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11/17/09 2:01 PM EST

CC finishes fourth in AL Cy Young race

Denied honor, Yanks' ace has last laugh with championship

NEW YORK -- Asked to choose between a World Series championship and a Cy Young Award, CC Sabathia would take the title every time.

The newly minted World Series champion, then, couldn't have been too disappointed to learn Tuesday that he placed fourth behind Kansas City's Zack Greinke for the American League Cy Young Award. Sabathia, 28, won his only Cy Young Award in 2007 with the Indians.

Sabathia, who finished 19-8 with a 3.37 ERA and 197 strikeouts, garnered no first-place votes and 13 points in total, trailing Greinke's total of 134 points. Sabathia finished 67 points behind Seattle's Felix Hernandez, who received 80 points to finish a distant second to Greinke.

Sabathia, though, prefers the other accolades this season has bestowed upon him. In his first season since signing a seven-year, $161 million deal to join the Yankees, Sabathia won his first World Series title. He was the ace of the staff, starting Game 1 of all three postseason series and twice leading the Yankees to victory on short rest in the playoffs. For his efforts, Sabathia was named the AL Championship Series MVP.

Postseason statistics do not factor into Cy Young Award voting, however, and so Sabathia had a difficult time swaying the Baseball Writers' Association of America to vote for him over Greinke, who finished 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA and 242 strikeouts. Greinke's candidacy was hurt only by the fact that he played for the Royals, who on four occasions could not earn him a win in games in which Greinke pitched at least seven innings and allowed no more than one run.

Asked in September whom he would vote for, Sabathia said Hernandez -- if only because he had not seen Greinke pitch in person. Greinke entered Tuesday as the odds-on favorite to win the award.

AL Cy Young Award Voting
Player 1st 2nd 3rd Pts
Zack Greinke, KC 25 3 134
Felix Hernandez, SEA 2 23 1 80
Justin Verlander, DET 1 9 14
CC Sabathia, NYY 2 7 13
Roy Halladay, TOR 11 11

One other flaw in Sabathia's resume was the fact that he did not win 20 games. Sitting on 19 with one start remaining, Sabathia served up nine runs (five earned) in 2 2/3 innings to the Rays in easily his worst start of the season.

But five weeks later, he won the World Series, after never before advancing deeper than the ALCS. The loudest laugh, therefore, belonged to Sabathia.

"You don't think about that type of stuff," Sabathia said recently of his personal accolades. "I never did coming up. I just wanted to come out and make it to the big leagues and be successful. I never thought about winning a Cy Young or winning 20 games. I always just wanted to win a championship."

To that end, Sabathia signed one of the biggest contracts in Yankees history and then proceeded to integrate seamlessly into the clubhouse, taking teammates out to Orlando Magic basketball games during Spring Training and falling under the wing of veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte.

Teammates lauded Sabathia's work ethic and clubhouse demeanor as much as they did his fastball and slider.

"The one thing that you can hear about, but I think until you see firsthand, is what type of person he is in the clubhouse," manager Joe Girardi said during the postseason. "I had heard great things, but he's better than what I heard. I've been impressed with his demeanor, the way he treats his teammates, the way he's a team guy, how he comes to work and he's the same every day."

Sabathia, a California native, nearly spurned the Yankees this past December when offers rolled in from his home state. But during the Winter Meetings, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman flew to San Francisco to woo Sabathia, closing a deal with the winter's top free-agent pitcher shortly thereafter.

The Yankees then supplemented Sabathia by signing fellow free-agent starter A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira, both of whom played major roles on the World Series championship team. Burnett won 13 games, and Teixeira is a candidate for the AL MVP award.

But the most significant difference between this Yankees club and the versions that fell short in recent years was the presence of Sabathia, the type of stabilizing power pitcher the team has not employed since the days of Roger Clemens. During one stretch in August and September, Sabathia went 9-0 over 11 starts with a 2.04 ERA, allowing the Yankees to cruise to the AL's best record without much trouble.

"I never knew he was as complete as he was," Burnett said. "He's a confident man. He knows he's giving his team a chance to win, and his team knows that on his day, they have a chance to win."

That includes World Series games. Though Sabathia may not have a second Cy Young Award, he will always have that.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.