It´s been 18 years since the New York Yankees have had a Rookie of the Year winner, when Derek Jeter won in 1996. Could 2014 be the year that ends the draught?
With Masahiro Tanaka near the top of the American League in all the pitching categories, and Yangervis Solarte showing that his hot spring and quick start were not a fluke, the real battle for the award could come down to which Yankee wins it.
And their statistics are right in line with the Yankees previous Rookie of the Year winners. Solarte is at .312 with five home runs and 24 RBI as of this writing. So a .300 season with 20 or more homers and 100 RBI is not unreasonable.
In 1951 Gil McDougald won the award by hitting .306. Tony Kubek won in 1957 at .297. Tom Tresh hit .286 with 20 home runs and 96 RBI in 1962. Thurman Munson hit .302 in 1970 and Jeter batted .314 in 1996.
Now I hear you, those were different times. But the ¨post steroid era¨ has seen offensive statistics come back down to earth. So even if there still are players enhancing their performance, modern day numbers in all actuality do compare to the days of natural achievement.
And if you are of the school of thinking that pitchers are unofficially eliminated because they don´t play every day, consider that three of the Yankees winners have been pitchers. Bob Grim won 20 games in 1954. Stan Bahnsen won 17 in 1968 with an ERA of 2.05, and Dave Righetti also had an ERA of 2.05 in 1981. Of course, Rags went on to become one of the league´s top relief pitchers, winning The Relief Man Award in 1986 and 1987 and also setting the at-the-time single-season record for saves with 46.
So Tanaka´s chances of running the table and winning the Rookie of The Year, The Cy Young and The MVP are realistic. Don Newcombe of the Brooklyn Dodgers is the only pitcher to win all three, and those did not come in the same year.
The top challenger to Solarte and Tanaka so far appears to be Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, who has 15 homers and 42 RBI as of this writing. Abreu is now out with an ankle injury and will miss this week’s Yankees/White Sox tilt from U.S. Cellular, and Tanaka pitched Tuesday night in the Friendly Confines.
So it has been 18 years. But think of it this way, in that stretch the Yankees have won five World Series. So if history does repeat itself, a Yankee winner in 2014 could signal the start of the next dynasty.