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Says Sutcliffe, "If somebody had come up to me at the end of May and told me that Bert Blyleven and I would be contending for the Cy Young Award, I would have recommended a very good psychiatrist. But I think Bert deserves it in the American League. I know how hard it is to pitch in Cleveland, when you're out of the pennant race in May and nobody's there to cheer you on."
"Boddicker should win it because nobody's pitched better," says Ranger pitcher Frank Tanana. "He has the most wins, he's right up there in shutouts and innings pitched and has a good ERA. It doesn't matter that his team hasn't won. He's pitched the best."
" Hernandez," says California pitching coach Marcel Lachemann. "I like to think of the one guy his team wouldn't win without, that key guy. Even though the Tigers have a big lead in the standings, I don't think they'd be there without him."
"It's got to be Quisenberry," says Texas pitcher Charlie Hough. "What's he got, over 40 saves? He didn't win it last year because the other guy [ Chicago's LaMarr Hoyt] won 24. But nobody's going to do that this year."
Besides the question, Who's going to win the Cy Young Award?, there is also the question, Who would want to win it? Recent Cy Young winners Randy Jones ( San Diego, 1976), Steve Stone ( Baltimore, 1980) and Pete Vuckovich ( Milwaukee, 1982) all had arm troubles after their glorious season, and last year's award winners, Hoyt and John Denny, who were 43-16 between them in '83, are a combined 19-22 this season. There seems to be a jinx, like the one associated with the Hope Diamond. "I'll take my chances," says the intrepid Gooden.
Actually, the Cy Young Award, the plaque itself, looks strange enough to contain a curse. A silver hand, holding a baseball, rises up out of a baseball diamond. The hand is about to throw a fastball, but it sometimes throws a curve (e.g., Vuckovich, Stone, Mike McCormick). It's also the heaviest of the major awards, even weightier than the MVP trophy. "Maybe in lifting it, pitchers strain little tiny joints, similar to rotator cuffs, in their hands," surmises Quisenberry.
The Cy Young Award was dreamed up by commissioner Ford Frick in 1955, the year Young died. Frick thought that pitchers were getting short shrift in the MVP voting, so he pushed for an award to honor the outstanding pitcher in the majors. As luck would have it, the first Cy Young recipient, Don Newcombe of the Dodgers, also won the NL MVP award in 1956. Also as luck would have it, Newcombe went from 27-7 in '56 to 11-12 in '57.
After the 1966 season, the BBWAA decided to give out a Cy Young in each league. Had this been done a year earlier, Jim Kaat, who was 25-13 with Minnesota, would have had a Cy Young. Instead, he lost out to Sandy Koufax (27-9). Just for the record, here are the five worst follow-up seasons by Cy Youngsters: Vuckovich, 18-6 to 0-2; Vera Law, 1960 Pirates, 20-9 to 3-4; Denny McLain, 1969 Tigers, 24-9 to 3-5; Stone, 25-7 to 4-7; and Jones, 22-14 to 6-12. And then there's Yankee reliever Sparky Lyle who had 26 saves in 1977, his Cy Young year, but only nine saves the next. In the immortal words of teammate Graig Nettles, Lyle had gone from Cy Young to sayonara.
The curse has had some other manifestations. McLain lost both of his Cy Young plaques in a house fire. And Stone tells this story: "The day the crate arrived was going to be the greatest day of my life. I mean, this was the Cy Young Award, the culmination of all the pain and blood and sweat and tears. But when I opened the box, I pulled out the plaque and saw that they had sent me Steve Carlton's Cy Young Award."
There are rational explanations why so many Cy Young Award winners are never quite the same after the big year. Hoyt says he did too many banquets and not enough work last winter. In the cases of Jones, Vuckovich and Stone, they simply asked their arms to do too much, and it showed the very next year. "I was willing to trade several mediocre years for one great one," says Stone. "So I went from throwing 30 curveballs a. game to 60 curveballs a game. I believe the surgeon general has issued a warning about too many curveballs."