Baseball fans and writers spent months wondering if a dominant pitcher whose team struggled behind him could win the Cy Young Award despite a record hovering around .500.
In the end it wasn’t much to sweat as New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom received 29 of the possible 30 first-place votes on the ballot from the Baseball Writers Association of America. The one vote kept him from becoming the 18th pitcher in history to be named his league’s best in unanimous fashion.
The one writer who blocked the unanimous decision, John Maffei of the San Diego Union-Tribune, was in no mood after Wednesday’s announcement to talk with Steve Somers on WFAN out of New York. It was, in Somers’ own words, “one for the books.”
Maffei hangs up on WFAN almost immediately
Somers, following an intro on deGrom’s season and the award announcement earlier that night, opened the conversation in his joking “Schmooze” style but it didn’t go over well. Maffei voted for the Washington Nationals’ Max Scherzer on his ballot with deGrom in second, as shown on the public BWAA ballots.
“There was one baseball writer, and we have him on the line right now,” Somers said. “John Maffei — not from Washington, where you would think homerism lives and thrives — John Maffei is with the San Diego Union-Tribune. John, can you look at yourself in the mirror.”
“Can I?” Maffei said. “Absolutely.”
“No, no, no, no, you’re looking for 15 minutes of fame and attention,” Somers said.
“Steve, this interview is over,” Maffei answered. “Thank you, goodbye.”
The whole thing, from Maffei’s introduction to hang up, lasted 30 seconds.
Somers wanted his producer to call the writer back to let him know, “We were trying to do a little bit with the tongue in cheek and try to have some fun with him,” while also finding out why he voted for Scherzer. He said the writer didn’t have much patience or tolerance and no sense of humor.
“Incredible. Maybe there’s a New York bias with him,” Somers said. “I mean from the San Diego Union, please, do they even have Major League Baseball in San Diego? God forbid I even suggest something like that with him.”
— Michael Fliegelman (@MFliegelman) November 15, 2018
Why did Maffei vote for Scherzer?
We’d all just like to know. Somers guessed it was the fact deGrom only won 10 games, a byproduct of a truly abysmal Mets offensive showing. He’s the first starting pitcher to win the award with so few wins, and Maffei seems to be of the old-school baseball order in which stats such as win-loss records matter.
A lot of writers take to Twitter to immediately explain their ballots, such as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, or fully explain their choices in writing, such as Ryan Fagan at Sporting News.
Others I looked at closely included Miles Mikolas, Mike Foltynewicz, Zack Greinke, German Marquez, Jameson Taillon and Josh Hader. But my top five was pretty clear at the outset, and didn't change upon closer examination. Like I said, this wasn't a difficult ballot to fill out.
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) November 14, 2018
Probably for the best, but telling nonetheless, Maffei does not have a Twitter account. He also didn’t report much on the San Diego Padres this season, according to some digging by SNY.
[Update: Maffei is all about the win-loss record and despite the Mets doing a good job of “sending out his facts and figures,” he wrote, the guy was still 10-9 because the Mets couldn’t score more than a run in most of his starts. Hey, he says, you know what they say about ifs and buts … you shouldn’t win a Cy Young that way.]
Scherzer, deGrom share top marks
The two pitchers were clearly tops in the National League this season, with each posting major league best marks in different categories.
DeGrom had a higher WAR (8.8 to 7.2) and led the MLB in ERA (1.70), FIP (1.99), xFIP (2.60) and home runs per nine innings (0.4) while pitching under the stress of practically never having a lead.
It’s not that Maffei didn’t have a valid reason for voting Scherzer. He simply should have recognized what he was getting into by calling a New York radio station and Steve Somers.
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