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Greinke a most deserving Cy Young winner

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Jon Paul Morosi

Jon Paul Morosi is a National MLB Writer for FOXSports.com. He previously covered baseball for the Detroit Free Press and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He began his journalism career at the Bay City Times in his native Michigan. Follow him on Twitter.

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Zack Greinke won the American League Cy Young Award on Tuesday, just like he was supposed to. Even the guy who finished third in the voting thinks so. "I do feel Greinke deserved the award," Justin Verlander said in an e-mail on Tuesday. "He had an outstanding year.
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"I know that his win (total) wasn't as good as some would like to see out of a Cy Young winner, but I believe that wins are not the most telling stat of how a pitcher performed." How true. To fully appreciate what Greinke did this year, you had to watch him pitch. And the right-hander's performance in five starts against the Tigers — a 3-1 record and 1.00 ERA — was apparently sufficient for Verlander. Verlander said Greinke's 2.16 ERA "speaks for itself," and he is absolutely right. It was the best in the majors — not just the AL. And it was lower — substantially so — than the major-league-best mark that helped Johan Santana become a unanimous choice as the AL Cy Young winner in 2006. Still, many Royals fans started Tuesday with a severe, stomach-cramping case of small-town-itis. Of course, they believed Greinke should win. But optimism about baseball in Kansas City tends to be guarded, what with 14 losing seasons in 15 years. "I'd been hearing it since the last month of the season," said Joel Goldberg, host of the pre- and postgame shows for Royals telecasts on FOX Sports Kansas City. "People were asking me about it a lot. It became more frequent in the last week, week-and-a-half: 'When's it happening? What do you think the chances are?' "I guarantee you people woke up this morning on edge. People figured that he pitched for a losing team. You heard a lot about an East Coast bias. I don't think anybody woke up today thinking this thing was in the bag." Well, it was. Greinke won baseball's most coveted pitching trophy only three seasons after social anxiety disorder forced him to step away from the game. And the final tally wasn't even close. Although Seattle's Felix Hernandez and Detroit's Verlander had exceptional seasons, Greinke received 25 of the 28 first-place votes. Hernandez had two. Verlander had one. And the Royals had their biggest victory in a long, long time. "I'm really happy for him, and I'm really happy for his family," said Allard Baird, who was the Royals' general manager when Greinke's struggle with anxiety began. "I'm extremely proud of him. The one thing that amazes me — that doesn't get talked about enough — is that he took a very private thing, at a very young age, and went through it in front of the public. When you talk about mental toughness, I'm not sure you can get any tougher than that." And so, on a Tuesday afternoon in November, the baseball universe rotated around Kansas City, Mo. The folks there would prefer to have the stage for a few nights in October, but this was a nice start. The important thing here was that the Baseball Writers' Association of America got this vote right. Even though Hernandez and Verlander won more games — CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay did, too — Greinke was clearly the AL's best pitcher this year. He ranked second in the big leagues in complete games. Shutouts, too. His 242 strikeouts were second only to Verlander in the AL. But a modest win total — 16 — was enough to make Royals fans fret. Greinke wondered, too. He was mindful of the fact that Hernandez had 19 victories. Greinke went as far as to mention that fact during his teleconference with reporters on Tuesday. "His win-loss total was better than mine," Greinke said. "I thought that could push him over the top." Instead, the three candidates lined up precisely as they should have. "It was a tough vote this year," Royals pitching coach Bob McClure said, "but I really thought Zack was the most dominating." No starter has won the award with fewer than 16 victories over a full season. In one sense, it's remarkable that Greinke ended up with that many. Greinke was sitting on 13 victories — with only four starts to go — when he took the mound in Detroit on Sept. 17. In the fourth inning, a line drive off the bat of slugger Miguel Cabrera smacked him square on the pitching arm, just above the elbow. "That ball came off the bat at more than 100 miles an hour," McClure said. "That's the clearest I've ever seen baseball seams on someone's body. His arm was starting to swell up, but he didn't come out of the game. I wanted him to get X-rays immediately, but he said, 'I'm fine.' "He's not thinking about the Cy Young. He wants to win the game." Well, he stayed in the game through the fifth. He got the win. Even though the swelling in his arm between starts "made him look like Popeye," McClure said, Greinke took his regular turn and beat the Red Sox five days later. He won five days after that, too. With that late-September push, he effectively claimed the award that now officially belongs to him. He didn't win it because he overcame his social anxiety, although that makes the story more compelling. He didn't win because he had the best statistics. He won because he was the best pitcher anywhere this year.
Tagged: Johan Santana, Red Sox, CC Sabathia, Blue Jays, Tigers, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Royals, Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, Yankees, Mets, Zack Greinke, Mariners

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