Rookie Of The Year Awards That Almost Didn’t Happen
by Ryan Walton | Posted on Saturday, January 4th, 2014
As the baseball award season came and went for 2013, I started looking at statistics of previous winners of the Rookie of the Year award. However, the year that interested me the most was the year before they won the award. With it being possible in Major League Baseball to play in a season without losing the “rookie” status it occurred to me that there must be years in which a winner came close to losing eligibility for the award in the year before they won it. After looking through the list of past winners I narrowed a list to the top five Rookie of the Year award winners that almost didn’t happen.
Mike Trout -2012
Everyone knows the story over the last two years that Trout has finished second to Miguel Cabrera in the MVP voting in each year. Trout’s rookie season, which won him the award, is one of the best rookie seasons in the history of the game. That could have been different if Trout had eight more at-bats the previous year.
In 2011 the Los Angeles Angels called up their prized prospect just two years removed from high school. In 123 at-bats Trout only hit .220/.281/.390 compared to his .326/.399/.564 in 2012. If Trout had eight more at-bats necessary to be in consideration for the award, Jeremy Hellickson of the Tampa Bay Rays would have still won the award. That would likely mean that Yoenis Cespedes would have won the 2012 award.
Scott Rolen - 1997
Scott Rolen stopped one shy of the requirements as he had 130 at-bats in 1996. With the extra at-bat Rolen would have been just another rookie and the award for 1997 would have gone to one of a group of players without a large number of votes. After Rolen’s 140 points in the voting (All first place votes), there was Livan Hernandez (25 points), Matt Morris (25 points), Rich Loiselle (22 points), and Andruw Jones (15 points).
Johnny Bench - 1968
In 1967 Bench finished five at-bats shy of being a rookie and was nothing to worry about at the plate with a .163 batting average. If Bench had qualified, the 1968 award would be in the hands of Jerry Koosman of the New York Mets. Koosman would have been a back-to-back winner for the Mets with Tom Seaver winning in 1967.
Jon Matlack – 1972
Another good young pitcher for the Mets in the late 60’s and early 70’s, Matlack finished a couple starts shy of being considered a rookie. The 50-inning limit might have been exceeded taking Matlack out of consideration from 1972’s award. In this case the award would have either gone to Dave Rader of the San Francisco Giants (four first place votes) or John Milner of the Mets (one first place vote). Milner might have received more votes than Rader based on numbers.
John Montefusco – 1975
In 1975 Montefusco beat out Gary Carter for the Rookie of the Year honors. Much like Matlack, the award would be different if Montefusco had a couple more starts (11 more innings) in 1974.
There were three other seasons that warranted mention: Jason Jennings (2002 NL ROY), Todd Hollandsworth (1996 NL ROY), and Steve Sax (1982 NL ROY)