On Nov. 13, Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger were both unanimously selected as the 2017 American and National League Rookies of the Year respectively, a feat that has only been done on three other occasions. Judge set an MLB record for most home runs in a season by a rookie with 52, while Bellinger set a Los Angeles Dodger record with 39. Both finished in the top 10 in their respective MVP votes, with Judge finishing second and Bellinger ninth.
Baseball fans should consider themselves lucky to witness such incredible seasons by two rookies, as we may not see dual performances like this for another decade. With this in mind, let us take a look at the past pairs of unanimous Rookie of the Year winners.
1997: Scott Rolen (PHI) & Nomar Garciaparra (BOS)
A second-round pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1993, Scott Rolen was a young hulking third baseman who possessed power and premier defense. In 81 games in double-A, Rolen batted .343 with 12 home runs and 57 RBIs.
Rolen made his MLB debut in 1996, although his first full season didn’t come until 1997 when he batted .283 with 21 home runs, 92 RBIs, 93 runs scored and 16 stolen bases.
Other National League rookies in his class included Vladimir Guerrero, Andruw Jones and Livan Hernandez, but Rolen still managed to be unanimously selected NL Rookie of the Year. His 1997 campaign was a sign of things to come, as he went on to play 17 seasons in the MLB, making seven All-Star teams, winning eight Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger and one World Series.
You could say expectations out of the gate were high for Nomar Garciaparra, as the Boston Red Sox selected him with the twelfth overall pick in 1994. He had a cup of coffee in the MLB in 1996, although his first full season wasn’t until 1997. A then 23-year-old Garciaprra batted .306 with 30 home runs, 98 RBIs, 122 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. He not only was unanimously selected AL Rookie of the Year, but he placed eighth in the AL MVP vote and was voted an All-Star and Silver Slugger.
Aside from Garciaparra, the American League’s underwhelming 1997 rookie class was headlined by Jose Cruz and Deivi Cruz, Jason Dickson and Mike Cameron. Garciaparra’s career was majorly affected by injuries, although he still managed to bat .313 with 229 home runs and 936 RBIs in his 14-year-career. He most notably won back-to-back AL batting titles, batting .357 and .372 in 1999 and 2000 respectively.
1993: Mike Piazza (LAD) & Tim Salmon (CAL)
Mike Piazza, whose Los Angeles Dodgers rookie home run record of 35 was broken by Bellinger this season, was taken by the Dodgers in the 62nd round of the 1988 MLB draft. It has been said that Piazza was only selected because of head coach Tommy Lasorda’s personal relationship with Piazza’s father, Vince. Whatever the case may be, Piazza is arguably the biggest draft steal in MLB history.
Piazza’s rookie season in 1993 was incredible, as he batted .318 with 35 home runs and 112 RBIs. The 24-year-old finished ninth in the NL MVP vote and was voted an All-Star and Silver Slugger to boot.
No rookies from the NL class of 1993 had a season that could compare with Piazza, although his fellow teammate and rookie, Pedro Martinez, also had a Hall of Fame career. Piazza would go down as the greatest hitting catcher of all-time, batting a career .308 with 427 home runs and 1,335 RBIs.
Tim Salmon, a California born kid, was drafted in the third round of the 1989 draft by the then California Angels. Salmon won the American Minor League Player of the Year Award in 1992, which was also the same season he made his major league debut.
In his official rookie year, Salmon batted .283 with 31 home runs and 95 RBIs, which was good enough to be selected AL Rookie of the Year. Other rookies from his class include Aaron Sele, Jason Bere and Wayne Kirby, so it’s no surprise why Salmon dominated the AL ROY vote.
He went on to play 14 seasons in the MLB, driving in over 1,000 runs along the way, unfortunately falling just one home run short of 300.
1987: Benito Santiago (SD) & Mark McGwire (OAK)
Benito Santiago was signed as an amateur free agent by the San Diego Padres in 1982. His major league debut came in 1986, but his official rookie season came a year later. In 1997, Santiago batted .300 with 18 home runs and 79 RBIs. Pitchers Mike Dunne and Joe Magrane both had very respectable rookie campaigns, but Santiago was the clear choice for ROY in 1987.
His rookie season was the beginning of a 20-year MLB career in which he was considered one of the premier catchers in the National League for nearly a decade. He would go on to make five All-Star appearances, win four Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves and one NLCS MVP.
Mark McGwire, whose rookie home run record of 49 was broken by Judge, was the 10th overall selection in the 1984 draft by the Oakland Athletics. His rookie season came in 1987, where a then 23-year-old McGwire put on a show for the ages, batting .289 with 49 home runs and 118 RBIs. McGwire finished sixth in the American League MVP vote and was selected an All-Star for the first time.
Fellow rookies Kevin Seitzer and Matt Nokes had solid rookie seasons, but McGwire’s was arguably the greatest rookie campaign of all-time up until that point. He went on to have a Hall of Fame caliber career, mashing 583 home runs and 1,414 RBIs. His admitted steroid use will likely keep him out Cooperstown, although the impact he left on the game will never be forgotten.
Featured image by ESPN.com
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