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11/12/07 11:02 PM ET

AL Cy Young Award: A two-man race?

Competition appears to be between Beckett and Sabathia

Just when you thought the Yankees and the Red Sox had exhausted all possible manifestation of their intense rivalry ... there went the ballots for the American League Cy Young Award.

Unfortunately for the Bombers, the ballot race is likely to have turned out as sour for them as the division race did. Josh Beckett left Chien-Ming Wang in the dust, instead battling Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia to the wire.

The two AL East kingpins have suited up their fair share of pitchers on the receiving end of their art's highest award, with Pedro Martinez (1999 and 2000) and Roger Clemens (2001) keeping the honor in the I-95 corridor.

But Yankees and Red Sox pitchers have never contested for the same Cy Young Award and haven't finished in the top two in the vote since the award's inception in 1956.

This shaped up as the first time, because Beckett and Wang were the respective leaders of their postseason-bound staffs, on target to receive ample support among the voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Their season-long excellence on the road to 20 wins -- a destination only Beckett reached -- figured to be hard to ignore.

Then another undisputed staff ace, the Indians' C.C. Sabathia, drove a wedge into that battle, emerging by the end of the season as Beckett's main challenger.

Right-handers John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, virtually peers in the Angels rotation, figure to cancel each other out in the voting booth.

As for relievers, they are simply not invited to this party. The last closer to earn this award in the AL, even as saves totals keep skyrocketing, was Dennis Eckersley, back in 1992. The highest ranking closer in the vote last year -- even after a season without a 20-game winner -- was Francisco Rodriguez, whose 47 saves were worth five ballot points, out of a possible 140.

Maybe it is time closers had their own comparable award. The potential inspiration for that is still among us -- San Diego's Trevor Hoffman, who with 524 saves has already surpassed the 511 wins by the pitcher whose name is on the Cy Young Award.

The AL Cy Young Award winner will be announced on Nov. 13.


Josh Beckett, Red Sox: Despite a fresh face (Daisuke Matsuzaka) and a cured arm (Curt Schilling), the cognoscenti tabbed Beckett as the key man on Boston's staff -- and he has delivered splendidly, also delivering on his potential. For the fourth consecutive season, he has raised his victory total and has become a smart pitcher -- not just a hotheaded hurler. Leading evidence of that is the drastic reduction in both walks (74 to 40) and home run yields (36 to 17).

C.C. Sabathia, Indians: He missed becoming Cleveland's first 20-game winner since Gaylord Perry (1974), but the big left-hander had already built a strong case for himself. He is certainly worthy, with an amazing strikeouts-to-walks ratio (209-37) for a tall lefty -- historically the mold for wildness. He posted career-highs in innings and strikeouts, while setting a single-season high with 19 wins. Nine of his wins followed Tribe losses.

Chien-Ming Wang, Yankees: If Cy Young balloting were like some cell phone plans, Wang would be an even stronger candidate thanks to rollover votes. He didn't receive a single first-place vote last year, even though he matched the winner's (Johan Santana) 19-6 record. So he then produced a carbon copy, for a two-year record of 38-13 (Santana is 34-19, Justin Verlander 35-15, Roy Halladay 32-12). But what makes Wang truly stand out is his responsibility for the Yankees' contention, through his remarkable consistency. He failed to go at least six innings only three times in 30 starts.

John Lackey, Angels: A rocky four-start stretch beginning in mid-August probably ejected the right-hander from possibly even the favorite's seat. He surrendered 26 hits and 13 runs in 17 2/3 innings around his clutch Aug. 27 shutout in Seattle. But remember that word "clutch," as well as "workhorse;" he went seven-plus innings in 18 of his last 28 starts. And his amazing 12-1 record against the other AL West teams is one of the main reasons that the Angels pulled away from the division.


Fausto Carmona, Indians
Kelvim Escobar, Angels
Erik Bedard, Orioles
J.J. Putz, Mariners
Joe Borowski, Indians
Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.