There were times when Padre reliever Mark Davis hurt so bad he didn’t know if he could pitch. There were even occasions when he just didn’t feel like coming to the ballpark.
How can you care about baseball, Davis asked, when your father’s dying of cancer?
Now you can understand why the moment Davis was informed Tuesday afternoon that he won the 1989 National League Cy Young Award, his eyes burned with tears.
He shared the moment with his wife, Candy, and then picked up the telephone and made a call to his parent’s home in Sacramento.
“Hi, mom, how’s dad feeling today.
“Well, tell him I just won the Cy Young Award.
“And mom, tell him how much I love him.”
Kenneth Davis, Mark’s father, was unable to come to the telephone. He’s critically ill with prostate cancer, and this was not one of his good days, Davis’ mother said. He was too weak to come to the telephone, Jane Davis said, but as soon as he was up to it, she’d tell him the news.
“The award means a lot to me, don’t get me wrong,” Davis said, “but more than anything, I wanted this for my father. He’s been talking about it for a while, and I’m just so happy I was able to come through for him.”
Davis’ eyes then began to tear. He bit his lip. He stopped momentarily, and regained his composure.
“There are many people who share in this award for me,” Davis said, “but it’s just that my father has seen me ever since I put my first glove on. It’s nice for him to be here, or at least close by to know what’s happening. It makes it very, very special.”
Davis, who saved a Padre-record 44 games, won the award by the largest margin of victory by a National League reliever in the 34-year history of the Cy Young balloting.
Davis, only the fourth National League reliever to win the award--Steve Bedrosian (1987), Bruce Sutter (1979), and Mike Marshall (1974) are the others--received 19 first-place votes from the 24-member panel of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America, getting 107 total points. Starter Mike Scott of the Houston Astros was second with three first-place votes and 65 points. Chicago Cub starter Greg Maddux received 17 points for third.
Dodger starter Orel Hershiser received the only other first-place vote, and finished in a tie for fourth with starter Joe Magrane of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The only ballot Davis did not appear on was that of Dennis Arcand of the La Presse newspaper in Montreal. Arcand cast his first-place ballot for Hershiser.
Davis saved 44 games in 48 opportunities. He was successful in 26 of his last 27 save situations, blowing just one save after June 24.
His 44 saves were the second-highest total by a National League reliever, and two saves shy of equaling Dave Righetti’s major-league record of 46 saves in 1986.
“I was there the year Righetti had those saves,” said Padre starter Dennis Rasmussen, “and I’m telling you that their two seasons don’t even compare. He (Davis) was just phenomenal this year.”
Said Padre starter Ed Whitson: “He’s the best I’ve ever seen. I mean, the absolute best. No starter likes to come out of a game, but when you’re handing the ball over to him, turn out the lights because this ballgame is over.”
“The only guy I’ve ever seen that can compare is Goose Gossage, and that’s some fine company right there.”
Unfortunately for the Padres, it’s now anyone’s guess whether Davis will again be pitching for them. Davis is a free agent.
Davis and his wife reiterated once again Tuesday that this is where they want to be, but what once appeared to be simple negotiations have turned into an open bidding war. The Padres’ last offer to Davis was a three-year guaranteed contract for about $6 million, but agent Alan Hendricks began listening to other offers Monday. About 14 teams have expressed interest in Davis, and the Seattle Mariners already have made an offer.
“A lot of things will go into the decision,” Davis said, “but today, I feel this is a happy time for the Padres and myself and I would like to focus on that. I don’t want to dampen this day.”
It indeed was a celebratory day for Davis, but for the Padres, well, it was a rather uncomfortable feeling.
Padre owner Joan Kroc sent her private plane to pick up Davis and his wife from their home in Scottsdale, Ariz. for the press conference at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, and the entire Padre contingent was on hand to congratulate him. But yet, with Davis standing behind the podium and thanking the organization and all of his teammates, the Padre front office could only stand by and wonder if he’ll be wearing a different uniform the next time they see him.
“I’d be nuts if I wasn’t concerned,” said Padre Manager Jack McKeon, who never before had a Cy Young winner on his staff. “I would like to see him pitch for us again, but it’s not my decision.”
Fred Lane, the Padres’ Chicago-based attorney who’s handling the Davis negotiations, also attended the press conference Tuesday, but had no update on the contract talks.
“This is his day,” Lane said. “All I’m here to do is congratulate him. This is his time, not contract time.”
The going rate for top-quality starters this winter such as free-agent Mark Langston and pitcher Bret Saberhagen of the Kansas City Royals--who’s expected to win the American League Cy Young Award today--figures to be starting around $8.5 million for three years.
“When you look at what he’s done for our ballclub, and what he’s done around the league,” McKeon said, “who knows how much that’s worth. All I can tell you is that he did everything we asked for our team. He’s a leader. He’s a proven closer. And he’s a complete team player.
“Having a guy like that around makes managing a whole lot easier.”