From the Sunshine State to the Great Northwest, the vote yesterday was indisputable. The 2000 American League Cy Young Award went unanimously to New England’s Crown Prince of Pitching, Pedro Martinez.
And no sooner did the league’s top pitcher accept his second straight Cy Young honor - his third in four years - than he called for a new running mate: Oriole free agent Mike Mussina.
“I wish we could get Moose, whatever it takes to get him, because we need him,” Martinez said in a news conference at Fenway Park. “I will be really, really happy if Moose comes over.”
Forget about envy. Martinez said he would not throw a tantrum if the Red Sox lavished more money on Mussina than the $12.5 million annual salary earned by Martinez (plus a $500,000 bonus for the Cy Young, the second in a row he has won unanimously).
Mussina, one of baseball’s top pitchers over the last decade and this year’s premier free agent hurler, is expected to command more than $15 million a year. The Sox are vying for the righthander with such deep-pocketed competitors as the Yankees, Braves, and Indians.
“If they want to pay him more, I don’t care,” Martinez said. “We just need the help.”
He should know. Martinez posted a 1.74 ERA, the first AL starter since Luis Tiant compiled a 1.91 ERA for the Red Sox in 1972 to allow fewer than two earned runs a game over a season and not make the playoffs.
“I would trade this award for a chance to play in the World Series and see what we could do against any team in the National League,” he said.
Martinez was masterful almost from start to finish. Running up a record of 18-6, he led the league in ERA, strikeouts (284), shutouts (4), batting average against (.167), strikeouts per nine innings (11.8), and home runs allowed per nine innings (.71).
His ERA was the league’s lowest since Yankee Ron Guidry’s 1.74 in 1978. And it was nearly two runs better than his closest competitor, Yankee Roger Clemens (3.70), the only other pitcher to unanimously win two AL Cy Young Awards.
In addition, Martinez’s ERA was nearly three runs better than the league average of 4.90.
Members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America awarded him all 28 first-place votes, as Martinez easily eclipsed his closest rival, Oakland’s Tim Hudson, in points, 140-54. Toronto’s David Wells finished third with 46 points.
“He’s been a great gift to the Red Sox franchise,” said Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette. “We’re very proud of Pedro’s accomplishments. He’s reached an extraordinary level at a young age.”
Martinez, 29, joined Clemens, Baltimore’s Jim Palmer (1975-76), and Detroit’s Denny McLain (1968-69) as the only AL pitchers to win the Cy Young in consecutive seasons. With the NL Cy Young that Martinez won with the Expos in 1997, he became only the seventh pitcher to receive the honor at least three times. The others were Clemens (5), Greg Maddux (4), Steve Carlton (4), Palmer (3), Tom Seaver (3), and Sandy Koufax (3).
If that weren’t enough, Duquette noted that Martinez this year tied Babe Ruth’s Red Sox record of five victories in April. And no Sox pitcher has posted a lower ERA since Smoky Joe Wood’s 1.49 in 1915.
“I’m very excited to join Babe Ruth and all those big names,” Martinez said on his brief visit to Boston from his home in the Dominican Republic.
Yet he still bore the frustration of anchoring a starting rotation in which no other pitcher but his older brother, Ramon (10-8), won more than eight games.
Indeed, he said his finest performance of the season was a game in Kansas City Aug. 24 when he allowed five runs in the first inning, then battled back, retiring 18 of the next 19 batters and putting the Sox in position to win, 9-7.
His eight-inning effort was crucial because it provided a badly needed respite for a bullpen that was running on empty.
But pitching wasn’t Boston’s only problem. The Sox offense likely cost Martinez his second straight 20-win season, as he got only 4.7 runs of support per nine innings, a significant drop from the six runs he got when he went 23-4 in 1999.
Pitching coach Joe Kerrigan said after the season that it is imperative for the Sox to shore up the rotation to relieve the escalating pressure on Pedro to carry the team. And Martinez sees the solution as Mussina.
“I have a lot of respect for Moose,” he said. “He’s one pitcher I will pay my money to watch. He’s going to win 15, almost without a doubt.”
But Martinez stopped short of offering to recruit Mussina, saying that job fell to Duquette.
“I’m not a negotiator,” he said. “If everything goes wrong, he’s going to blame me. I don’t want that responsibility.”
Yet he offered some advice to Duquette. A good selling point, Martinez said, might be to emphasize what he has done with the Red Sox. Like win two straight Cy Young Awards.