THE DARK SIDE – Damn, it's nice here today. Sunny and 75, with a breeze. Good food. Strong drinks. Best of all: Populated by people who actually value logic and fairness over stubbornness and status quo.
There's a party here. We won an election for the first time in 94 years of voting. For a long time, the movement didn't exist. In its nascence, it was the lunatic fringe. And then people started listening. Understanding. Believing. It wasn't just blather. We stand for what's right, and what's right was personified Thursday by the crowning of the best candidate.
Long live King Felix.
Felix Hernandez(notes) won the American League Cy Young Award on Thursday, and not by an insignificant margin, capturing 21 of 28 first-place votes. Now, Hernandez represents a nice story – a beyond-this-world talented teenager who turned lazy before his 21st birthday, learned work ethic, applied it and, at 24, has reached the individual apex of his profession. Our support of Hernandez has nothing to do, however, with who he is. He could be anyone. He's little more than a proxy.
We champion Hernandez's performance and what it means. Here on The Dark Side – and our eternal thanks to the anachronistic Murray Chass, Hall of Fame baseball writer, for deigning to give our meeting place a name – we welcome everyone. To receive a passport stamp, all we ask is for open-mindedness, a willingness to embrace what cuts against the tried-and-not-necessarily-true model of baseball that for a century passed as analysis.
More than a decade ago, those paid to actually put together teams started embracing advanced metrics, and the game changed. It's not necessarily for the better, unless you’re an economist who appreciates businesses that try to pare inefficiencies or a fan who thirsts for knowledge that offers deeper insight into the game and its intricacies. It certainly isn't for the worse, though, and that, sadly, is where the opposition has won over many a traditionalist, arguing not against the merits of new ideas but their inherent newness.
Hernandez went 13-12 this year for the Seattle Mariners. His win-loss record connotes mediocrity, for the ultimate goal in baseball is to win games, and a pitcher who doesn't win games thus isn't much of a pitcher at all. This was the argument against Hernandez's candidacy and for that of David Price(notes) (19-6 and the second-place finisher) and CC Sabathia(notes) (21-7, third place).
Hernandez also led the league in ERA by nearly half a run. He threw more innings than anyone. He finished second in the AL in strikeouts, one behind the leader. He pitched better against the crème de la crème than the league's dregs, even though Seattle fell out of contention by May. He suffered from some of the worst run support in years. This, and plenty more, was the argument for it.
There's not a newfangled statistic in there, not a single mouthful of indecipherable alphabet soup needed to advocate for Hernandez. It's a simple construct that people who educate themselves will understand: Sometimes, a pitcher is capable of being the best at his craft and still not earning victories because of the inadequacy that surrounds him.
On that, everyone here agrees. Other issues do splinter the party, and that's OK. We encourage debate. Most of us aren't trying to brainwash the baseball world into a troop of number-spouting automatons. Unfortunately, just like Chass plays Andy Rooney, some in the sabermetric community can't see past their own arrogant dogmatism to realize those who question the fallibility of some advanced metrics also deserve a voice.
All of that is gone for today at least, because we're too busy dodging flying champagne corks. If last year's Cy Young win for a 16-8 Zack Greinke(notes) represented a paradigm shift in the voting bloc of the Baseball Writers Association of America, this year was a wholesale affirmation the writers want to do right. Next to Hernandez winning the award, the greatest victory was that he received votes on all 28 ballots, a confirmation that voters did their diligence and weren't willfully ignorant like so many of their predecessors.
The seven who didn't give first-place votes to Hernandez were undoubtedly swayed by victories – Price got four and Sabathia three – and even in 50 years, when baseball fans are raised to recognize that win totals don't necessarily correlate with performance, there will remain those who value the statistic anyway. They are free to believe what they believe, so long as their biases don't stand in the way of a rightful coronation.
And though Hernandez's was indeed correct, even he couldn't quite believe it. When informed Thursday afternoon that the award was his, Hernandez said: "I asked one more time: 'Did I win the Cy Young?' "
Then, he said, "I started crying."
A few tears were shed here, too. The long, long drumbeat finally permeated the BBWAA, and now it reaches the masses. Surely there will be plenty on The Light Side who today ask: "How could someone with only 13 victories win the Cy Young Award?"
All we ask is for a chance. Come on in. Take a seat. Have a drink. And stay a while. We've got a good feeling you won't want to leave.