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Why The Cy Young Sort Of Matters

Hardware buddies!
Hardware buddies!

This is kind of a response to Dave's piece at Brock and Salk's blog, and kind of not, because I was going to write it anyway.

Dave's argument is that, while Felix Hernandez deserves to win the Cy Young, it doesn't really matter in the end, because people don't remember award winners. Our memories aren't shaped by the votes of strangers. They're shaped by our own personal experiences. That Felix didn't end up winning the Cy Young in 2009, for example, in no way has any effect on our memories of how dominant he was for much of the season. We saw it with our own eyes, and we'll remember it forever.

And Dave's absolutely right. Memories are shaped by our own personal experiences. Cy Youngs and other awards don't exist as confirmations or rejections of our observations and beliefs. They exist as adjectives, as other forms of praise. They exist as synonyms for 'good' when you want to break out of the cycle of good/great/productive and so forth. As far as we're concerned, beginning a sentence with "Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez" doesn't mean anything different from beginning a sentence with "Excellent young pitcher Felix Hernandez".

In other words, awards don't draw the lines. They help color in the middle, and nothing more.They don't directly mean anything to us, nor do they say anything about the winners or the losers.

But that's talking about the awards from our own perspective. Which, granted, is an important perspective. It's the only one we can ever occupy. What about the other side of the discussion?

I can tell you for a fact that winning the Cy Young this year would mean the world to Felix. This is a post about all awards and all Cy Youngs, but it's also a post about this particular award, and this particular Cy Young. I don't think it's any secret that Felix wants to win. I don't think it's any secret that winning the award has served at least in part as his motivation for a while. If Felix doesn't win, he'll be upset. And if Felix does win, then that'll help to erase so much of the frustration that's built up from his lousy run support and mounting losses.

So the question becomes, does that matter? Should that matter?

It matters to me. I'm not entirely sure why, but I know that it does. I would prefer that Felix be happy, rather than less happy. Though his life doesn't exactly hang in the balance, here, winning the Cy Young would represent the fulfillment of so many of his personal dreams, and that'd be neat. Felix deserves it.

What it comes back to is the matter of what we're actually rooting for when we root for a sports team. We're rooting for that elation we get to feel after a great play or a great win, but those plays and wins aren't our achievements. They're the achievements of players on our teams. So we're rooting for the players on our teams to succeed so they can be happy, so we can be happy. It always starts with them, and makes its way to us.

We're concerned with their happiness, even when we may not realize it. This is a difficult thing to put into words, but it isn't difficult because I'm reaching. I know that it's there. It's just hard to explain.

Ultimately, while awards are no substitute for making the playoffs or winning a championship, they make the award winners happy. And while, say, a new car or the birth of a child would also make players happy, awards represent accomplishments on the field. In that way we get to feel somewhat involved, and in that way I don't think we can write them off as irrelevant. They don't matter a ton. If Felix doesn't take the Cy Young, not much will change. They do matter a little, if only because, in this instance, I'm a Mariners fan, and I will always prefer that a Mariner player be happy and some other teams' players be less happy than the other way around. Felix getting it would bring a smile to my face that I wouldn't smile otherwise.

Felix has been an absolute treat from the very beginning. Here's hoping the 28 voters grant him his biggest win of the year.