On the last day of August in 1987, Phillies lefty Shane Rawley pitched 8 1/3 innings at Dodger Stadium to improve to 17-6 for the season as his ERA dipped to 3.70. It was the third game in a row that Rawley pitched at least eight innings and it came five days after he got 10 strikeouts and allowed two runs in a complete-game loss.
The truth was Rawley looked very much like the Cy Young Award winner in the National League.
And why not? To that point in the season, Rawley very well might have been the most consistent pitcher in the league. After all, he had lost just twice going back to the middle of June and went 9-1 through July and August with a solid 3.50 ERA. In fact, Rawley even went on Roy Firestone’s interview show, Up Close, for ESPN during the trip to Los Angeles where it was agreed upon that the Cy Young Award was his to lose.
That’s exactly what happened.
Whether it was a curse or an injury or whatever, Rawley didn’t win a game for the rest of the season, going 0-5 in his final seven starts with a 7.82 ERA. Worse, Rawley struck out just 22 and walked 21 over those final seven starts. Four times he didn’t make it past the fifth inning and twice he barely made it into the second frame, including one start where he was pulled after giving up eight runs and four hits in the first inning.
But by that point the Cy Young Award had already escaped Rawley. Seemingly, so too did his career as the left-hander pitched two more seasons, winning just 13 more games.
“The last month of the season I pushed myself,” said Rawley, who these days owns Shaner’s Sports Bar and Pizzeria in Sarasota, Fla. “We started to sputter as a team the last month and I probably tried too hard. I tried too hard to get it.”
As a result, the 1987 Cy Young Award was up for grabs. That’s not at all like it is this year where Roy Halladay won his second Cy Young Award by collecting all 32 first-place votes. On the next-to-last day of August in 2010, Halladay pitched seven innings to fall to 16-10 for the season as his ERA rose to 2.27. The difference between Halladay and Rawley is that this time a Phillies pitcher finished the deal by going 5-0 with 29 strikeouts and four walks in 36 2/3 innings.
Halladay’s Cy Young will be the first by a Phillies pitcher since 1987 when Rawley let it slip away. Instead of the Phillies’ lefty starter taking home the most prized award in pitching, a right-hander reliever got it with the fewest amount of wins in the closest ever voting.
Yes, at 5-3 with 40 saves and a 2.83 ERA in 89 innings, Steve Bedrosian will have the phrase, “Cy Young Award winner” tied to his name. Better yet, Bedrosian capped off a run from 1980 to 1987 where Steve Carlton, John Denny and Bedrock won the award four times.
So how to Bedrosian do it while Rawley could not? Or how come it has taken so long for another Phillie to win it? Moreover, how has winning the Cy Young Award affected Bedrosian’s life now that he has been out of the game for 15 years?
Better yet, how was the zany reliever able to keep his stirrup socks in perfect position every time he took the mound?
Steady as he goes
To start, Bedrosian won it in 1987 because of his uncanny consistency. After all, Rawley was second in the league in wins, finishing just one behind Rick Sutcliffe, who went 18-10 with a 3.68 ERA for the last-place Cubs. In the final voting, Bedrosian slipped past Sutcliffe, 57-55, while Rick Reuschel finished with 54 points finishing third.
Bedrosian probably won it because the BBWAA voters could not give it to Nolan Ryan. Though Ryan led the league in ERA (2.76) and strikeouts (270 in 211 innings), he went 8-16 as a 40-year old for the Astros.
Did Bedrosian win it by default because there were no other standout pitchers in the league? Shoot, he very well might have put together better seasons in 1982 and 1984 with the Braves relying on a hard fastball. Later he was a key pick up for the Giants during their run to the World Series in 1989 and a solid bullpen piece for the World Champion Twins in 1991. In fact, Bedrosian was on the mound for the Giants when they closed out the NLCS in five games against the Cubs in ’89. Considering that the Phillies were 22-40 when they traded him for Terry Mulholland on June 16 of that season, the deal worked out pretty well for Bedrosian.
Everything went pretty well in 1987, too. Sure, some of the stats types have written off Bedrosian’s victory in ’87 as the worst Cy Young Award winner ever, but that’s missing the point. Though the rapidly aging Phillies won 80 games that year, Bedrosian saved exactly half of them. During one stretch he saved a game in 13 straight appearances and, taking away a blown save that turned into a win, Bedrosian went through a 20-game stretch where he saved 19 games and won one.
Back then it seemed as if Bedrosian only went into games where he was in line for a save, and there very well might have been something to that. According to a Sports Illustrated story from the summer of ’87, there were reports that during the saves streak Bedrosian had twice refused to pitch in blowouts to preserve his shot at the record. That wasn’t exactly the case, according to Peter Gammons:
But in fact, manager Lee Elia had called the bullpen to ask Bedrosian if he wanted an inning's work because he hadn't pitched in a few days. Bedrosian said no thanks. “I felt I was pretty much in sync even without having pitched,” he says. “And my job is as a stopper. But heck, I'll pitch anytime.”
Besides, that was a different time. Unlike when Brad Lidge went 41-for-41 in save opportunities, he never pitched more than three outs in any of his 65 games. However, of his 40 saves in ’87, Bedrosian got 22 saves of more than an inning and 15 when he pitched at least two innings. The way it worked for manager Lee Elia was for the Phillies to get the lead by the seventh inning before turning it over to his closer.
Tally it up and Bedrosian went 54 2/3 innings for his 40 saves with a 0.66 ERA in those chances. He also racked up 68 2/3 innings in his 48 save chances that season, holding opponents to a .238 batting average. By contrast, Lidge posted a 1.10 ERA in 41 innings in his 41 saves in 2008.
No, efficiency wasn’t the style in the 1980s. With 89 innings that season, Bedrosian wasn’t even the hardest worked reliever on the staff. Even though the Phillies had four starters pitch from 200 to 229 innings, Kent Tekulve appeared in 90 games for 105 innings. Up-and-comer Mike Jackson went 109 innings in 55 games—not the way they break in 22-year olds these days. Meanwhile, Tom Hume piled on 70 innings in 38 appearances before being released in August, weeks before Rawley tanked.
It worked out for Bedrosian, though. Actually, an All-Star appearance where he memorably tagged out Dave Winfield at the plate in a wild, 3-6-1 double play to keep the game scoreless in the bottom of the ninth, earned Bedrosian a $25,000 bonus. He also got and $100,000 for winning the Rolaids award as the league's No. 1 relief pitcher as well as another $100,000 for the Cy Young. When put on top of his $825,000 salary, Bedrosian got $1,050,000 in 1987 to become the 59th player to earn over $1 million in a season.
He didn’t act like a millionaire in the clubhouse, though. In addition to solid pitching, Bedrosian continued the legacy of oddball Phillies relievers that started with Tug McGraw and was passed down to the likes of Larry Andersen, Roger McDowell, Mitch Williams, Ricky Bottalico and Ryan Madson. He also was a fan of the Three Stooges and was said to have the ability to recite episodes of the show by heart. Still, with 103 saves for the Phillies Bedrosian was the franchise leader until Jose Mesa passed him in 2003, but he likely will hang on to the No. 2 spot until Lidge surges past in 2011.
These days Bedrosian is somewhat affiliated with baseball. As the supervisor of the school board in Coweta County, Georgia, Bedrosian doubles as the assistant coach for the East Coweta High baseball team. That’s the team his son Cameron pitched for before he was the 29th overall pick in the 2010 draft for the Angels.
Interestingly, just as Bedrosian was winding down his career in the big leagues, Cameron’s older brother Cody was diagnosed with leukemia. According to a story in Baseball America, Cody, then just 6, needed a bone-marrow transplant when it was discovered his two-year-old younger brother was a perfect match. Because of this, Cody is cancer free more than 17 years later and Cameron finished his first pro season.
In other words, it’s just fine by Bedrosian if he is finally replaced as “the last Phillies pitcher to win the Cy Young Award” now that Halladay has arrived. Actually, it’s about time.
Keep on closing
Having a long-term, consistent closer is not something the Phillies are known for. In fact, with 103 saves for the franchise in a little more than three seasons, Steve Bedrosian was the franchise leader from 1989 to 2003 when Jose Mesa took the all-time leadership. If Brad Lidge, with 99 saves, can produce a solid 2011 season, he not only will pass Mitch Williams, Bedrosian and Mesa, but also could be the first Phillies’ closer to hold onto the job for four seasons.
1970 – Dick Selma (22 saves)
1971 – Joe Hoerner (9 saves)
1972 – Mac Scarce (4 saves)
1973 – Mac Scarce (12 saves)
1974 – Eddie Watt (6 saves)
1975 – Garber/McGraw (14 saves)
1976 – Ron Reed (14 saves)
1977 – Gene Garber (19 saves)
1978 – Ron Reed (17 saves)
1979 – Tug McGraw (16 saves)
1980 – Tug McGraw (20 saves)
1981 – Tug McGraw (10 saves)
1982 – Ron Reed (14 saves)
1983 – Al Holland (25 saves)
1984 – Al Holland (29 saves)
1985 – Kent Tekulve (14 saves)
1986 – Steve Bedrosian (29 saves)
1987 – Steve Bedrosian (40 saves)
1988 – Steve Bedrosian (28 saves)
1989 – Roger McDowell (19 saves)
1990 – Roger McDowell (22 saves)
1991 – Mitch Williams (30 saves)
1992 – Mitch Williams (29 saves)
1993 – Mitch Williams (43 saves)
1994 – Doug Jones (27 saves)
1995 – Heathcliff Slocumb (32 saves)
1996 – Ricky Bottalico (34 saves)
1997 – Ricky Bottalico (34 saves)
1998 – Mark Leiter (23 saves)
1999 – Wayne Gomes (19 saves)
2000 – Jeff Brantley (23 saves)
2001 – Jose Mesa (42 saves)
2002 – Jose Mesa (45 saves)
2003 – Jose Mesa (23 saves)
2004 – Billy Wagner (21 saves)
2005 – Billy Wagner (38 saves)
2006 – Tom Gordon (34 saves)
2007 – Brett Myers (21 saves)
2008 – Brad Lidge (41 saves)
2009 – Brad Lidge (31 saves)
2010 – Brad Lidge (27 saves)