Chet's Corner: A Look Back – Rookie of the Year
While I sit waiting with the rest of Cub nation for news out of the GM Meetings of our next big trade or acquisition, I managed to stumble across some interesting information.
First and foremost, if any of you want a good read about the Cubs century plus of futility I suggest this Joe Posnanski article. This is a comprehensive breakdown of ownership philosophies, curses, bad deals, and Cubbie occurrences dating back to the early 1900’s up to present day. It would be better titled “Why the Cubs are the Cubs”, but Joe’s title, “The Cubs”, works too.
After reading this article I decided to do a little search regarding some other Cubs lore. First thing I wanted to find out was how many Rookie of the Year awards had actually been awarded to Cubs players. Since 1950 the answer is 5. We average one every ten years. Here they are….
1961 – Billy Williams
Nothing shocking here. The only shocking thing to note is that we did not have one from 1950 until 1961. In 1954 Ernie Banks took second to St Louis’ Wally Moon. Wally ran away with it and had 17 first place votes, Ernie had 4. Don’t feel so bad though, a young slugger named Henry Aaron finished fourth with 1 vote. In 1960 Hall of Famer Ron Santo (Doesn’t that sound great?) was fourth in voting.
Billy Williams batted .278 with 25 HR’s and 86 RBI’s. he also had an .822 OPS. I would take that right now. He got 10 votes. A guy by the name of Joe Torre got second place with 5 votes.
1962 – Ken Hubbs
Ken’s offense was not his strong point. His numbers were average at best. It was his defense that got him recognition. He was the first ever Rookie Gold Glover (He played 2nd Base). He set two records for fielding in his rookie season as he went 78 games and 418 chances without an error. He got 19 of the 20 first place votes.
Sadly enough, Ken’s true potential would never be reached. He was killed in a plane crash in 1964. The 1963 season was his last.
1989 – Jerome Walton
Oh, what promise 1989 held. If you were a Cubs fan this was going to be the beginning of a long a fruitful decade…not so. Jerome Walton would never come close to his projected potential after 1989. He spent a 9 year career mainly on the DL.
1989 also saw the emergence of Dwight Smith. He finished second in the balloting. Unfortunately, in Cubbie fashion, we got 2 guys at the top of Rookie of the Year balloting and neither one ever panned out. Dwight Smith’s career went along a similar path as Walton’s. He did manage to hit .300 again for the Cubs in 1993, but that was about it. He actually never amassed enough at bats to qualify for ranking in any statistical category for the remainder of his career. He did however win a World Series with Atlanta in 1995. He was used mainly as a pinch hitter.
1998 – Kerry Wood
Outside of Billy Williams this one has probably paid the most dividends. While the book is not yet written on Kerry’s career, I think we have seen his best years long ago. His 20 strikeout game in 1998 is still a top Cub memory of mine over the past two decades.
2008 – Geovany Soto
Here is a sad stat, from 1999-2007 only one cub even got a vote for Rookie of the Year. It was Mark Prior in 2002. This might be a telling sign that explains some of the Cubs recent struggles.
The book on Geovany has a ways to be finished but it looks like his days with the Cubs could be numbered. Many think he will be a trade candidate in the near future.
I have to admit, I thought we would have had a few more. If you have any interest in seeing where some other Cubs have placed in voting, check here.