2. 2001 Cy Young Race, Mike Mussina vs. Roger Clemens
A little Yankee on Yankee crime here, folks!
Sure, the 2001 Cy Young race isn’t an example of “Yankees bias,” but the fact of the matter is the media defaulted to old-school statistics here right on the verge of the revolution, and crowned a multi-time champion while severely damaging another star’s Hall of Fame case.
It’s no exaggeration to say the vastly superior Mike Mussina losing the 2001 Cy Young to Roger Clemens set his Cooperstown candidacy back several years. We’re lucky he got in at all without the hardware.
Throughout his career, Mussina was tremendously unlucky, often stuck in the right place at the wrong time. He was a five-time All-Star, sure, but that total isn’t hefty enough for one of the most dominant pitchers of the ’90s. He was absolute nails in the 1997 playoffs for an Orioles team that fell to Cleveland in the ALCS, and by the time he became a Bomber and hit the spotlight, the Yankees’ dynasty had wrapped up.
The Cy Young award was, perhaps, his greatest tease of all. Mastering the Steroid Era, Mussina finished fourth twice, fifth three times, sixth three times, and second in 1999 (to Pedro Martinez at the peak of his powers). We’re focused on his fifth-place finish in ’01 simply because it could not be more obvious the voters were wowed by a shocking win-loss record — Clemens’ 20-3 mark, one of the final times W-L would ever hold historical significance again.
Meanwhile, Clemens posted a 3.53 ERA, 5.7 WAR, a 1.257 WHIP and a 128 ERA+. He secured 21 of the 28 first-place votes; Mussina had zero.
In his first year in the Bronx, Moose out-WAR’d his teammate with a ridiculous 7.1 mark, which led all AL pitchers. He put up a superior 3.15 ERA in 228.2 innings, striking out 214 with a 1.067 WHIP and 143 ERA+.
And yet, he went “just” 17-11 and fell behind Freddy Garcia, Mark Mulder, and Jamie Moyer in the lopsided voting. Clemens earned his sixth of seven trophies, and Mussina earned a longer wait for Hall of Fame enshrinement. If this exact race had taken place in 2021, it would’ve been completely reversed.
Clemens was Julio Urías. Mussina was Corbin Burnes.