3 Yankees who got completely ripped off in recent awards races
By Adam Weinrib
You think “Yankees bias” doesn’t exist, huh? Maybe not among the game’s GMs, who have a job to do, but it’s all too real in the writers’ community.
You know why? This may sound shocking, but many people do not like the New York Yankees, and when writing about the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers or A’s, they see very little reason to hide that distaste on a daily basis.
And when it comes time to vote for the league’s award winners at the end of the year, why would they simply pack that bias away? They wouldn’t! They still hate us.
That’s how you get results that, on the surface, look like the writers actively tried to snub deserving Yankees in favor of rewarding “the little guy,” simply for doing exceptional baseball things in a city that is not New York. Problem is, if you do it year after year, the Yankees start to become the little guy.
You see this all the time in the MVP race. “Of course he was great. He’s a Yankee! They’re always great. So what about this Twin?” And so on, and so forth.
Are there real-world problems that MLB awards voting injustices ultimately pale in comparison to? Oh, you betcha! Don’t make that comparison on an empty stomach. They’ll be pale-ing all over the place.
But, as a Yankee fan, it can be quite frustrating to see Gerrit Cole and Robbie Ray as the top two objective favorites to take home the 2021 Cy Young and know, deep in your heart, that despite both men ending the season with disaster starts, Ray was totally going to get the honor. Why? Because he wasn’t expected to be great this year, and Cole was. Because he delivered a surprise, and Cole delivered the norm, even though Cole’s numbers all out-paced his.
And, most of all, because Cole’s a Yankee, Ray was a Jay, Jays are interesting, and Yankees are boring (even as New York’s World Series drought ticks 12 years and counting).
In our estimation, these three recent major awards races were much worse than Ray over Cole — and yes, there’s a twist in No. 2.
3 MLB Awards races where the Yankees got completely ripped off.
3. 2006 MVP Race, Derek Jeter vs. Justin Morneau
We wouldn’t be quite so angry about this one if “Jeter never won an MVP!” wasn’t so crucial to the haters’ case against his Hall of Fame candidacy.
Counterpoint: He should’ve! But the voters decided giving Justin Morneau one was more important than dropping one on Jeter’s resumé.
Jeter’s 2006 might’ve been his finest all-around season, and ended up being the closest he got to MVP honors; his second-place finish outpaced two third-place marks in 1998 and 2009. We’re also not sure how he finished sixth in the 1999 voting with a career-high 153 OPS+ and 8.0 WAR (more than any candidate but the deserved victor Pedro Martinez), beating the winner Pudge Rodriguez by 1.6. But, hey, Nomar finished seventh that year, and I guess that’s all that really matters.
In ’06, Jeter technically got out-WAR’d by Big Papi, who finished in third place behind him in the year-end tally (see, this is a fair and balanced article). It’s clear the voters ignored the DH’s 54 home runs, though, and boiled their decision down to Jeter and Morneau (Johan Santana, Carlos Guillen and Grady Sizemore had ’em both beat, but this isn’t the WAR Award).
- Jeter: 14 homers, 97 RBI, 34 stolen bases, .343/.417/.483, .900 OPS, 5.6 WAR
- Morneau: 34 homers, 130 RBI (ooh, big man), .321/.375/.559, .934 OPS, 4.3 WAR
And yet, the Twins slugger took it, 15 first-place votes to 12.
If home runs mattered so much, why not Papi? If team success mattered, why not Jeter? The Yankees edged the Twins out by a win, and both teams got bounced in the ALDS.
Hell, Morneau got out-WAR’d by two teammates with stronger cases in Santana and Joe Mauer, who also eclipsed Jeter.
This debate is tough to examine with an unbiased eye, since it was the most obvious case where Jeter should’ve come out on top. In the eyes of the voters, it came down to Jeet and a lesser candidate, and he didn’t prevail.
Of course, all sorts of people also could’ve snuck up behind him and snagged the award — but the voters saw it as a two-man race, and they picked the wrong guy.
Was Jeter penalized for having already played on more successful teams than the ’06 Yankees from 1996-2001? Did his consistent excellence feel old hat by then, even as his numbers peaked? We’ll never know why the narrative swung away from him, but he never did earn MVP honors.
Probably for the best, though. Jeter was never much of an “individual accolades” guy anyway.