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CBSSports.com Senior Baseball Columnist

Verlander's unanimous Cy Young nod a no-brainer, but can he win MVP?


Will Justin Verlander claim a second award when AL MVP is announced Monday? (Getty Images)  
Will Justin Verlander claim a second award when AL MVP is announced Monday? (Getty Images)  

That the vote was unanimous isn't enough.

The season Justin Verlander had? There should be some higher plane than unanimous. Like the way high school honors courses can lead to grade point averages beyond 4.0. That was Verlander in 2011. Way beyond A+. Baseball's Honor Roll Award Winner.

This was a no-brainer in the way that next week's AL MVP award is not. The plane higher than unanimous for Verlander in this Cy Young vote is actually next week's vote.

Can he win it?

Should he win it?

"Do I think it's possible? Yes," Verlander said on a conference call Tuesday roughly an hour after the Cy Young results were announced. "Would I like to win it? Of course.

More on Verlander

"For example, if you told me at the beginning of the year that I would be a shoo-in for the Cy Young, I'd be ecstatic. Amazed. All of the adjectives. I never thought of the MVP until now.

"It's a weird scenario. Since the end of the season, everyone's been saying the Cy Young is wrapped up. You can't believe that. ... But it allows you to think about what if? What if I win the MVP award?

"But you know what? I've got the Cy Young now. It's an unbelievable experience. I feel great now that it's announced."

And he's not going to let thoughts of next week's MVP award, or even the thought of not winning it, detract from his enjoyment of the right-now.

"It's something I've always dreamed of," said the man who grew up idolizing Nolan Ryan.

Which caused a chuckle when he was informed that Ryan, author of a record seven no-hitters, never won a Cy Young award.

"Maybe there's one thing I can do that he didn't accomplish," Verlander said, the awe clearly evident in his voice.

Explaining Verlander's 2011-- which included his second career no-hitter -- is like describing the sun in the summer or a Christmas tree in December. Brilliant. Sparkling. Often, breathtaking.

He won the AL Triple Crown, leading the league in victories (24), ERA (2.40) and strikeouts (250). No AL pitcher threw more innings than Verlander's 251. Nobody handcuffed opposing hitters to a lower batting average (.192). Nobody compiled a lower WHIP (0.92), and nobody in baseball threw more pitches (3,941).

Only St. Louis' Chris Carpenter (996), the Yankees' CC Sabathia (985) and Tampa Bay's James Shields (975) faced more hitters than Verlander (969).

The combination of workhorse + results was unbeatable.

Mix in Verlander's white-hot desire and you have the makings of a pitcher who well might be on the launching pad toward all-timer.

This is a guy who has openly talked of trying to pitch more no-hitters than Ryan. His very publicly stated goal is to become a Hall of Famer.

So it was only natural to ask, an hour after he won his first Cy Young award, when he begins thinking about winning a second.

"Immediately?" Verlander quipped. "I've worked extremely hard for this. You guys know how competitive I am.

"Looking at the big picture, it would be nice to win some more. Right now, I'm happy where I'm at."

Verlander is the first Tiger to win the Cy Young award since closer Willie Hernandez in 1984 -- the longest drought by any team in the AL, incidentally.

Surely, it is lost on nobody that Hernandez doubled his and the Tigers' pleasure in '84 in winning the MVP award, too.

Yes, Verlander argues -- correctly -- that pitchers should be candidates to win the MVP award, too.

"We are players," he said, before offering a couple of solid arguments of his own.

One, the "tremendous effect" on the team the day they pitch.

"If we have a bad day, 99 percent of the time, we lose," he said. "If we have a good day, 85 or 90 percent of the time we'll win. Look, if a position player hits three home runs, we still could lose 3-5."

Two, he said, "we can save the bullpen the day before we pitch, the day after and the day of. That's three days."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland spoke on that topic over the summer. He absolutely managed his bullpen differently on those three days, because Verlander allowed him that luxury.

Lastly, Verlander noted the tilt toward sabermetrics in Cy Young voting in recent years, a case in point being Seattle's Felix Hernandez winning the award last year despite a middling 13-12 record (my example, not Verlander's).

"It's not the most valuable pitcher -- it's the best statistical pitcher now," Verlander said. "That's a totally different thing. I think it should bolster" the MVP candidacy of a pitcher like, well, himself on the heels of such a dominant summer.

Should he win the award? I think the answer is yes, as I wrote here in September.

If he doesn't win, he said, he hopes good friend, ex-teammate and current Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson does.

But while Granderson is measured against peers like Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury, the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, the Yankees' Robinson Cano and Toronto's Jose Bautista, Verlander is in a category unto himself. No starting pitcher has won an MVP award since Roger Clemens in 1986. No Tigers starting pitcher has won it since Denny McLain earned both the Cy Young and MVP in 1968 (McLain won a second consecutive Cy in 1969).

"One thing I have going for me is I'm so different because I'm a pitcher," Verlander said. "Everybody else has some flaws.

"Maybe I can sneak in the back door. Who knows?"

We'll know on Monday.


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