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We're #1! We're #1! [Well, Brandon Webb is, anyway]

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To be honest, I'd forgotten entirely that today was the big day - even if we are currently #1 in Google for 'Brandon Webb Cy Young'. Though in mitigation, two days into my new job, I didn't feel surfing the net looking for baseball stuff was quite the way to make a good first impression, so didn't know anything about this until I got home. It's going well so far: looks to have a lot of new stuff to learn, which suits me. I like knowledge: it amuses me. :-) However, while I'm training, my shifts don't synch up with Mrs. SnakePit, and I'm taking the bus, which is an interesting exercise: there's something elegantly surreal about sitting on a bus as it glides through the Phoenix cityscape, listening to my iPod and reading William Gibson's Neuromancer.

Do have to say, the $1.25 fare is excellent value for a good 20-30 mile journey, all the way from downtown to near Paradise Valley Mall. It's also convenient, in that the service in question doesn't require any changing of buses, and stops only about five minutes walk from here - this might come in very useful next baseball season: we could get to enjoy a drink or two then get "chauffeured" home. On the other hand, be nice if the route didn't meander about quite so much (it takes more than twice as long as driving the direct way), and the frequency is a lot less than I used to get in London: I just missed one tonight, and had to wait thirty minutes for the next.

But enough about me, because tonight is all about our ace pitcher, Brandon Webb, who managed to overcome a lot of doubts - not least in my heart - to win the 2006 National League Cy Young award. He started off the season brilliantly: over the first two months, he went 8-0 in 12 starts, with a 2.01 ERA. From there on, he was alternately awful and brilliant, going 0-3 with an ERA north of five in June, then 4-1, 2.45 in July. August saw some elbow problems and the ERA back above five, but it was down to 2.23 for September, before an awful outing in the final game of the season.

Fortunately, the voters remembered the lights-out Webb from earlier on, rather than the one who after the All-Star Break was only 7-5, posting a nondescript 3.76 ERA. Webb tied for the league lead in wins with five other pitchers, who all had sixteen, and was only third in ERA. That's both the fewest wins and highest ERA ever by any winning pitcher over a full season in the National League. [A few American League pitchers have had higher ERA's, most recently Bartolo Colon's 3.48 last year - Roger Clemens holds the all-time record, with a 3.51 for the Yankees in 2001].

I think voters were impressed by the fact that Webb pitched in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in all of baseball, and did well both there and on the road. His nearest rival as a starter, Chris Carpenter, was pretty poor outside of St. Louis, and faced much weaker opposition than Webb. Trevor Hoffman, while solid (and also breaking the career saves record) is a closer, which seemed to repulse a number of voters. Webb appeared somewhere on over 90% of the ballots cast, while more than a quarter saw fit to drop Hoffman from their selections entirely. I'm with them on that: giving the Cy Young to a reliever is like giving the MVP to a pinch-hitter. You have to be really good - basically, perfect, like the last closer to win it, Eric Gagne. Hoffman simply wasn't that outstanding.

For winning the Cy Young Award, the buyout of Webb's $8.5m option in 2010 doubles from $500K to a million. But the real cost will likely come during contract negotiations for an extension beyond that; glad we'd already locked him in before this season! Still, the bitching has already started over the results from disgruntled supporters of other pitchers - and you probably do not want to visit Viva El Birdos to see what the take is from the Carpenter-fan side of balloting... No matter: after being robbed for the Rookie of the Year in 2003, this has to be extra sweet, to take the top prize for pitchers only three years later. And number of votes for Dontrelle Willis? Nil. :-)

Well, ESPN were right: the Red Sox did indeed win the Matsuzaka bidding, though the amount they had to pay was even higher than that reported. Somewhere between $42m and $50m, simply to talk to Matsuzaka? Ouch. Add on about $12m/year for the actual contract, and that means they will end up paying around $95m for four years. Obviously, it's in their interest, financially, to make the contract as long as possible, since that way the posting cost will, effectively, be spread over many seasons. But do you really want to sign an entirely unproven quantity to something like A-Rod's decade-long deal, or Helton's nine-year contract? Rather them than Arizona, let's just say.

The Diamondbacks announced the full details of their seat prices for next year. Quick sigh of relief here, as our season tickets remain the same price, $31. It looks like the main change is to increase the value of season-ticket packages, by increasing the cost difference when these are purchased on a single-game basis. For example, those $31 tickets would cost you $50 or $55, depending on things like the opponent and day of the week, if bought for a single game. As a result, some seats can be more than twice as much as season-ticket prices: the infield reserve goes from $8 to as high as $20.

It's a significant change, because if I remember correctly, not so long ago, a season-ticket saved you little or no money over individual ticket purchases. I think the impact of this will likely be to propel more people into clubbing together as we do, to get a couple of packages, and splitting the cost, or even buying packages and selling off the excess tickets themselves. It'll be interesting to see whether getting a chance to watch the reigning Cy Young award-winner pitch, will be a boost to sales. If I was the D-backs, I would certainly be planning my winter advertising around that as a concept.