Roger Clemens, once again the most dominating pitcher in the American League this past season, continues to dominate the annual Cy Young Award competition as well.
By doing so, the Boston Red Sox righthander has placed himself among four pitchers already entrenched in the Hall of Fame or all but guaranteed to be enshrined.
Clemens yesterday was voted the American League's Cy Young Award winner in overwhelming fashion by the Baseball Writers Association of America, winning for the third time in six years.
He now trails only Steve Carlton in terms of number of Cy Young awards won. Carlton was voted four between 1972 and 1982 while pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Only three other pitchers, and only one other American Leaguer, have as many Cy Young awards as Clemens: Tom Seaver of the Mets, and the Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Jim Palmer of the Baltimore Orioles.
"It can only help me down the road to get to Cooperstown, and that's what I'm working on," Clemens said from Kapalua, Hawaii, where he is competing in a golf tournament. "I'll go to work on a fourth one, because it means helping the ballclub."
Clemens, who turned 29 last Aug. 4, is the youngest pitcher to have
captured three Cy Young awards, the others all doing it after turning 30.
And Clemens, winner of the award in 1986 and 1987, turned in enough impressive numbers this past season to serve notice that he is still very much in his prime.
He led the American League in earned run average (2.62), innings pitched (271), strikeouts (241) and shutouts (four), and was second in complete games with 13.
He posted an 18-10 record, but could have had even more victories. Red Sox relievers blew three games that Clemens turned over to them with a lead. He wound up with two losses and a no-decision in those games, a major reason he did not join the league's small contingent of 20-game winners.
Thus it was no big surprise when Clemens was named on 27 of the 28 ballots cast by voting members of the writers' association, two from each American League city.
He received 21 of 28 first-place votes and outdistanced his closest competition, Scott Erickson of the Minnesota Twins, 119-56, in a system that allots five points for first-place votes, three for second and one for third.
Jim Abbott of the California Angels finished third with 26 points.
The only pitchers to receive first-place votes other than Clemens were from the Twins. Erickson, a 20-game winner, and the veteran righthander Jack Morris, an 18-game winner, each received three first-place votes; Kevin Tapani received one.