Gio Gonzalez’s first season in Washington was filled with milestones and moments of dominance but in a year with several worthy contenders, the left-hander finished third in the National League Cy Young voting Wednesday night. Mets’ knuckleballer R.A. Dickey won the award.
Gonzalez was voted first by just one member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, appearing in the top spot on the ballot of Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post, and was just edged out of second place by three points to Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw. Gonzalez was most-often voted second behind Dickey, who got 27 first-place votes.
Falling short for the postseason award likely didn’t sour Gonzalez’s terrific first season in Washington. After the Nationals sent four of their best prospects to Oakland last December to acquire them, Gonzalez felt he had a lot to live up to, wanting to make the price for him a worthwhile one.
A major league-leading 21 victories, a 2.89 ERA and fewer than seven hits per nine innings allowed was their reward as Gonzalez stepped into the heat of a pennant race and the attention around the Stephen Strasburg shutdown and thrived. He brought his walk rate down and continued to strikeout hitters at a feverish pace with his power fastball and what many feel might be the best left-handed breaking ball in the game.
“It’s been great,” Gonzalez said of his time since the trade to D.C. in an interview on MLBNetwork before the announcement of the award. “What (Nationals general manager Mike) Rizzo did for me and what the Lerner family did for me, giving me a chance to play for a different team and a different city, it was unbelievable. It’s been a beautiful year.”
Gonzalez was the first Nationals finalist not to take home their respective award after Bryce Harper was named the Rookie of the Year and manager Davey Johnson the Manager of the Year earlier this week.
But he fell short in a historic vote. Dickey’s story has been well-documented to this point but it is one of extreme perseverance and the ability to control a pitch that not too many have been able to master. The 38-year-old became the first knuckleballer ever to win the award.
“It’s a real honor,” Dickey said on the MLBNetwork awards show. “Obviously being mentioned in the same breath as some of the greatest pitchers, not only in history but this year. I mean, Clayton and Gio were both just supernatural in the way that they performed.
“I’ve had to hit against them both and it is ridiculous trying to pick up the ball on those guys. They give everybody fits. So just being mentioned in the same breath as those guys was the real honor.”
Any letdown over Gonzalez not taking home the award could likely be placated with the knowledge that he will be a member of the Nationals’ rotation for years to come and an integral part of an already-formidable starting corps.