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How in the world did Phillies reliever Steve Bedrosian win the '87 Cy Young?

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How in the world did Phillies reliever Steve Bedrosian win the '87 Cy Young?

Since the award's conception in 1967, four Phillies hurlers have won the NL Cy Young: Two of them are incredibly obvious and two of them are absurdly not. Any fan who's ever stepped foot inside the Citizens Bank Park gift shop could probably guess Steve Carlton (72, 77, 80, 82) and Roy Halladay (2010), arguably the two best Phillies pitchers of the last 50 years, as the first two. But the next two are not Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Curt Schilling, Jim Bunning, Rick Wise or even Brad Lidge. They are, instead: John Denny in '83, and Steve "Bedrock" Bedrosian in 1987. 

Denny's presence on this esteemed list is surprising but explicable. In his first season with the Phillies after coming over from the Indians, Denny was dominant, going 19-6 with a 2.37 ERA, throwing seven complete games and letting up a staggeringly low nine homers in over 240 innings of work on the season. What's more, he helped lead an aging Phillies squad -- the "Wheeze Kids," you may recall -- to 90 wins and the NL pennant. His K/BB numbers weren't phenomenal, and arm issues robbed him of the chance to ever repeat his dream season, but his profile as a Cy Young winner in '83 was nevertheless a relatively complete one. 

Bedrosian, on the other hand, is both unexpected and not easily understood. Glancing at his stat line from '87, one is given the impression of a highly productive reliever that stops just short of being elite -- a 2.83 ERA with 74 Ks and 28 BBs in 89 innings, and more homers (11) than Denny gave up in '83 with nearly thrice the workload. His calling card on the season was his number of saves: 40, a career high and best in the NL that year, though hardly a record-setting number -- Dennis Eckersley had 45 for the A's the season before. He was hardly the secret sauce to any particular Cinderella Phillies season, either: The team finished 80-82 that year, easily missing the playoffs. 

And yet when the BBWAA convened in 1987 to elect the league's best pitcher that season, it was Bedrosian that they concluded upon. Not that such stats existed at the time, but the reliever's 2.1 WAR that season ranks him the lowest among all winners of the award. So what gives? 

Well, first you have to put it in historical context and remember that award voters were really, really impressed with closers in the 1980s. More strictly regimented reliever usage in the late '70s into the '80s (and the emergence of star closers like Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage) led to closers being used more explicitly in save situations, and racking up gaudy numbers and increased renown that people had never seen before from the role. Consequently, six relievers won the Cy Young in the 13 years between 1977 and 1989, compared to just two in the 28 seasons since. Two of them -- Fingers and Willie Hernandez -- won the MVP, too.

Still, of those six winners, Bedrosian's stats from his winning season are easily the least superficially impressive (aside from the number of saves, anyway) and he did it for a team that finished under .500. And if it was a so-close-so-many-times sort of lifetime achievement award, strange dude to honor: Bedrosian never received another Cy Young vote in any other year before or since. There had to be another explanation. 

Indeed, there was: The competition that year suuuuuuuuuuucked. Bedrosian (57 Cy Young vote points) narrowly edged out the award's 2nd and 3rd place finishers, Rick Sutcliffe of the Chicago Cubs (55 points) and Rick Reuschel of the Pirates and Giants (54), but those guys' profiles were hardly overwhelming: Sutcliffe went 18-10 with a 3.69 ERA and over 100 walks, and Reuschel had an ERA over 4 with the Giants after getting traded mid-season and only 13 Ws on the year, back when that number still really mattered to voters. 

Other potential candidates were similarly unconvincing with their Win-Loss records: Orel Hershiser went 16-16 and Nolan Ryan (who actually led the league in Ks and ERA) went 8-16 for the disappointing Astros. Dwight Gooden missed about 10 games. Bob Welch -- who actually might've had the best resume of all these guys with his 15-9 record, 3.22 ERA and over 250 IP, and definitely the best WAR (7.1) -- was likely overshadowed by presumed staff ace Hershiser. (An L.A. Times article from the time on Bedrosian's win was entirely framed around Hershiser being snubbed, with Welch barely even mentioned as a footnote.) 

Indeed, it seems narrative simply favored Bedrosian at the time. 40 saves was a nice round number, and Steve also had earned the distinction that season of being the first reliever to ever earn saves in 13 consecutive appearances -- not exactly a DiMaggio-like streak, but enough of a hook to hang a Cy Young campaign on. And though the Phillies ended up finishing well outside of the money in the NL that year, they were actually in the race until early September, before a 1-8 stretch essentially doomed the season -- still, close enough for Bedrosian to emerge as an early candidate. Then, of course, there was the super-cool nickname: Bedrock, presumably at least partly inspired by the closer's fabled reliability. Streak + narrative + nickname... plenty of award pushes have been built on less. 

30 years later, Bedrosian may stand as the worst Cy Young winner in the award's history, and he's since been eclipsed in Philly reliever lore (for reasons both good and bad) by Mitch Williams, Brad Lidge, Jonathan Papelbon and maybe a couple others. Nonetheless, he's in the record books for all-time, a rare glittering prize during one of the most ignominious stretches of modern Phillies baseball, and for that, he'll always be remembered -- even as just the answer to a trivia question -- which is better than can be said for most of the late-'80s Phaithful. (Dude, nobody knows who Von Hayes is.)

[baseball card courtesy]

Eagles still better off at QB than Giants

Eagles still better off at QB than Giants

The Eagles may have lost Carson Wentz for the season, but it could be worse. A lot worse. The Eagles could be in the New York Giants’ shoes.

How much better are the Eagles than their loathsome NFC East rival to the north this season? Even with a season-ending injury to an MVP-caliber player under center, the Eagles still look vastly superior to their Week 15 opponent Sunday. In fact, would you even trade their quarterback situation with the Giants?

We try to answer that question and more while we examine whether the Giants do anything better than the Eagles in 2017. Anything at all!

Probably not though.

QUARTERBACKS
Eli Manning may have a couple of Super Bowl rings, and his supporting cast with the Giants is awful, but I can’t understand why there was such a clamoring to have him remain the team’s starter. Their record is 2-11. He’s averaging 6.0 yards per pass attempt this season — only Joe Flacco has been worse. And Manning turns 37 in less than three weeks, so what’s the upside? He looks shot. At least Nick Foles gives the Eagles some hope heading into his 29th birthday. At this stage of their respective careers, you would take Foles, and it’s a no-brainer. Heck, plenty of people would take Davis Webb over Manning.

Advantage: Eagles

RUNNING BACKS
The Giants’ backfield is better than many suspected at the beginning of the season. Of course, turning out marginally better than the worst backfield in the NFL isn’t a huge accomplishment. Orleans Darkwa runs with power, and Wayne Gallman is a nice change of pace when he’s not fumbling the football. Both average better than 4.0 yards per carry. Shane Vereen looks cooked in the third-down role. Of course, the team doesn’t run the ball much, and none of the trio is a home-run hitter of the caliber of Jay Ajayi for the Eagles. Neither Darkwa nor Gallman looks like a better prospect than Corey Clement, either.

Advantage: Eagles

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS
The Eagles have three players with more yards and touchdowns than the Giants’ leading receiver. Alshon Jeffery has 732 yards and eight touchdowns, while Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor both have 663 yards and seven scores. New York’s receiving corps was also decimated by injuries to Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall. Despite the losses, speedy Evan Engram is having an incredible rookie season for a tight end, becoming the primary weapon in the passing attack with 55 catches, 623 yards and six touchdowns. Clearly, Engram’s stellar play hasn’t been enough to compensate. Now wideouts Sterling Shepherd and Roger Lewis are questionable to play Sunday, too.

Distinct advantage: Eagles

OFFENSIVE LINES
The Giants’ best O-lineman, right tackle Justin Pugh, is questionable as well with a back injury and hasn’t suited up in weeks. That’s a problem because their line wasn’t very good to begin with. Left tackle Ereck Flowers has improved as the season has progressed, and isn’t nearly as bad his reputation might suggest. Otherwise, there aren’t many bright spots up front. The Eagles have had their issues. The hope is Stefen Wisniewski can go with an ankle injury, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai has looked beatable in recent weeks. At least their issues are confined to the left side. From center to right tackle, the unit is great.

Advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE LINES AND LINEBACKERS
If games were won and lost on reputation, the Giants’ D-line would be among the scariest units in the league. Damon Harrison, Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon are all All-Pro/Pro Bowl players, yet New York ranks 31st against the run and is tied for 30th in sacks. The stars are not living up to the hype. Surely, it hasn’t helped that roughly all of their linebackers are on injured reserve. The Eagles still rank No. 1 against the run, though they’ve looked a little shaky of late, and are tied for ninth in sacks. Their defensive end rotation with Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Derek Bennett is becoming quite dangerous, with 20.5 sacks between them.

Slight advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Don’t worry, the Giants’ issues on defense aren’t limited to the front seven. The club also ranks 31st against the pass, and unlike so many other areas of the roster, injuries aren’t solely to blame. Janoris Jenkins was hurt all year and eventually landed on IR. For Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple, it’s been a question of effort and will they or won’t they quit on their teammates. Apple has since been benched and left on the inactives list. The Eagles’ secondary has its flaws, but attitude isn’t one of them. They’re also an opportunistic bunch, with three players — Jalen Mills, Rodney McLeod and Patrick Robinson — with three interceptions, and three more with two.

Advantage: Eagles

SPECIAL TEAMS
As bad as the Eagles’ special teams have been for at times this season, the Giants have been worse. Their kicking game stinks — Aldrick Rosas has made only 75.0 percent of field-goal tries. Their coverage units stink, with a blocked punt and a punt return for a touchdown. And their return game stinks, with a 19.4 average on kickoffs and a 5.1 average on punts. We’re going to assume the re-signing of Bryan Braman this week (see story) fixes some of the issues the Eagles have experienced, and they’re back to being one of the top all-around units in the league.

Advantage: Eagles

COACHING
Ben McAdoo had one of the most meteoric rises and falls you will ever see. In a matter of three years, McAdoo was hailed as a genius for reinventing Manning, usurped the head coaching job from Tom Coughlin, and guided the Giants to the playoffs. Eleven months later, he was out of a job. Perennially overrated defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo took over in the interim, so no groundbreaking changes on the sideline for the time being. McAdoo’s timeline might be a cautionary tale for Doug Pederson and the Eagles. As far as this game is concerned, the staff that’s not in the midst of upheaval has the edge.

Distinct advantage: Eagles

OVERALL
There was no shortage of warning signs for New York heading into 2017. Sure, they managed to go 11-5 and make the playoffs a year ago but had not won more than seven games in any of the previous three seasons. I’m not sure anybody saw 2-11 coming, although, with an aging quarterback, shaky offensive line, and no running game, the Giants needed their defense to shoulder the load. Obviously, that didn’t happen. The Eagles have the injury under center, but I’ll take Foles with his roster over the current version of Manning and his crew of flunkies. And I wouldn’t think twice.

Distinct advantage: Eagles

Richaun Holmes' mishap does not end well

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ESPN broadcast

Richaun Holmes' mishap does not end well

You will not find Billy Donovan on the Thunder's injury report after Friday's game against the Sixers.

But Oklahoma City's head coach may be icing down alongside his players or popping a few Advil.

Why?

Donovan took an errant pass straight to his face during the Sixers-Thunder game at the Wells Fargo Center. Richaun Holmes was looking to collect an assist on a JJ Redick jumper, but the Sixers' big man put a little too much mustard on the pass.

The one-handed dish went right to Donovan … who was not ready to catch it, and why would he be? Holmes also just barely missed former Sixers player and head coach, Maurice Cheeks, who is an assistant under Donovan.

At least that was Holmes' only turnover of the game.