Detroit -- Former Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones had spent the better part of his day hunting deer, but he made sure he got back to the cabin in time for the Cy Young Award show. Why wouldn't he?
Two of his former pitchers won and another, arguably, got robbed.
Former Tiger Max Scherzer, whom Jones in 2010 sent back to Triple A Toledo to make what proved to be a career-changing mechanical adjustment, won the National League Cy Young Award.
And, by a slim margin of five points, former Tiger Rick Porcello edged Justin Verlander for the American League Cy Young Award.
“Absolutely thrilled for all of them,” Jones said. “I am happy for Ver, too. He got a lot of first place votes; he could just as easily have won.”
That will be the main talking point from this. Verlander had 14 first-place votes, to eight for Porcello. But Porcello got 18 second-place votes and two Tampa-based, Baseball Writers Association of America voters left Verlander off the ballot.
Thus, Porcello, who posted a 22-4 record with a 3.15 ERA and a 5.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the Red Sox, won by a total of 137 to 132. Verlander, who in 2012 finished second in the balloting by four points to David Price, led American League starters in strikeouts (254), WHIP (1.00), opponent’s batting average (.207), pitchers WAR (6.6) and WAR (5.2).
Jones, though, said the balloting shouldn't detract from Porcello's brilliant season.
“When Ricky was wiping tears from his eyes, I was wiping tears from mine,” Jones said.
Porcello, drafted by the Tigers in the first round in 2007, made his big league debut as a 20-year-old in 2009 and wound up that year pitching in the heartbreaking loss to the Twins in game 163.
He and Jones went through a lot of growing pains in six seasons in Detroit, but Jones never doubted Porcello would become a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.
“I told him when we talked this year, ‘I knew you had it in you,’” Jones said. “I used to tell him that all the time. He had a phenomenal year. He had good run support, too (7.63 runs per game). That’s a huge part of it. If Justin had the same support, he might be sitting there with the award, too.”
Jones retired after the 2015 season and he spent last year as a special assistant and consultant for both general manager Al Avila and manager Brad Ausmus. But if he was ever looking for validation of his 20-plus years coaching in the Tigers’ organization, it came Wednesday night.
“Anytime a guy is successful, even though it’s their success, you still have a sense of pride,” he said. “You are happy. I don’t feel I got them to this point. They got themselves to this point. But anytime you are with a guy day in and day out, working with them — I mean, I am just so happy to see them have this success.
“Ricky is such a good kid and he’s worked so hard at it. All three of those guys did. They all worked so hard, they all wanted to get so much better. Obviously, Max and Ver, they had already won a Cy Young. And I could see Ricky winning one down the road. I just didn’t think it’d be this soon.”
Porcello, as Jones alluded to, was extremely emotional when he got the news. He was with his parents, brothers, friends and his agent at his father’s home in New Jersey and the place erupted when his name was called.
“I can’t put into words how special that was for me,” he said in a national teleconference. “Very emotional. It was all I could do not to start bawling right on the spot. Just an unbelievable feeling.”
He congratulated both Verlander and Scherzer.
“Justin had a great year,” he said. “I learned a lot from him from playing with him in Detroit. I wish him well in the future. And big congratulations to Max on winning his second one. I sent him a text.
“This is a very nice night; something I will never forget.”
Porcello also thanked Jones.
“I hope it’s a proud moment for him," he said, "because he had so much to do with it.”
Scherzer, who has now won a Cy Young Award in each league, talked about the Detroit days, as well.
“Honestly, I think all three of us being in the race show what we had over those five years,” he said. “We all looked out for each other and tried to make each other better.”
Verlander, who was vacationing in Rome Wednesday night, was not immediately available for comment. His fiancé, actress-model Kate Upton was, though.
On Twitter, she first posted, “Hey MLB, I thought I was the only person allowed to ... Justin Verlander. What? Two writers didn’t have him on the ballot.”
And then she posted: “He had the majority of 1st place votes and 2 writers didn't have him on their ballots?!! can you pick more out of touch people to vote?”
The two Tampa writers who left Verlander off their ballot were Fred Goodall of the Associated Press and Bill Chastain of MLB.com.
Goodall’s ballot: 1. Porcello, 2. Corey Kluber, 3. J.A. Happ, 4. Zach Britton, 5. Aaron Sanchez.
Chastain’s ballot: 1. Porcello, 2. Britton, 3. Kluber, 4. Chris Sale, 5. Masahiro Tanaka.