Each year that an MLB reliever has a dominating season there are discussions as to his Cy Young Award worthiness, and baseball should finally resolve the issue.
The Cy Young Award, emblematic of the best pitchers in MLB during each season, has been awarded since the 1956 season.
For the first decade of the award’s existence, from 1956-66, there was one honoree for all of baseball. Beginning in the 1967 season, a Cy Young Award was bestowed on the top pitcher in each league.
The award has been given out in every year since its debut, including for the 1994 season that was canceled halfway through due to the strike.
The first true relief pitcher to win the award was Mike Marshall of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974. Marshall won 15 games and saved 21 to take the NL honors that season. Three years later, Sparky Lyle of the New York Yankees became the first relief pitcher in the American League to win the honor with 13 wins and 26 saves.
Over its history there have now been five National Leaguers and four in the American League to win the Cy Young Award out of the bullpen.
Each time it happens, and in other years when a relief pitcher had a great season and came up against tough starting pitching competition, the issue is debated. Should a relief pitcher be allowed to win the Cy Young Award?
I say no.
That is nothing against relief pitchers. They have a difficult, pivotal job. But let’s face it, despite what folks like Brian Kenney with MLB Network would like, at present there are two different pitching roles in baseball: starter and reliever.
The starting pitcher has a completely different role than the relief pitcher in the vast majority of cases. Not harder, just different.
The two roles take different skill sets, make different physical demands on pitchers, require different mindsets.
For me, the Cy Young Award should go to the top starting pitcher each season. There should be an equally important and respected award for relief pitchers. Those awards actually now do exist.
Major League Baseball began presenting a Mariano Rivera Award to the best relief pitcher in the American League and a Trevor Hoffman Award to the best relief pitcher in the National League beginning in 2014.
The simple solution is to present the Rivera and Hoffman Awards at the same general time that the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and other major awards are announced.
This year, Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers and Zach Britton of the Baltimore Orioles were awarded the Hoffman and Rivera honors, respectively.
In my 2016 IBWAA Awards ballot, I also chose Jansen and Britton as the top reliever in each league. My Cy Young vote went to Max Scherzer in the NL, and to Corey Kluber in the AL.
That is the way it should be, with the game’s best starting pitchers battling it out for the Cy Young Award. To me, it’s simple. What do you think?