Awards Don't Equal Championship
It’s that time of the year in baseball where arguments for this season’s award winners are being had at stadiums, local bars, and water coolers around the nation. Every baseball fan has their favorite award. The one that they think should be decided with their vote. For me, it’s the Rookie of the Year Award. I’ve always paid more attention to this award over the others. I can even remember trying to collect as many baseball cards as possible of past winners such as Pat Listach and Tim Salmon thinking I was practically hoarding gold pieces of paper that I could one day retire on. Well, if I still had those cards, they’d probably be worth the price of a movie ticket. But, my date would be on her own.
So when I sat down to do some research and give my thoughts on which players should be this year’s winners, I began to read about the history of the award and its past winners. Once I engulfed myself with all of that information, I knew that I had to pass on some of the unique statistics.
There have been at total of 128 ROY awards given out since the award was introduced in 1947. Of those 128, only 14 have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. That’s a mere 10.94%. Granted, some winners, including Justin Verlander, Derek Jeter, and Albert Pujols, are still active and thus cannot be considered for induction yet. But, the fact that less than 11% went on to have stellar careers tells me that just like in distance running, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
The Dodgers, Brooklyn and Los Angeles combined, have the highest numbers of winners with 16 which equals out to 24.62 %. The Yankees and A’s (Philadelphia and Oakland combined) are tied for second in total number of winners with eight. How an organization outperforms the competition in this type of scenario is amazing. Other teams that have been around for decades, such as the Pirates and Astros, have only had one ROY winner each. The Pirates having only one winner is one of the most shocking stats because they had players such as Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and Barry Bonds when they were rookies and none of them won the award. Their one winner was in 2004 and it was Jason Bay. He’s now a New York Met.
The Dodgers had a winner in every decade through the 90s including nine between 1979 and 1996. In that span, they won two World Series and had a total of six postseason appearances. Of those nine winners, five were from 1992-1996 and none of them were World Series winners nor did they even win a postseason game even though they reached the Divison Series in 1995 and 1996. But, they’ve had a dry spell since 1996. In fact, the Dodgers haven’t had a player finish higher than fourth in the voting since 1996. That player was Kaz Ishii and he wasn’t even really a rookie in my opinion since he had made his pro debut in Japan in 1992.
So, while you’re arguing your case for Dustin Ackley or Eric Hosmer as the top American League rookie, remember that winning the award does not equal greatness. It just means that that particular rookie outperformed all of the other rookies this season. It doesn’t mean your team will be a contender this year or next, though Buster Posey, Freddie Freeman, and Craig Kimbrel are making great cases for just the opposite. Winning the Rookie of the Year just means that your team has a great young prospect that is hot out of the gates. What that team does with him will determine the organization’s future because remember, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
By: Jason D. Martin
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