Hentgen’s Perseverance Pays With Close Cy Young Victory
He pitched for a second-division club rather than a World Series champion, but that probably helped rather than hurt Pat Hentgen’s chances to win the American League Cy Young Award.
Hentgen, of the Toronto Blue Jays, edged Andy Pettitte of the World Series champion New York Yankees on Tuesday to win the award in the closest voting since 1972.
His durability was perhaps the deciding factor among members of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America, who voted on the award.
Hentgen, 20-10 with a 3.72 earned-run average, led the major leagues with 10 complete games and 265 2/3 innings. His ERA was the second best in the league behind teammate Juan Guzman’s 2.93.
He also had three shutouts, tying Kevin Brown of Florida and Ken Hill of Texas for the major league lead.
Pettitte, 21-8 with a 3.87 ERA, normally pitched only into the seventh or eighth innings before Manager Joe Torre turned the game over to the Yankees’ formidable bullpen.
Hentgen got 16 first-place votes, nine second-place votes and three third-place votes for 110 points. Pettitte had 11 firsts, 16 seconds and one third for 104 points.
It was the closest margin of victory for the AL award since Gaylord Perry defeated Wilbur Wood in 1972. Mike Cuellar and Denny McLain tied for the award in 1969.
Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera finished third in Tuesday’s voting, with Cleveland starter Charles Nagy fourth.
“To be honest, I definitely was prepared to come in second,” Hentgen said during a conference call. “I was shocked. I’m overwhelmed.”
This was a turnaround season for Hentgen, a right-hander who in 1995 suffered his first losing season in the majors by going 10-14. Until this season, his best year was 1993, when he won 19 games and helped the Blue Jays win their second consecutive World Series.
He grew stronger as the ’96 season progressed. He was 8-6 before the All-Star break but improved to 12-4 after it. He won his career-high 20th game on the season’s final day with a 4-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at the SkyDome. “Things snowballed for me in the second half,” said Hentgen, who turns 28 today. “There was a point where I just knew I could go out and pitch a good game.”
Hentgen, who earned $2.25 million in 1996, gets a $50,000 bonus for winning the award.
Pettitte, a left-hander in only his second major league season, was trying to become the first Yankee to win the award since Ron Guidry, who went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA in 1978.
He said he had been trying not to think about winning the award, but it wasn’t easy after the Yankees’ World Series victory over the Atlanta Braves. He said he had spent the last few days at home in Deer Park, Texas, getting ready for hunting season and repairing an off-road vehicle.
“All the talk that I was going to win it got my hopes up, but Pat deserved it,” said Pettitte, 24. “He was totally dominating. I didn’t dominate. I didn’t get the chance because of the setup we had [with relievers Rivera and John Wetteland].”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Oh So Close
1996 AMERICAN LEAGUE CY YOUNG AWARD VOTING
The voting for the 1996 American League Cy Young Award matched the second closest ever. In 1969, Mike Cuellar and Denny McLain tied, while in 1972, Gaylord Perry beat Wilbur Wood, 64-58. In the Cy Young voting, pitchers receive five points for each first-place vote, three points for second and one point for third:
Player, Team 1st 2nd 3rd Total Pat Hentgen, Toronto 16 9 3 110 Andy Pettitte, New York 11 16 1 104 Mariano Rivera, New York 1 1 10 18 Charles Nagy, Cleveland 0 1 9 12 Mike Mussina, Baltimore 0 1 2 5 Alex Fernandez, Chicago 0 0 1 1 Roberto Hernandez, Chicago 0 0 1 1 Ken Hill, Texas 0 0 1 1
HOW THE AWARD WAS WON
Where Pat Hengten ranked in major categories among American League pitchers:
Category Number Rank Leader or Second in Category Wins 20 2nd Andy Pettitte, New York (21) Earned-Run Average 3.22 2nd Juan Guzman, Texas (1.89) Innings Pitched 265 2/3 1st Alex Fernandez, Chicago (258) Strikouts 177 7th Roger Clemons, Boston (257) Complete Games 10 1st Ken Hill, Texas (7) Shutouts 3 1st Tied with Ken Hill, Texas (3)
(C1) THE BIG THREE
A comparison between the one-two finishers in the American League Cy Young Award voting, Toronto’s Pat Hentgen and New York’s Andy Pettitte, and the National League winner, Atlanta’s John Smoltz:
Hentgen Pettitte Smoltz Wins 20 21 24 Losses 10 8 8 Pct. .667 .724 .750 ERA 3.22 3.87 2.94 IP 265 2/3 221 253 2/3 Hits 238 229 199 BB 94 72 55 SO 177 162 276 CG 10 2 6 SHO 3 0 2