Martinez blanks `Young' lineup

It's unanimous for Red Sox ace, who wins 2nd award

November 17, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Pedro Martinez's summer of dominance was rewarded yesterday when the Boston Red Sox ace was unanimously named recipient of the AL Cy Young Award. Leading a lapped field, the Orioles' Mike Mussina finished a distant second.

Martinez produced one of the most overpowering seasons of the game's explosive postmodern era by going 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts in 213 1/3 innings. Within a climate of relentless slugging, Martinez silenced American League hitters (he gave up just nine homers) while helping the Red Sox to a second consecutive wild-card berth. His six-inning relief appearance in Game 5 of the Division Series took the Red Sox to the League Championship Series, where his splendid season ended.

Two years ago, Martinez won the National League Cy Young Award with the Montreal Expos. That makes Martinez the third pitcher in history to win the award in both leagues. Randy Johnson became the second on Monday. Gaylord Perry is the other.

"The first one is always really special," Martinez said. "This one also makes me feel special, especially in the other league. People say it's a lot more offense than the National League."

Martinez is also a leading contender as his league's Most Valuable Player, which will be announced tomorrow.

"It would mean a lot, probably more than this Cy Young alone," Martinez said of the MVP award. "I've already achieved that, so the MVP would be something different, especially to a pitcher."

Martinez's overwhelming season had made yesterday's selection a formality and caused Mussina to quip upon learning of his runner-up status, "So it was pretty close, huh?"

Mussina finished among the league's top five in ERA, wins, walks per nine innings and winning percentage. His place in the voting was the highest by an Oriole since Steve Stone won the award in 1980.

"I felt good about my year in the respect that except for one or two times I pitched well enough to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win," Mussina said. "To be considered as having the best season out of everybody else -- I mean, Pedro had a superior year -- I'm pleased about that."

The league's only 20-game winner as well as its strikeout and ERA leader, Martinez received all 28 first-place votes in balloting conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Mussina received 16 second-place votes and six third-place mentions to finish well ahead of New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera (45 saves) and Cleveland Indians starter Bartolo Colon (18-5, 3.95 ERA), who placed third and fourth, respectively. Yesterday's vote was also worth a $50,000 bonus to Mussina, whose contract contains an incentive stipulating the payment should he finish second to fifth in balloting. (Mussina would earn $100,000 for winning a Cy Young Award.)

Martinez led the AL in ERA by nearly 1.50 and was credited with nearly 25 percent of the Red Sox's wins. He had 113 more strikeouts than runner-up Chuck Finley.

Despite missing four starts in the season's final weeks, Mussina compiled an 18-7 record and 3.50 ERA while striking out 172 against 52 walks in 203 1/3 innings. His 16 home runs allowed tied a career best for a full major-league season and represented a 27.3 percent decrease over 1998.

Mussina, 30, earned his fourth consecutive Gold Glove Award last week. Yesterday's recognition marked the fourth time in eight full major-league seasons that he has placed in the top five of Cy Young voting. Mussina finished fourth in 1992 and fifth in 1995 and 1996 when he won 19 games.

Unlike those seasons, Mussina had to overcome a stay on the dis- abled list after being hit behind his right shoulder by a line drive Aug. 22. He missed nearly a month before returning to make four starts in an attempt to construct his first 20-win season.

"I think there are certain aspects of each year that were better. But this year the best thing I did was [reduce] home runs. By really cutting back on those, even though I gave up more hits than innings, that represented a pretty significant difference," Mussina said.

While the Orioles scavenge the free-agent market for another starting pitcher, Mussina's contract status -- he is eligible for free agency after next season -- has led to trade speculation. However, the Montoursville, Pa., native enjoys a blanket no-trade provision in his contract and insists back-to-back fourth-place finishes and recent organizational restructuring have hardly affected his preference for playing in Baltimore.

"The guys on the field doing the job are what's important to me," Mussina said. "If I feel we have good leadership and have a good chance to win, I'd want to stay, obviously."

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