Felix wins Players Choice honor; is Cy Young next?

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Seattle MarinersMariners ace Felix Hernandez was voted the American League’s Outstanding Pitcher and teammate Chris Young was voted the league’s Comeback Player by their peers as the 2014 Players Choice Awards were presented Monday night on the MLB Network.

Hernandez topped fellow finalists Corey Kluber of the Indians and Chris Sale of the White Sox in what could be a precursor of the AL Cy Young Award voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America that will be announced Nov. 12.

In the 20 previous years since the Players Choice Awards began, the AL’s Outstanding Pitcher went on to win the Cy Young in 18 of those seasons. Hernandez was one of the exceptions when he won the 2010 Cy Young after David Price of the Rays was voted the Players Choice winner. In 1994, the first year of the Players Choice Awards, Jimmy Key of the Yankees won AL Outstanding Pitcher honors, but Kansas City’s David Cone took home the Cy Young.

The Cy Young vote has already taken place as two baseball writers from each AL city voted at the end of the regular season. Players Choice voting also took place during the regular season, with players polled on Sept. 16 in balloting supervised by the accounting firm KPMG.

These were the first Players Choice Awards for a Mariners player since Ichiro Suzuki was selected as the AL Outstanding Player in 2004.

“It is an honor to be selected by the players. It’s an amazing feeling,” Hernandez said. “There are a lot of great pitchers out there and to be selected as the outstanding pitcher in the American League means a lot to me.”

Hernandez put together his best season yet in the Majors as the 10-year veteran went 15-6 with a league-leading 2.14 ERA and a career-best 248 strikeouts in 236 innings over 34 starts. Hernandez led the AL in WHIP at 0.915 and set a Major League record with 16 straight midseason starts of seven or more innings with two or less runs allowed.

“My mentality is always to go out there and do my thing and go deep in the game,” Hernandez said. “Every time I go out there, I’m just trying to win every game.”

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red SoxYoung earned his second Comeback Player of the Year honor, having already been named The Sporting News winner in the same category. He’ll have a chance for a clean sweep when Major League Baseball presents its own Comeback Player Award this Friday.

Young beat out fellow Comeback finalists J.D Martinez and Victor Martinez of the Tigers for his award, with players recognizing his big bounceback season. After not pitching in the Majors in 2013 and being released by the Nationals just a few days before the start of the regular season, the 35-year-old Young signed with Seattle and went 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA in 30 games (29 starts) and helped further solidify a pitching staff that led the AL in ERA.

“As Major League players, we all understand how hard this game is and what we go through to play,” Young said. “Certainly to experience injuries and have to battle that, the game is hard enough when you’re healthy, much less when you’re not. So to have the respect of my peers and be voted, there’s so many worthy candidates, I’m extremely humbled and honored.”

The Major League Baseball Players Trust donates $20,000 grants to the charity of choice for each winner. Hernandez selected Make-A-Wish as his charity, while Young designated Seattle-based programs on DonorsChoose.org, a national group funding public school projects and technology. The Mariners will also make donations to Make-A-Wish and DonorsChoose.org in Hernandez and Young’s names.

“I think it’s great to give back to the city in which I played as a thank you to the fans, the community and the organization for the opportunity they gave me,” said Young, a Princeton graduate who is now a free agent after playing last season on a one-year deal with Seattle.

The other AL awards went to Angels outfielder Mike Trout (Outstanding Player) and White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (Outstanding Rookie).

NL winners were Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom (Outstanding Rookie), Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw (Outstanding Pitcher), Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee (Comeback Player) and Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton (Outstanding Player).

Kershaw also won the two honors that are open to players from both leagues — the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award and 2014 Player of the Year.

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