If there were a medical component to the criteria for selecting the American League Cy Young Award winner, or a drama component, or even a postseason component, then Curt Schilling of the Boston Red Sox -- with his bloody sock, his stitched-up ankle and his 3-1 playoff record -- might have stood a chance.
But as it was, Schilling stood no chance whatsoever, not against left-handed phenom Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins, who didn't lose a game after July 11 and was a unanimous winner of the Cy Young yesterday, becoming the first Venezuelan to win the award.
"To be honest, this is the greatest thing that ever happened in my country. And I'm not just saying that," Santana said in a conference call with reporters from Caracas, where his countrymen put aside the nation's political strife to celebrate his triumph.
"The important thing is being the first Venezuelan to win this," he said. "It's on national TV. People are forgetting about everything that's going on. They're into baseball. They're enjoying it. That's what we want. We are such a beautiful country."
Santana, 25, put together a second half in 2004 that was downright Koufaxian, going 13-0 with a 1.21 ERA and a .154 opponents' batting average in 15 starts after the all-star break. For the season, he was 20-6 with a 2.61 ERA and 265 strikeouts for the AL Central-champion Twins. Equally amazing, he did not even become a full-time member of the Twins' rotation until the second half of the 2003 season.
"One thing that I want to prove is that this is not just something to happen, that we were just lucky to [win the award]," Santana said. "Now we have to prove why we won this award. I'm looking forward to next season to do that and to keep the Twins in contention."
Santana received all 28 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Schilling, who went 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA for the Red Sox, received 27 second-place votes and one third. New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera received the remaining second-place vote, plus 24 thirds, and finished third in the overall voting.
Santana is the first unanimous Cy Young winner since Arizona's Randy Johnson in 2002 and the first in the American League since Boston's Pedro Martinez in 2000. He is the 18th unanimous winner overall, the seventh in the AL.
"I'm surprised this was a unanimous decision," Santana said. "I thought it would be a real tough race, because Curt has been one of the best, and for me it was an honor to be in this race with him."
Schilling's best work this season came in October, which does not count for award consideration. Despite a torn tendon in his right ankle that required sutures prior to two of his three starts in the AL Championship Series and World Series, Schilling delivered clutch wins against the Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals as the Red Sox ended their 86-year World Series drought.
Schilling, who turns 38 Sunday, remains without a Cy Young award on his resume, having finished runner-up now three times, which equals the records set by Warren Spahn and Johnson.