It was nice to see Felix Hernandez win the Cy Young Award today, chiefly because it showed that the Baseball Writers Association of America is past the point where they believe wins to be the ultimate arbiter of which pitchers are good and which are bad. Well, they’ve been past it a while actually, what with Greinke and Lincecum winning it last year, but this year was certainly significant in that they resisted the urge to give the award to someone who had hit the magic number of 20 wins.
But what of other votes and other magic numbers? Such as the Hall of Fame and 300 wins? Will the Hall of Fame voters finally let Bert Blyleven off the hook this winter for “only” getting 287 of them and let him have his plaque? Will they finally let go of the old “Jack Morris won more games in the 1980s” thing and cease his undeserved march towards induction? Will they — like they did with Felix Hernandez — look deeper at what a pitcher actually can control and what actually makes him better and reward it, rather than the wins?
I’m not hopeful. Partially because there is so much more of a time investment and an emotional investment in Hall of Fame voting than in Cy Young voting, and it won’t be easy for the Jon Heymans of the world to reverse themselves from silly positions they’ve taken in the past. It’s a lot easier for someone to have foolishly overlooked Pedro Martinez in a given year and vote for Felix Hernandez this year than it is for them to simply reverse course on Blyleven or Morris when they have a lot of ink invested in arguing against, or for, their induction. In for a penny, in for a pound.
But the biggest reason this won’t change is because we’re talking about different voters for the most part. There are only a couple of dozen of voters for each postseason award, and they tend to be active reporters who are deeply involved in the day-to-day of baseball, including the debates over player value. It’s a smaller but smarter set than the large, bloated Hall of Fame voter pool, many of whom haven’t actively worked in baseball for some time, if they ever did. They’re going to lag, I fear, and lag badly.
So yes, today’s Cy Young vote was nice. But a month or two from now, when we get into Hall of Fame season, look for us to be right back into arguing why wins shouldn’t matter when assessing pitchers, and look for that argument to continue to be largely unheeded.