Sunday, October 30, 2005

October 30th, 1975

John Montefusco Wins Rookie of the Year Award

With the 2005 Rookie of the Year Awards due to be announced a week from tomorrow, I thought today would be a good opportunity to look back on the award. Rookie of the Year is funny thing, because it is voted--ostensibly--on the performance of a player that year, rather than their future chances. This often results in votes that appear, with benefit of hindsight and without benefit of context, as absurd. The National League 1975 vote, for example, seems comical. Although John "The Count" Montefusco had an average career as a pitcher (he would finish 90-83, 3.54), the man he beat out is an all-time great, and Class of 2003 Hall of Famer, Gary Carter. But push-come-to-shove, Montefusco was simply a better player in 1975, going 15-9 with a 2.88 ERA. Carter was no slouch himself, he hit .270/.360/.416 while splitting time behind the dish and in the outfield (he wouldn't become a full time catcher until 1977) but "The Count" was simply better.

Blessed with hindsight and ignorant of context, it is almost impossible to find a period longer than three to four years when a vastly inferior player triumphed over a superior one. In 1974 George Brett finished behind Mike Hargrove--who had managed the Indians for three years by the time Brett retired--and Bucky Dent. The National League's 1982 award went to Steve Sax, while another second baseman, Ryne Sandberg (Hall of Fame Class of 2005) languished in ninth place. In 1984, Alvin Davis won the award over both Kirby Puckett and Roger Clemens. In 1995 Marty Cordova won the award but has seen the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and ninth place finishers all emerge as better players than he. All of those awards however, were defensible at worst and correct at best. Something to remember next time you stroll down the list of Rookie of the Year award winners and see names like Bob Hamelin (1994 AL over Manny Ramirez) and Wally Moon (1954, over Ernie Banks and Hank Aaron) on the list.

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