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Smoltz Finally Enters a Brave Young World

Baseball: Pitcher receives 26 of 28 first-place votes to give Atlanta fifth Cy Young Award in last six years.

November 12, 1996|ROSS NEWHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Atlanta Braves retained the National League's Cy Young Award on Monday. Can they retain the pitcher who won it? If they don't, it will be a bigger surprise than if John Smoltz had not been the near-unanimous choice of a 28-member committee of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America.

Smoltz, 24-8 in his breakthrough season, received 26 first-place votes, two second-place votes and 136 points, based on five for first, three for second and one for third. Kevin Brown, 17-11 with a 1.89 earned-run average for the Florida Marlins, received the two other first-place votes, the 26 other second-place votes and 88 points.

Hideo Nomo of the Dodgers was fourth, finishing behind Andy Benes of the St. Louis Cardinals and ahead of Atlanta's Greg Maddux.

Maddux tied for fifth with relief pitchers Todd Worrell of the Dodgers and Trevor Hoffman of the San Diego Padres.

Maddux had won the league's last four Cy Young Awards, the first with the Chicago Cubs and the last three with the Braves, who have won five of the last six, starting with Tom Glavine's 1991 award. In 1992, the only year the Braves did not win the award, Glavine finished second.

Smoltz, 29, led the majors in victories, strikeouts with 276 and innings pitched with 253 2/3. He is eligible for free agency after making $5.25 million in 1996--plus a $250,000 bonus for winning the Cy Young.

"There's a lot pressure to stay, a lot of pressure from people to do what they consider to be the right thing, which is to stay in Atlanta and keep this dream situation going," Smoltz said on a conference call.

"What I mean by a dream situation is that there aren't supposed to be this many great pitchers on one staff, and while I recognize the business aspect of my situation, I don't like being in a position where I can sink the ship or keep it going. The bottom line is that I want to be in a place where I can win and the team can win, and that's been the formula in Atlanta."

The Braves know their dominance starts with the pitching. They have already picked up an option on Glavine and are expected to pay the price for Smoltz, possibly making him baseball's highest-salaried pitcher at more than $6 million a year.

Although he has always been a big-game performer, Smoltz had operated in the shadow of Maddux and Glavine.

That changed in '96, and Smoltz, who was also 4-1 in postseason play, said he considered it a breakthrough year but not a career year.

"I feel I've become a complete pitcher who can do this every year," he added.

"Some people felt I needed this to be on a par with Greg and Tommy. At least winning the award takes the pressure off that. It feels great, but I sensed that winning it was more important to other people than it was to me. I didn't need it for my ego or resume."

Nevertheless, the award underscores a season in which Smoltz responded to expectations that had long compounded the pressure and haunted a career in which "my competitiveness and stubbornness often affected my development as a pitcher."

Physically and mentally fit in '96, having reached a point where he didn't overreact to every setback, he said, "I did what I felt I was capable of. I lived up to my own expectations."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

(C1) HOW THE AWARD WAS WON

Where John Smoltz ranked in major categories among National League pitchers:

*--*

Catg No. Rnk Leader or Second Wins 24 1st Andy Benes (18) ERA 2.94 4th Kevin Brown (1.89) IP 253 2/3 1st Greg Maddux (245) SO 276 1st Hideo Nomo (234) CG 6 2nd Curt Schilling (8)

*--*

Voting Breakdown

1996 NATIONAL LEAGUE CY YOUNG AWARD VOTING

Voting for the 1996 National League Cy Young Award, with pitchers receiving five points for each first-place vote, three points for second and one point for third:

*--*

Player, Team 1st 2nd 3rd Total John Smoltz, Atlanta 26 2 0 136 Kevin Brown, Florida 2 26 0 88 Andy Benes, St. Louis 0 0 9 9 Hideo Nomo, Dodgers 0 0 5 5 Trevor Hoffman, San Diego 0 0 3 3 Greg Maddux, Atlanta 0 0 3 3 Todd Worrell, Dodgers 0 0 3 3 Denny Neagle, Pittsburgh-Atlanta 0 0 2 2 Jeff Fassero, Montreal 0 0 1 1 Al Leiter, Florida 0 0 1 1 Shane Reynolds, Houston 0 0 1 1

*--*

CY YOUNG AWARD VOTING FOR NATIONAL LEAGUE IN 1990s

The 10 players who have received the most votes in National League Cy Young voting in the 1990s:

*--*

Player, Team Total Greg Maddux, Chi. and Atl. 514 Tom Glavine, Atlanta 267 John Smoltz, Atlanta 136 Doug Drabek, Pitt. and Hou. 123 Kevin Brown, Florida 88 Ramon Martinez, Dodgers 78 Lee Smith, St. Louis 63 Bill Swift, San Francisco 61 Ken Hill, Montreal 56 Pete Schourek, Cincinnati 55

*--*

*

The six teams that have received the most votes in National League Cy Young voting in the 1990s:

Team: Total

Atlanta: 810

Pittsburgh: 146

Chicago: 113

Dodgers: 105

St. Louis: 94

Florida: 90

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