01 April 1998 – On this day fifteen years ago, pitcher Pedro Martinez makes his debut with Boston and strikes out 11 Oakland batters while allowing just three hits in seven shutout innings; the Red Sox go on to win 2-0 over the Athletics at Networks Associates Coliseum.
The 2012 Boston Red Sox season is likely one that the organization and fans alike will want to soon forget. In celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, the team finished 69-93, which broke a stretch of 14 straight winning seasons. Before that, the last Red Sox team to suffer through a losing season was in 1997, when first-year manager Jimy Williams and rookie Nomar Garciaparra ended the season with a disappointing 78-84 record. The team also finished in last place for the first time since 1992, when another first-year manager, Butch Hobson, and pitcher Roger Clemens finished in seventh place in the American League East.
Baseball’s Cy Young Award was first introduced by MLB Commissioner Ford Frick in 1956 following the death of former Red Sox player and Hall of Fame pitcher Denton True “Cy” Young, who amassed 511 wins during his 22-year career, in 1955. Initially, it was given to a single pitcher chosen from the major leagues; in 1967, the new commissioner of baseball, William Eckert, announced that winners from each league, the American and the National, would be chosen.
In 53 years, three Red Sox pitchers have won a total of six awards; Jim Lonborg, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez. Lonborg was not only the first Boston pitcher to receive the honor, but he was the first pitcher honored by American league voters when the award was split between the leagues in 1967. Clemens won the first of seven total awards in 1986 and repeated as the honoree in 1987, the first since Baltimore’s Jim Palmer won back-to-back awards in 1975 and 1976. Clemens would win one more with the club in 1991 before winning four more as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays (1997 and 1998), New York Yankees (2001), and Houston Astros (2004). Martinez is the only other pitcher in franchise history to win the honor; he won in 1999 and 2000, considered two of the best seasons by a pitcher in modern baseball history, after winning the award with Montreal in 1997.
Red Sox pitchers have also finished twice in five separate votes. In 1990, Clemens finished with a 22-7 record, a 1.93 ERA, and 209 strikeouts, but lost to Oakland’s Bob Welch, who despite winning 27 games finished with an ERA+ nearly half that of Clemens. Martinez also finished twice in the vote during his Red Sox tenure, once in 1998 when he finished second to Clemens, then playing in Toronto, and again in 2002 when Oakland’s Barry Zito won the award. In 2004, Curt Schilling finished his first season in Boston with 21 wins, but was easily bested by Minnesota’s Johan Santana, who finished with a lower ERA and a higher strikeout total.
Most recently, Cleveland’s CC Sabathia finished 2007 with near-identical numbers (19-7, 3.21 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 209 SO, 143 ERA+) to Boston’s Josh Beckett (20-7, 3.27 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 194 SO, 145 ERA+); the latter then went 4-0 in four starts during the 2007 postseason, while the former went 1-2 in the playoffs, with both loses coming against the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. However, as voting takes place before the postseason starts, Sabathia was named the winner with 19 first-place votes to eight for Beckett.
The 2009 season begins with second baseman Dustin Pedroia set to defend his title as American League Most Valuable Player, the first since former first baseman Mo Vaughn began the 1996 season in the same position. In team history, only ten Boston players have received the AL MVP award. The first was outfielder Tris Speaker, who received the Chalmers Award in 1912, created as a promotional gimmick by an automobile company owner, Hugh Chalmers, in recognition of a player from each league who proved himself as “…the most important and useful player to his club and to the league at large in point of deportment and value of services rendered.” Speaker was one of only eight players recognized over a four-year span in which the honor was made, which included the awarding of a Chalmers Model 30 automobile for that player’s efforts. (The award was discontinued after the 1914 season due to diminished interest.)
Efforts by the Baseball Writers Association of America eventually led to the creation of the MVP award as it is recognized today, decided by 28 seasoned sportswriters using a positional voting system where each voter ranks his or her top ten players. Jimmie Foxx was the first Boston player recognized by the baseball writers who gave him the honor in 1938, though for him it was his third award after having been recognized twice before with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1932 and 1933. Ted Williams remains the only Red Sox player to have been named twice (1946 and 1949). Other winners have included Jackie Jensen (1958), Carl Yastrzemski (1967), Fred Lynn (1975), Jim Rice (1978), and Roger Clemens (1986). Clemens remains the only Boston pitcher to earn the distinction, though since 1967 only seven pitchers have been so honored.
Of course, due to the subjective native of the MVP vote, Red Sox players have found themselves the focus of controversial outcomes, more often as the odd man out. Though Williams was honored twice in his illustrious career, there were also four instances in which he finished second in the voting where he might have been considered the more deserving candidate. In 1941, he batted .406, the last player to hit .400 or better in the regular season, but lost to New York Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio, who has amassed a 56-game hit streak that same year. The next year, he finished second again, this time to Yankees second baseman Joe Gordon, despite having won the batting Triple Crown with more hits in fewer at-bats, twice the number of home runs, and an OPS almost 250 point higher. In 1947, Williams again won the batting Triple Crown, the only player other than Roger Hornsby to win that recognition twice, yet he again lost to DiMaggio by a single point in the vote, again with far better numbers across the board. Finally, in 1957, he won the batting title with an impressive .388 average and hit 38 home runs while setting a modern-day record of reaching base in 16 consecutive at-bats, all at the age of 39, yet finished second once more to another legendary Yankees outfielder, Mickey Mantle.
Other Boston players who fell just shy in the voting include Pedro Martinez, who had one of the best seasons ever by a pitcher in modern baseball history and won the pitching Triple Crown and the Cy Young award. Yet, despite having more first-place votes, he lost to catcher Ivan Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers by a narrow 13-point margin in the vote. It was later discovered that two sportswriters, which included George King from the New York Post, had omitted Martinez from their ballots with the argument that the contributions made by pitchers were not significant enough to earn MVP consideration, though King had included two pitchers on his ballot the previous season. David Ortiz also fell just short of the honor in 2005 as he finished behind Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez in the vote. Though both players finished the season with impressive numbers, the argument was made that Ortiz, as a designated hitter, did not contribute as much to his team’s success as Rodriguez, so much that two sportswriters left Ortiz off their ballots.
On the flipside, Vaughn finished a mere eight points ahead of Cleveland slugger Albert Belle in the 1995 vote, despite Belle having far more impressive numbers on offense, including a higher number of home runs, runs scored, RBI, slugging percentage, and total bases; he had also become the first player in major league history to hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in the same season that same year. Vaughn, however, had a far better relationship with fans and the media, whereas Belle routinely refused to grant interviews to reporters and had engaged in several controversial incidents with fans both at and away from the park. Ted Williams was also well-known for his sour relationship with the media, whom he mockingly referred to as the “kinights of the keyboard,” and, like Belle, may have been the reason in part for losing several close MVP ballots.
 Deane, Bill, Thron, John, and Palmer, Pete. Total Baseball. HarpersCollins Publishers, New York, 1993.