From Ryan Swanson at The National Pastime Museum on December 27, 2017:
Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer won the 2017 Cy Young Award for the American and National Leagues. Good for them. I’m not here to debate these selections.
Rather, what’s on my mind is the award’s namesake—Cy Young. On the one hand, his name is attached to one of America’s most recognizable awards. It’s one of a select few prizes that transcends the bounds of its own sport—an Olympic Gold Medal, the Masters’ Green Jacket, the Heisman Trophy (which we’ll get to later), and the Cy Young Award. These are the big ones, ones that sports fans really care about. Therefore, Cy Young’s name—almost always used with a “The” before it—is brought up all the time. That’s pretty good fortune for someone who died more than 60 years ago.
On the other hand though, Cy Young’s reputation as a pitcher has never been lower than it is today. For the past two decades, baseball analysts (and baseball analytics) have systematically undercut Young’s accomplishments on the ballfield. The game, ball, rules, and competition were vastly different at the turn of the twentieth century, which has been pointed out again and again. Cy Young’s version of baseball, while fundamentally still a game of pitchers and hitters, seems incomparable to Major League Baseball in the twenty-first century. At the beginning of Young’s career, he did not wear a glove. Foul pitches did not count as strikes. Some pitchers still delivered the ball underhanded. What kind of game was this?
Originally published: December 28, 2017. Last Updated: December 28, 2017.