The exclusion of Orioles left-hander Zach Britton from the Cy Young Award finalists in the American League struck a nerve with manager Buck Showalter, who didn’t care about his own honor nearly as much as the one that eluded his closer.
Showalter, the Indians’ Terry Francona and the Rangers’ Jeff Banister are finalists for Manager of the Year. Showalter’s night wasn’t made.
“It’s shocking,” Showalter said after Britton was omitted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in favor of three starters - the Indians’ Corey Kluber, the Red Sox’s Rick Porcello and the Tigers’ Justin Verlander.
“That’s a real poor reflection on the people who are evaluating him. God bless the three guys in front of him. They were doing it every fifth day and he’s doing it every day. I’m not so sure any of those guys could do what Zach does.
“This guy had maybe the best year in the history of relief pitching. He should have finished in the top three in MVP, OK? He should. There’s nobody in baseball who’s more valuable to their team than Zach Britton is to the Orioles.”
Britton’s historic season included going 47-for-47 in save chances and posting a 0.54 ERA in 67 innings.
“Where do you think we are without Zach Britton?” said Showalter, who attracted heavy criticism for not using his closer in a wild card game that the Orioles lost to the Blue Jays in 11 innings.
“Do you know how many times we walked into the clubhouse this year we had that feeling of having lost a game in the ninth inning? Not once. The morale on the team, he was so responsible for so many feelings we had on a club that won almost 90 games. I don’t get that people can’t recognize that.
“Home or away, one run, rain, heat, day game, night game, this guy was a rock. It was every day. I sat there in the dugout and watched what was going on.”
Britton took the news in stride, though he obviously had hoped to be considered for an award that’s gone to nine relievers. He must settle for receiving the Mariano Rivera Award as the top reliever in the American League.
“Whether I was a finalist or not, it wasn’t going to change the way I feel about the season I had,” Britton wrote in a text message. “I accomplished a lot of goals I set for myself on a personal level. I figured I wasn’t the safe choice and it was going to be an uphill battle. Obviously, I hope a reliever in the future has a better season than I had and gets recognized for it.”
The BBWAA will reveal its Cy Young winner on Nov. 16 on MLB Network. It’s safe to assume that Showalter won’t be watching.
“What do you think our record is without Zach Britton,” Showalter asked. “You could make a case for him being the Most Valuable Player in the American League this year. He had an historic ERA and he’s not in the top three. Are you (kidding) me? He does it every night. He’s like an everyday player. That’s even more reason. You cannot win without people like him.”
Britton could not convince enough voters that relievers, including ninth-inning specialists, deserve the recognition. There are too many who resist it.
“Whoever is trying to make that point loses a lot of credibility with people who compete on the field every night,” Showalter said.
Showalter has a chance to win his fourth Manager of the Year Award, also taking the honor in 1994 with the Yankees, 2004 with the Rangers and 2014 with the Orioles.
“Usually, it’s which team is perceived as overachieving the most,” Showalter said. “That’s the way those things go. That’s why you don’t see anyone repeat. It’s who surprised the most.”
Note: The Orioles re-signed pitcher Richard Rodriguez, 26, to a minor league deal and assigned him to Triple-A Norfolk.
Rodriguez went 6-2 with a 2.53 ERA this year in 48 games (two starts) with the Tides. He held opponents to a .216 average.