Brandon Webb of the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday won a wide-open race for the National League Cy Young Award, beating out San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman.
One of six pitchers who tied for the league lead with a pedestrian total of 16 wins, Webb received 15 of 32 first-place votes and 103 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Hoffman, who broke the career saves record this season, got 12 first-place votes and 77 points.
Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, last year's winner, finished third with two first-place votes and 63 points.
"All three of us probably were deserving of it and probably a couple more guys, too," Webb said. "I knew that I had a pretty good chance."
Houston's Roy Oswalt, who led the NL with a 2.98 ERA, got the other three first-place tallies and came in fourth with 31 points.
Webb, who went 16-8 with a 3.10 ERA and made his first All-Star team, was listed second on seven ballots and third on seven.
"We were very excited for it," Webb said. "It's with you forever. To have that title go along with you means a lot."
Webb's victory total was the lowest for a starting pitcher who won the Cy Young Award in a full season. The previous low was 17 wins, by Pedro Martínez of the Montreal Expos in 1997 and Randy Johnson for Arizona in '99.
The 37-year-old Acta, a coach with the Mets the past two years, replaces 71-year-old Frank Robinson, who was told during the final week of the season that he wouldn't be back.
The Nationals went 71-91 in 2006, finishing in last place in the NL East for the third consecutive season. New ownership, led by team president Stan Kasten, is overseeing an overhaul of the team in hopes of being competitive when Washington's new stadium opens in 2008.
"We have a very good plan in place here. We're going to do it the right way," Acta said. "We're going to be patient, and we're going to bring a winner here, sooner rather than later."
Acta will lead what could be an inexperienced roster next season, although he does know some Nationals veterans: He worked as Robinson's third base coach with the Expos in Montreal from 2002-04, before the franchise moved to Washington.
Acta agreed to a two-year contract with two one-year club options.