At its heart, what is a Cy Young award? A Cy Young award is just an honor given to one pitcher per league per year by an assortment of sportswriters, who fill out their ballots based on vaguely consistent but nevertheless varying guidelines. It is supposed to go to each league's best pitcher, but it doesn't always, going instead to whoever the sportswriters determine to have been the league's best pitcher. It's an imperfect process that can lead to imperfect results.
But then, at its heart, what is a World Series championship? A World Series championship is just something won by one team per year based on how it performed in a short tournament. Eligibility, of course, is earned over six months, but once the playoffs begin, that all goes out the window, and while the title is supposed to go to the league's best team, it doesn't always, going instead to the team that played the best at the time. It's an imperfect process that can lead to imperfect results.
We all want theto win a World Series championship. We're aware of what it would mean and what it wouldn't, and we want it anyway. But the Mariners didn't win a World Series championship. Not last year. Last year, the Mariners didn't win 62 games. What they won was a Cy Young award. And, you know what - it's something. It's something for us to celebrate.
What makes a championship so much fun (I think) is that yours is the last team left standing. You get to watch your players bounce around like big happy idiots, and you get to reflect on how everything came together. That didn't happen for the Mariners as a group, but Felix most certainly got to bounce around like a big happy idiot, and we most certainly get to reflect on how everything came together, for him. It's a fraction of the party, and a fraction of the party is better than no party at all.
It's funny how much of all this comes down to simply being happy because Felix is happy, but all fanhood is is being happy when your team's players are happy, so maybe it's not that weird. These are the people we root for, so when they're delighted, we're delighted. It's one of those things I try not to think about too hard since rationally it doesn't make any sense, but I know what feels good, and I know this feels good. I won't deny that Felix's glee warms my heart.
And it's become abundantly clear that Felix has had one of the best days of his life. I don't know where it ranks overall, but you figure, growing up as a pitcher, there are two things that most people want to do: (1) win a Cy Young in the Major Leagues, and (2) win a World Series. There are other things in there - pitch for your favorite team, throw a no-hitter, make the Major Leagues in the first place, and so on - but I'd imagine that, for most guys, those are the big two. And Felix just accomplished one of them at the age of 24. He's only 24, and already he was able to do something he's probably been dreaming about since he was a boy. Already arguably the best pitcher in the league, he's now been officially recognized as such, and gets to see his name alongside others like Pedro Martinez, and Bob Gibson, and Venezuela's Johan Santana. It doesn't matter how much the honor ought to mean. What matters is how much it means to Felix, and to Felix, it means the world.
Think about it. Think about Felix's personality. Think about his competitive spirit, and think about his signature machismo. Then consider that he admitted to crying when he heard that he won. I don't know Felix personally so I can't swear this is true, but something tells me Felix doesn't confess to crying very often. So for him to cry about the Cy Young, and then to own up to it to the press, says everything that needs to be said about how he feels.
That's awesome, for all of us.
A lot of people have pointed to Felix's selection as evidence that the BBWAA is getting smarter. Felix, of course, won just 13 games with the Mariners. Tim Lincecum won 15 games and got the NL Cy Young with the a year ago, and Zack Greinke won 16 games and got 2009's AL Cy Young. These guys got rewarded despite lower win totals than we've come to expect, and many fans have celebrated the BBWAA's progress.
And, indeed, they are making progress. I don't like the "getting smarter" phrasing because it implies that we know everything, which we don't, but the BBWAA, on average, is clearly becoming better-versed in statistics. As a whole, they're clearly more open-minded, and more receptive to modern analytical techniques.
But they're never going to be perfect. They're never going to be perfect because it's impossible to be perfect. It's impossible to declare with certainty that Felix Hernandez was better than, say, Justin Verlander. Hell, it's impossible to say with certainty that Felix Hernandez was better than Ian Snell. Pitching is finished when the ball's out of the hand, and results are just indirect and imperfect measurements of performance. There's just too much we don't know, and too much we'll never know.
So the BBWAA, and the rest of us, will always have an incomplete picture. In time, we'll have less of an incomplete picture, but I don't think we'll ever finish the puzzle. Everything we learn uncovers three things we've yet to explore.
So there'll always be some uncertainty. We'll never be able to say that this guy was absolutely the best pitcher, or the best rookie, or the most valuable player all-around. And it's that uncertainty that I think allows for some guilt-free partisan behavior. If we know x, but we don't know y, then what the hell, hopefully our guy can win z. Maybe he had enough y to put him over the top.
I don't know that Felix Hernandez was the best pitcher in the American League. There were a lot of very, very good pitchers who pitched in less pitcher-friendly ballparks. Had Felix not won, I would've understood. But even though I didn't know, I still hoped. If I knew for a fact that someone else was more deserving, I would've pulled for him. But because I didn't, I pulled for Felix. Felix is our guy. And when you don't know for sure who should win an award, you might as well hope that it goes to the guy that you like.
I don't know if any of those last few paragraphs made sense, and I pray that they did, because I don't want to look at them again. If they didn't, this is all basically several hundred words to express the fact that, hey, all right. I'm ecstatic for Felix, and I'm glad that 2010 was able to leave us with something other than complaints from our neighbors and alcohol dependence. This doesn't make up for everything, but it makes up for some things, and that's all any of us could have realistically asked for.