Mark Davis 1988 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for February 18 2017


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The following pitchers never won a Cy Young Award:

Juan Marichal
Nolan Ryan
Curt Schilling
Jim Bunning
Dave Steib
Dave Stewart
Bert Blyleven
Don Sutton
Jack Morris
Jimmy Key
Mike Mussina

Neither did reliever Mariano Rivera.

One San Diego Padre reliever DID win a Cy Young Award. It wasn’t Trevor Hoffman nor Goose Gossage. Nor was it Rollie Fingers (who won HIS Cy Young with the Brewers.)

Mark Davis has a Cy Young Award.

I told that to a friend of mine. He looked at me as if I told him Steve Bannon won an NAACP Image Award.

But it is true. And like a movie that won an Oscar that aged badly (I am looking at YOU, Crash) Davis’ Cy Young looks bizarre on today’s eyes..

The Livermore California native was the number one overall pick in the secondary phase of the 1979 draft. The Phillies, a powerhouse in the 1970’s had that pick so I officially have NO CLUE how they figured out the order of the picks.

As a 19 year old, he made a relief appearance for the 1980 World Champion Phillies and started game 162, giving the regular pitching staff a rest before the post season.

Davis did not fare well in his cameo with the 1981 Phillies and did not play in the majors in 1982.

After the 1982 season, he was sent packing with Mike Krukow to San Francsco for Joe Morgan and Al Holland.

Think about that trade for a second. Mike Krukow is a beloved Giants announcer now and a fan favorite as a player. Joe Morgan is in the Hall of Fame. Al Holland became an All Star closer. And of course we have established that Mark Davis is an eventual Cy Young winner.

Shouldn’t that be remembered as an All Time star studded trade?

While Morgan and Holland found themselves in the 1983 World Series, Davis pitched fairly for the 1983 Giants squad as a starter but got bombed in 1984, leading to his transfer to the bullpen. He was an effective but unspectacular reliever for the 1985 and 1986 Giants but was moved back to spot starting in 1987, where he did not fare well.

Then, with the Giants chasing the Reds for the NL West, Davis was involved in another blockbuster. He was sent with Mark Grant, Keith Comstock and Chris Brown to San Diego for Kevin Mitchell, Dave Dravecky and Craig Lefferts.

Think about that for a second. Mitchell would go on to win the MVP. Davis would win the Cy Young. Shouldn’t that be a legendary trade?

The Padres figured out exactly what to do with the left hander. He was a reliever. Now Lance McCullers and Rich Gossage did the bulk of the closing, but Davis found his role replacing Lefferts as the lefty in the pen.

In 1988, Gossage was gone but Davis still was behind McCullers for the closer role. He would log an occasional save, including going 3 2/3 innings against the eventual World Champion Dodgers on April 12th.

By the end of May, the job was his, and he ran with it. He rattled off 16 saves by the All Star Break. He recorded a 1.93 ERA in July and did not allow a run over 18 2/3 innings in August. Over the second half, he allowed 5 earned runs over 43 innings.

Going into the 1989 season, the Padres were aggressive, picking up Bruce Hurst and Jack Clark in an effort to take the NL West from the Dodgers, Reds and Giants. San Diego held close to San Francisco until they dropped 11 of 12 games in June. They finished the season 20-8 but could never close the gap.

Nobody could blame Mark Davis for the Padres falling short. He picked up where he left off and after a bumpy June, was almost unhittable the rest of the season. He let up no runs in July, pitched to a 1.86 ERA in August and an 0.86 ERA in September, piling up saves along the way.

His dominating performance earned him the Cy Young Award in the off season. The vote wasn’t really close. Davis got 19 first place votes, Mike Scott earned 4 and Orel Hershiser got one more.

Today’s voters would probably give it to Hershiser, who followed up his legendary 1988 with a terrific campaign in 1989. But his win loss record was 15-15, which was all anyone looked at then.

Greg Maddux would also get a lot of consideration today, who also had the old school requirements of 19 wins and being the ace of the Division winning Cubs.

Scott, whose overall numbers were inferior to Hershiser and Maddux, had 20 wins, which everyone loved then.

Now Hershiser and Scott already won Cy Youngs and Maddux would go on to win a closet full of them, so it is tough to feel badly for them not padding their resume in 1989. But there is no way that Davis would win today.

Davis timed his best season with free agency perfectly. Not only was his contract up, but the owners, having been found guilty of collusion, needed to spend big in the off season of 1989.

He signed a massive (by 1989’s standards) contract with the Kansas City Royals. It was a wonderful coup for the Royals. Bret Saberhagen won the 1989 AL Cy Young and now they had the 1989 NL Cy Young winner. It would be the foundation of a wonderful Royals staff.

Midway through April, everything was going according to plan. Davis did not allow a run as he converted his first 3 save chances. Little went well after that. A disastrous May cost him his closer job. By the end of the year, he was used as a middle reliever and spot starter.

He bounced around between 1991 and 1994 between the Royals, Braves, Phillies and back to the Padres. A brief stint with the Brewers in 1997 was the end of his career.

Since then he has been a coach in the Diamondbacks and Royals organizations. All the while played along side All Stars and Hall of Famers in his 13 plus seasons in the majors.

And in his trophy case is a Cy Young Award. Lots of great pitchers can’t say that.

Mark Davis can.

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