Baseball

Verlander is MVP, but not all think so

Detroit’s Justin Verlander figured he didn’t become the first starting pitcher in a quarter-century to be voted Most Valuable Player when he didn’t hear from officials about the award.

“I had told myself that it wasn’t going to happen,” he said. “I figured somebody else got the call.”

Not to worry, there was just a slight delay because Verlander didn’t give the Baseball Writers’ Association of America his telephone number, so the BBWAA had to relay the news through Brian Britten, the Tigers’ director of media relations.

“It was just a weight off my shoulders,” Verlander said, “and pure elation, really.”

After winning the American League’s pitching triple crown by going 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts, Verlander received 13 out of 28 first-place votes and 280 points for MVP. He became the first pitcher voted MVP since Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley in 1992 and the first starting pitcher since Boston’s Roger Clemens in 1986.

Boston center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was second with four firsts and 242 points, followed by Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista with five firsts and 231 points, Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson with 215 and Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera with 193.

“Not even in my wildest dreams had I thought of this,” Verlander said. “I want to say this is a dream come true. I can’t say that because my dream had already had come true … to win a Cy Young. And the next dream is to win a World Series. This wasn’t even on my radar until the talk started. And then all of a sudden it was a this-could-actually-happen type of thing.”

Verlander had the most wins in the major leagues since Oakland’s Bob Welch went 27-6 in 1990. Verlander pitched his second career no-hitter at Toronto on May 7. His season reopened debate over whether pitchers can be MVPs.

Verlander, the 2006 AL rookie of the year, joined the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Don Newcombe as the only players to win all three major awards in their careers.

Verlander appeared on 27 ballots, getting omitted by Jim Ingraham of The Herald-News in Ohio, who voted Bautista first. Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal voted Verlander eighth.

Ingraham said he doesn’t think pitchers should be eligible.

“I’d wrestled with this for a long time. If I was ever going to vote for pitcher for MVP, it would be him this year,” Ingraham said. “He hasn’t appeared in 79 percent of their games, any starting pitcher really doesn’t appear in 79 percent of his team’s games in a year.

“Would you vote for an NFL quarterback for MVP if he only appeared in three of his team’s 16 games, which would be 21 percent? So that’s part of it.”

Other pitchers to win MVP and Cy Young in the same year are Newcombe (1956), Los Angeles’ Sandy Koufax (1963), St. Louis’ Bob Gibson and Detroit’s Denny McLain (1968), Oakland’s Vida Blue (1971), Milwaukee’s Rollie Fingers (1981) and Detroit’s Willie Hernandez (1984).

SHORT HOPS

Major League Baseball and its players’ association called a news conference for today to announce a new labor contract. … The Texas Rangers agreed to terms with reliever Joe Nathan, who missed last season after having Tommy John surgery, on a two-year contract worth $14.5 million plus a buyout. Closer Neftali Feliz will move into the rotation, something the club has already informed him about. … Former Rangers and Mets manager Bobby Valentine formally interviewed for Boston’s managerial position. The team told Sandy Alomar Jr. he is no longer in the running for the job. … Shortstop Clint Barmes agreed to a two-year, $10.5 million contract to join Pittsburgh, reuniting him with manager Clint Hurdle, who was his manager with Colorado.

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