Bret Saberhagen's great 1985 season became even a little better today when he became the first Kansas City Royals pitcher to win the American League Cy Young Award.
Saberhagen, 21, was 20-6 with a 2.87 earned run average in his second major-league season. He had 10 complete games, with one shutout, and struck out 158 in 235 innings. He was named most valuable player in the World Series for pitching two victories.
"This is great for me and great for Kansas City," said Saberhagen, only three years out of high school in southern California.
The right-hander, who had 23 of 28 first-place votes, easily outdistanced New York Yankees left-hander Ron Guidry. Saberhagen, who also received four second-place votes, collected 127 points. Guidry had four first-place votes, 22 for second and two thirds. He finished with 88 points.
"I was definitely surprised. I thought it would be a lot closer than that," Saberhagen said.
Guidry was the only pitcher named on all 28 ballots -- two writers from each of the AL's 14 cities. One writer, Ray Sons of the Chicago Sun-Times, left Saberhagen off his ballot, voting for Bert Blyleven of Cleveland, Dan Quisenberry of Kansas City and Guidry in order.
Blyleven and Quisenberry tied for third with nine points each and a third Kansas City pitcher, Charlie Leibrandt, finished in fifth place with seven points.
Saberhagen was the Royals' ace, leading Kansas City's charge to the AL West title, the American League pennant and World Series. He pitched complete games to win the third and seventh games of the Series, although his postseason achievements did not figure in the voting, which was conducted before the playoffs.
Guidry, who won the award in 1978, was 22-6 with a 3.27 ERA.
Guidry, 35, rebounded from the worst season of his nine-year career -- 10-11 in 1984 -- to help the Yankees finish second in the AL East. He won six of his last seven starts and had a streak of winning 12 straight decisions.
Blyleven, the league's strikeout leader with 206, was a combined 17-16 with a 3.16 ERA for Cleveland and the Twins, to whom he was traded in August. Blyleven had one first-place vote and four for third. Quisenberry had a league-leading 37 saves. Others receiving votes were Doyle Alexander of Toronto, Britt Burns of Chicago, reliever Donnie Moore of California, Toronto's Dave Stieb and Mike Moore of Seattle.
John Schuerholz, Royals general manager, appeared with Saberhagen at a news conference and admitted, "The success we've had this year is almost hard to comprehend.
"None of it would have been possible without a lot of hard working and dedicated players like Bret Saberhagen. We're very proud of him."
Saberhagen said his goals for the season were much more modest than his final achievements. "I was hoping for 14 or 15 victories and an ERA around 3.2," he said. "At the beginning of the year Mark Gubicza (another Royals pitcher) and I were joking about the fact that we had a Cy Young incentive clause in our contract -- that we would get bonus money for winning the Cy Young. Who would have imagined it would have come true for me?"
"That's what we said," Schuerholz said with a laugh.
Second baseman Julio Cruz of the Chicago White Sox makes the highest base salary of any player in the American League West Division, according to published reports.
Cruz, who batted .197, earned $1,242,333 in 1985, according to USA Today. According to the newspaper, Cruz received $300,000 this season, with the remaining $942,333 deferred for at least 10 years.
Other top-salaried AL West players include Reggie Jackson of California, who made $975,000; George Brett of Kansas City, Tom Seaver of Chicago and Carney Lansford of Oakland, all at $900,000; Roy Smalley of Minnesota at $700,000, and Gary Ward of Texas at $675,000.
In addition, Jackson earned $84,000 in attendance bonuses, Brett received a $100,000 signing bonus, and Seaver made an extra $252,000 in various bonuses.