these little parts on acoustic. I wrote the parts myself."

And then there's his thespian career.

"I'm taking some workshops. There's an acting coach I'm working with," he said.

Summers are for his body. Winters are for his mind.

"Fastball, curveball and changeup, you can only create so much and give your personal expression," he said.

Related information
Youngest Cy Young Award winners
Sports Illustrated's postseason awards
American League Cy Young Award Winners
Pedro congratulates Zito, wonders about voting
Big Unit wins fourth straight NL Cy Young Award
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