There is an amazing contradiction in baseball in terms of analysis.
Much of how we judge the greatness and worth of a player are based upon numbers. These numbers are not subjective. They are hard fast. They are a record of what the player did and how they played.
Art, music and movies can be subjective. I can love El Greco, Talking Heads and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Someone else can hate them. It is a matter of opinion and taste.
But there is no debating the back of a baseball card. Those are numbers. They are data.
Ahhhh. But there lies the contradiction. The numbers may not change, but the value we give one number over another is in a constant state of evolution.
Take Steve Bedrosian. He was a fine relief pitcher. He was an All Star. He threw the clinching pitch of the 1989 NLCS. He won a World Series ring with the 1991 Minnesota Twins. He pitched 14 seasons in the majors and became a millionaire along the way.
Nothing to complain about here. May we all have a career like Steve Bedrosian.
He won a Cy Young Award.
THAT is what I find bizarre. Juan Marichal never won a Cy Young Award. Curt Schilling never did. Neither did Bert Blyleven.
Neither did Nolan Ryan.
But Steve Bedrosian did. Now I have nothing against a relief pitcher winning the Cy Young. I know some people will never give one to someone who isn’t in the rotation. I am not hung up on that.
Nor am I going to throw a lot of fancy Sabermetrics at you to untangle. I was against Steve Bedrosian winning the 1987 Cy Young Award back in 1987.
The Methuen Massachusetts native found himself on the Phillies when they were in that post “winning titles” but pre “truly terrible” neutral zone of the mid to late 1980’s. They still had Mike Schmidt winning the MVP and lots of stars on the team, they just weren’t as good as the Mets or the Cardinals.
After being a part time closer in Atlanta, “Bedrock” had the job full time in Philadelphia when he arrived in 1986. He did a good job and kept the gig the next year. He stumbled badly out of the gate in 1987.
By April 18, he had blown 2 saves and his ERA was 11.05. He finished April with a 7.84 ERA and one single save. I don’t know what the odds were, but I am pretty positive he was a long shot to win the Cy Young at that point.
He had a solid May, allowing 2 earned runs over 17 1/3 innings and in June and July, he posted sub 2 ERAs in each month. He made 9 appearances in June and saved all 9.
Bedrosian was hardly dominant in August and September, with ERAs over 3.50 each month. He didn’t pitch badly, but he was hardly eye popping.
In the end he had a fine season for a closer. He saved 40 games while averaging more than 2 innings an appearance. He went 5-3, his ERA was 2.83 and he struck out 74 batters. He had a good year for a team that went nowhere.
Today, that would get you a pat on the back.
In 1987 it got him the f—ing Cy Young Award.
AGAIN! I have NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING against Steve Bedrosian. I hope he has the Cy Young Award placed in a proud spot in his home. But COME ON! Mariano Rivera never won a Cy Young with his game difference dominating performances. Neither did Goose Gossage. But Bedrosian had one for a nice season?
Cy Young voters salivated over the win totals in those days with a trend that I think reached its insane peak with Bartolo Colon winning his Cy Young and started turning with Felix Hernandez.
But saves were also given far too much weight as well. Granted, this was just before Tony LaRussa turned the save into a 3 batter and out situation, forever padding the save total for lucky schmoes who happened to be on the mound at the end of the game.
Even in 1987, this save fixation did not sit well with a 15 year old Sully. They may have not have been a Dwight Gooden or Mike Scott dominating the National League like they had in the past 2 years. But there were some fine performances… like by Dwight Gooden and Mike Scott!
Rick Sutcliffe had 18 wins for the Cubs and finished second in the voting. Rick Reuschel, who put up All Star numbers in Pittsburgh and helped the Giants win the Division, got one fewer first place vote than Bedrosian.
Sabermetricians would argue that LA’s 1-2 punch of Bob Welch and Orel Hershiser were actually the two best pitchers in the NL that year. But no doubt writers could not get past Hershiser’s 16-16 record. And Welch had just 3 points in the vote, had a 15-9 record which wasn’t very sexy.
Remember how I listed those great pitchers who never won a Cy Young. Remember how I listed Nolan Ryan. Back in 1987, I said that Nolan Ryan should win the Cy Young.
A few other outlying writers unknowingly agreed with me. Ryan led the league with a 2.76 ERA. He also struck out 270 batters, tops in the league, over 211 2/3 innings.
I did not even realize he had the best ERA+, best FIP, best hits per 9 inning ratio, the nest strikeout per 9 inning ratio and best strikeout to walk ratio in the National League.
Traditional stats and advanced stats showed the Ryan Express had a great year. So why did he finish a distant 5th? He went 8-16 with a terrible Houston lineup.
In 16 of his starts, he got 2 runs or fewer of support. In those games he posted a 3.03 ETA, striking out 111 batters in 95 innings and posting a 1-13 record.
You read that right. In 13 of Nolan Ryan’s 16 losses, the Astros scored 2 runs or fewer. I knew back in 1987 he was robbed of a Cy Young. He never did win one.
Steve Bedrosian did because writers penalized Ryan for a lack of run support and were enamored with the save.
Today, Bedrosian doesn’t crack the top 10 in the Cy Young vote while Ryan, Welch and Hershiser would battle out for the award.
Numbers didn’t change. Just our value for them do.
But let’s end this on a positive note. Here is Steve Bedrosian after his trade to San Francisco clinching the 1989 pennant for the Giants.