Indians' C.C. Sabathia Wins AL Cy Young
By MIKE FITZPATRICK
AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- C.C. Sabathia beat Josh Beckett at last - albeit a few weeks later than he hoped. Sabathia won the AL Cy Young Award on Tuesday, topping Boston's ace and two other worthy contenders by a comfortable margin to become the first Cleveland Indians pitcher in 35 years to earn the honor.
Sabathia received 19 of 28 first-place votes and finished with 119 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Beckett, who outpitched Sabathia twice in the playoffs, was second with eight first-place votes and 86 points.
"I did look at a few numbers," Sabathia said on a conference call from his California home. "I definitely thought that Beckett - it could have went either way. I'm just happy and thankful that it went my way."
It might have gone the other way if October results counted. Voting took place before the postseason, when Sabathia struggled as Beckett put together a string of dominant outings to help Boston win the World Series.
The Red Sox right-hander trounced Sabathia two times in the AL championship series and went 4-0 with a 1.20 ERA in four postseason starts, striking out 35 and walking two. Sabathia was 1-2 with an 8.80 ERA and 13 walks in three playoff outings.
"The first two I can definitely say I was trying to do too much," Sabathia said. "Just trying to make perfect pitches."
John Lackey of the Los Angeles Angels got the other first-place vote and came in third. Cleveland's Fausto Carmona was fourth.
Sabathia went 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA and 209 strikeouts, pitching a major league-high 241 innings. Beckett (20-7) became the only big leaguer to win 20 games since 2005, compiling a 3.27 ERA in 200 2-3 innings. Lackey led the AL in ERA at 3.01, going 19-9 and tossing 224 innings. Carmona was 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA.
"I was excited. My family and everybody were around," Sabathia said. "I was surprised. Beckett had a great year and an even better postseason."
The only other Cleveland pitcher to win the award was Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry in 1972. Now that he's got one of his own, Sabathia plans to display the trophy prominently.
"I'm sitting in my office right now, I'm looking for a spot. I'll probably put it right here," he said.
Sabathia is the first black pitcher to win a Cy Young Award since Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets in 1985 - and the first in the AL since Oakland's Vida Blue in 1971.
"That's awesome to be mentioned with him," said Sabathia, adding that he recently attended a meeting designed to foster ideas on how to generate more interest in baseball among black kids.
While the top four Cy Young candidates had similar statistics, Sabathia's stamina apparently set him apart. After being sidelined by injuries the previous two seasons, the 6-foot-7, 290-pound left-hander stayed healthy all year and made 34 starts to Beckett's 30. That helped account for their wide gap in innings pitched.
"I can't really say I was tired in the postseason," Sabathia said. "My arm felt fine. ... The velocity was there."
The 27-year-old Sabathia also walked only 37 batters, giving him a remarkable strikeout-to-walk ratio that took pressure off his defense all season. Beckett had 194 strikeouts and 40 walks.
"I think just keeping down the walks," Sabathia said, "being able to go deep in the games, I think was the biggest deal in helping me win this."
Sabathia is entering the final season of his contract with the Indians, who are preparing to offer him a long-term deal this winter. Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro would like to have his ace locked up before spring training starts in February.
"This year he crossed the final gates of being a true No. 1," Shapiro said. "C.C. took ownership of what he could control and let go of the things he couldn't control, and that allowed him to really focus pitch to pitch, stay in his delivery and turn into a pitcher instead of just a guy with great potential and a great arm.
"Maybe the most influential leadership he demonstrated this year was how he handled the stretch of five to seven games where he got almost no run support," the GM added. "He never pointed fingers, never felt sorry for himself, stayed a positive, team-oriented guy and continued to contribute and pull for our team's victories, not worrying about his own individual performance."
Sabathia, picked by Cleveland in the first round of the 1998 draft, has made it clear he'd like to stay with the Indians - for the right price.
"We have the utmost respect, appreciation for C.C. and a strong desire to keep him here and have him remain in an Indian uniform. C.C. I think shares that desire," Shapiro said. "The only question that remains to be answered is, can we find a business deal that works for both the Indian organization and C.C. Sabathia? We're going to take the next - what is it now, three months - and try to find that out."
Beckett gets $100,000 for finishing second, and his 2010 base salary increases $100,000 to $12.1 million. Lackey earns $75,000 for coming in third, and his 2009 base salary goes up $500,000 to $10 million.
This surprised me a little. I thought Beckett would win after the postseason he just had, but apparently the writers thought Sabathia had the better overall year.