This year's baseball awards hardly stirred up a ripple compared with the controversies of other seasons, but as usual there are some that can be debated at least mildly. One of the closest calls from this vantage point was for the American League Cy Young Award, where the voters had to choose between Bret Saberhagen of the Kansas City Royals and Ron Guidry of the New York Yankees.
Saberhagen, of course, went on to earn World Series MVP honors, but this doesn't count in the Cy Young voting, which is conducted before postseason play begins. The only criterion is what they did during the regular season -- and that one is pretty close.
Guidry, posting his best record since he won the award in 1978 with a phenomenal 25-3 season, was the bulwark of an otherwise shaky Yankee pitching staff and one of the main reasons the club stayed in the race almost to the very end. The veteran left-hander finished 22-6, and it should be remembered that he pitched most of his games in the tough AL East against the likes of Toronto, Detroit, Baltimore, and Boston.
Saberhagen's 20-6 record was only slightly less impressive, while his earned run average was a bit better. The 21-year-old right-hander also had 10 complete games, and of course his team won its division title.
It was a choice that could have gone either way, which made it surprising that Saberhagen got 23 of the 28 first-place votes to win by a wide margin.
The National League Cy Young Award, of course, was a foregone conclusion. Dwight Gooden, who like Saberhagen is just 21 years old, had a ``once-in-a-lifetime'' season, leading the league in just about every major category with a 24-4 record, a 1.53 ERA, 268 strikeouts, 16 complete games, and 2762/3 innings pitched. And just as everyone expected, the hard-throwing New York Mets right-hander was a unanimous first-place choice.
In any normal season, John Tudor of St. Louis would have had a good shot. After a 1-7 start, the veteran left-hander went 20-1 to finish with a 21-8 record, a 1.93 ERA, and 10 shutouts. This time, though, that was just good enough for runner-up honors.
This year's Most Valuable Player awards were both runaways, as expected. NL honors went to Willie McGee of the Cardinals, who led the league with a .353 batting average, stole 56 bases, scored 114 runs, even showed some power with 10 homers and 82 RBIs, and played his usual fine defensive game in center field. Yankee first baseman Don Mattingly was a similar shoo-in for the AL award after hitting .324 with 35 home runs and a major league-leading 145 RBIs while also playing outstanding defense.
Choosing the top managers, in fact, was a lot harder this year than picking the best players. American League voters went for Bobby Cox, which is reasonable enough after the job he did leading Toronto to its first-ever division title. His margin of victory was surprisingly wide, though, considering the outstanding jobs also turned in by Dick Howser at Kansas City, Gene Mauch in California, and Billy Martin in New York.
The NL managerial vote was the closest of all, with Whitey Herzog of the pennant-winning Cardinals prevailing by one point over Pete Rose, who in his first full year of managing turned the Cincinnati Reds around from a dismal 70-92 record in 1984 to a runner-up finish this season.