On November 14th, it will be announced whether R.A. Dickey will be the Mets 5th recipient of the NL Cy Young Award or not. Either way, it is certain that he will be the 27th, and 16th individual Met to receive NL Cy Young consideration by the Baseball Writers Association of America’s voters.
So let’s have some fun and look back at R.A.’s predecessors in being in the running for pitching gold:
We begin with The Franchise’s 1969.
One of the most iconic seasons that a Met pitcher has ever had, and while he’d put up seasons with better numbers, Tom Seaver was simply brilliant in 1969. 25-7, 2.21 ERA and 208 strikeouts, a near Perfect Game, and as the main cog of the Miracle Mets, Seaver would finish 2nd to Willie McCovey in the NL MVP race. As for the Cy Young, it was nearly unanimous, with Phil Niekro of the Braves getting the lone other vote.
Considering Tom Seaver’s name gets tossed about when discussing the all-time great hurlers, it’s no surprise that his name shows up perennially on the list of Cy Young voting, and not just for the three that he won. So that brings us to 1970.
Another solid Seaver season with an 18-12 win-loss record, 2.82 ERA and 283 strikeouts, not too shabby of a year, but not quite CY Worthy, but he still got 4 vote points, which was good enough for 7th in a year of pure domination by the great Bob Gibson.
1971 was arguably Seaver’s best in a year where he didn’t wind up with the Cy Young award. 289 Ks, a 20-10 record and a 1.76 ERA, yet he fell short to Ferguson Jenkins, 97 points and 17 first place votes to 61 points and 6 first place votes.
Seaver was again in fine form for Cy Young contention in 1972; another 20 win season, and 249 more strikeouts to his growing total. But 1972 belonged to Steve Carlton. So much so that books have been written about Carlton’s iconic first year in Philadelphia! Seaver still got enough consideration to finish in a 4 pitcher scrum for 5th in the balloting.
Seaver would capture his second award in 1973, and for the third time each he would hold the NL ERA and strikeout crown. Though he barely edged out the Expo standout closer Mike Marshall with 10 first place votes to 9. Incidentally, a year later with the Dodgers, Marshall would become the first reliever to win the Cy Young award.
After a down year, by his usual standards anyway, in 1974, Seaver was back with a vengeance in 1975. Going 22-9, and capturing his penultimate strikeout crown Seaver won his third Cy Young award, which at that point tied him with Sandy Koufax for the most Cy Young Award wins. And at that point, only Koufax, Seaver, Bob Gibson, Denny McLain and Jim Palmer (whom picked up the second of his three awards in 1975) were multiple recipients. For all intent and purposes solidifying Seaver’s case for inclusion in the discussion of All-Time legendary hurlers, and not just of his era.
1976 would see the first, and second Mets not named George Thomas Seaver in the Cy Young race. While Seaver, on the strength of his 9th straight 200 Ks or more season and his 5th and final strikeout crown with 235 was good enough to garner a Cy Young vote point (literally) and an 8th place finish in the race, he would be joined by two teammates, Jon Matlack and Jerry Koosman.
Matlack, whom won a share of the All Star Game MVP with the Cubs’ Bill Madlock, had a fine year going 17-10 and leading the league with 6 shutouts was good enough to get him 5 vote points, including one first place vote, and put him 6th in the voting race.
However, the Mets best pitcher that year was Jerry Koosman, stepping out of Seaver’s shadow, the Mets “old reliable” number 2 starter had a career year with a 21-10 record, 200 strikeouts and a 2.69 ERA. And while he was bested by the Padres’ Randy Jones, he was able to garner 7 first place votes.
It is a bit of a cheat considering Tom Seaver would be traded to Cincinnati on June 15th of 1977, but with 7 of his 21 wins, and 3 of his league leading 7 shutouts and 124 of his 226 strikeouts (his last 20 win season, as well as his last 200 strikeout season) it still is enough to give credit for his 2 and a half months before The Midnight Massacre. Either way, his complete season was good enough to get Cy Young consideration, and even 2 first place votes, finishing in a tie with the Cubs’ Rick Reuschel for 3rd.
The next time a Met would receive Cy Young consideration would be in 1983 and Jesse Orosco. In his second full season in the bigs, Orosco emerged as a dependable workhorse reliever after taking over the closing role from Neil Allen. His 13 wins and 17 saves marks the only time a Met has led the team in both wins and saves in the same year, and finished an All Star season with a 1.47 ERA. This was good to place third in the Cy Young race, and Orosco even received a first place vote.
1984 would see the emergence of Dwight Gooden. Doctor K burst onto the scene with a rookie season for the ages with a 17-9 record, 2.60 ERA and a rookie record 276 strikeouts. But Gooden would have to settle for just the Rookie of The Year Award as the Cubs’ Rick Sutcliffe ran away with the voting. Besides Gooden’s Cy Young winning campaign the next year, his second place showing in 1984 has been the highest a Met has finished to date since.
Speaking of Doc’s 1985, or should I say one of the most dominant seasons a pitcher has ever had. 24-4, 1.53 ERA, 8 shutouts and 268 strikeouts; a season for the ages would be putting it mildly! Picking up an unanimous victory in the Cy Young race, it did appear that the Mets would have another Tom Seaver-like career out of Gooden. Sadly, blame Gooden succumbing to his personal demons of substance abuse, as well as the damage to his right arm that too many early innings caused, but Gooden would never again reach the heights in a single season as he did in his first two years. Only two more times would he have a 200+ strikeout season, only twice more would he win more than 17 games in a single season, and his next lowest ERA season would be 1986’s 2.84. Oh Gooden’s major league career winds up rather decently, and his Met contributions were enough for eventual enshrinement in the Met Hall of Fame. But Gooden’s white hot start and fall from grace leads many fans of that generation wondering what might have been.
In 1986, the Met pitching starting staff saw 4 of its members win 15 or more games on the team’s way to an 108 win regular season. And all four would receive Cy Young consideration. Which happened to be the first, and until the 2011 Giants the only time that many teammates would receive a Cy Young vote in a given year. Both Sid Fernandez and Dwight Gooden received one vote point each. Gooden followed up his Cy Young winning campaign with a 17-6 record, 200 strikeouts and a 2.84 ERA.
While El Sid would have a breakout year with a 16-6 record, and 200 strikeouts, both would finish at the rear of the race, in a tie for 7th.
And finally, Bob Ojeda’s 18-5 and 2.51 ERA was good enough to place him 4th in the Cy Young race, behind the Giants’ Mike Krukow, the Dodgers Fernando Valenzuela and the eventual winner, the Astros’ Mike Scott.
Gooden would get Cy Young consideration in 1987, despite missing the first two months due to being in drug rehab. Going 15-7, with 162 strikeouts and 3 shutouts was good enough to be tied with Nolan Ryan for 5th in the voting, and Gooden even got a first place vote.
1988 saw the emergence of David Cone. After an injury shortened 1987, and while he started the season in the bullpen Cone had a pretty darn impressive season with a 20-3 record, 2.22 ERA and 213 strikeouts. But, Orel Hershiser was better in 1988 and won the award unanimously, and some voters felt Danny Jackson’s year was also better, so Cone had to settle for a third place finish.
1990 would see Dwight Gooden’s 5th and final appearance on the Cy Young ballot, and going 19-7 with 223 strikeouts, it truly was once last glimpse of Doc’s early brilliance. It was good enough for the voters to give him a 4th place finish.
1990 was also the last time, before R.A. Dickey’s performance this year of course, that a Met would win 20 games. Brought in because apparently you can never have a too stacked starting rotation, former Cy Young winner with the Minnesota Twins, Frank Viola’s first full season at Shea was a fine one. Going 20-12 and with a 2.67 ERA, it was good enough to finish third in the race.
Heading into the 1992 season, former two-time Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen was brought in with the same thought in mind as Frank Viola’s acquisition. And while Saberhagen didn’t quite bring the Mets back to postseason prominence, he did provide some good pitching seasons, and 1994 was a very good one. Going 14-4 in the strike shortened season, with a 2.74 ERA, Saberhagen’s year was good enough for third place in the voting.
John Franco would lead the league with 30 saves in 1994, and he would garner 2 vote points, which was good enough for 7th in the voting.
1998 was a big year for the Mets, It was the year of the trade for Mike Piazza, and things were starting to turn around. One main reason was the acquisition of Al Leiter to be a leader of the pitching staff, and in 1998 he proved his worth with a 17-6 record and a 2.47 ERA. Which was enough for voters to place him 6th in the Cy Young race that year.
It would be nearly a decade though before a Met pitcher would get Cy Young consideration. And that would be in 2006 when closer Billy Wagner would be the third Met reliever to do so. Wagner’s 40 saves were enough to place him 6th in the voting.
And finally, in 2008 Johan Santana’s first year as a Met was good enough for a third place finish in the voting. Again the Mets brought in former Minnesota Twin Cy Young winner and his first year he paid big dividends with a 16-7 record, 2.53 ERA and 206 strikeouts. As well as a masterful performance on the second to last day of the season to give the Mets a chance to continue on after the final game of the season, of course we all know what happened the next afternoon.
And that brings us to 2012 and R.A. Dickey. Will his 20-6 record, 2.43 ERA, and league leading 230 strikeouts, as well as his league leading 3 shutouts be enough? With fine seasons from the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, the Braves’ Craig Kimbrel and the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez, there is some serious competition. Of course will the voters, as they’ve been want to do through the years, give into the intangibles such as Dickey’s rags-to-riches feel good story transcending the sports pages and entering the 2012 pop culture zeitgeist with his autobiography and appearances on late night talk shows? His stats alone should push him over the top, but there are times where peripheral, non-playing field elements can propel a candidate to take home the award.