NEW YORK, N.Y.--For Roger Clemens, winning the American League Cy Young Award has become a November habit.
The Boston Red Sox right-hander, who led the league in ERA and strikeouts, collected his third yesterday, easily beating Minnesota's Scott Erickson.
"It can only help me down the road to get to Cooperstown, and that's what I'm working on," Clemens said, looking ahead to his Hall of Fame possibilities. "Three, four or five Cy Youngs got to give you a pretty good knocking on the door. Games with 20 strikeouts don't hurt either, and a couple world championships would help, too."
Clemens, who also won in 1986 and 1987, got 21 first-place votes, four seconds and two thirds for 119 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Clemens, 18-10 this year with a 2.62 ERA and 241 strikeouts, became the fifth three-time Cy Young winner, and the youngest. Only Jim Palmer (1973-75-76) had done it previously in the AL. Steve Carlton won four NL Cy Youngs and Tom Seaver three. Sandy Koufax is the only one to win three Cy Youngs when the award covered both leagues.
"The first was very special," Clemens said in Kapalua, Ha., where he is playing golf. "The second was a challenge because you guys kept reminding me of the jinx."
Erickson, 20-8 with a 3.43 ERA for the World Series champion Minnesota Twins, got three firsts, 12 seconds and five thirds for 56 points.
"I was a little surprised, but I though I'd have a real solid chance," Clemens said. "But 20 games are very meaningful, and Scott Erickson should be proud of that."
Jim Abbott of the California Angels, 18-11 with a 2.89 ERA, was third, with five seconds and 11 thirds for 26 points. Jack Morris of the Twins was fourth with 17 points and Bryan Harvey of the Angels was fifth with 10 points.
For Clemens, 1991 ended much differently from 1990, when he was ejected in Game four of the AL playoffs against Oakland after getting into a verbal altercation with umpire Terry Cooney and bumping umpire Jim Evans. This time, Boston faded in the stretch as Toronto won the AL East title.
Clemens started fast, winning his first six decisions, but had a 3-5 slump after that and was 11-5 at the All-Star break. He was 4-0 in September before losing two October starts.
He led the majors with 271 1-3 innings pitched, won the AL ERA title for the third time in six years and won his second league strikeout title. He had 13 complete games, his most since 1988, and his four shutouts increased his total to 29.
Still, he had better statistics in 1990, when he was 21-6 with a 1.93 ERA but lost the Cy Young to Oakland's Bob Welch, who won 27 games.
"Last year, I felt I had one of my best years, but 27 wins was an awful lot to try and top," Clemens said.
Clemens is the first AL starter to win the Cy Young without at least 20 victories since Pete Vuckovich of Milwaukee in 1982 (18-6). He is the first with 10 or more losses since LaMarr Hoyt of the Chicago White Sox in 1983 (24-10).
Clemens got a $100,000 bonus added to his $2.5 million salary for winning the award