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Rookies in the Ether
2004-11-08 17:13
by Mike Carminati

The Rookie of the Year winners were announced today. They are A's shortstop Bobby Crosby, who just missed unanimity by one vote, and Pirate left fielder Jason Bay. I preferred Khalil Greene in the NL, but both we deserving. It was a pretty good class overall with Justin Morneau, Akinori Otsuka, Ryan Madson, Shingo Takatsu, Zack Greinke, and Joe Mauer (amid the injuries), among others, all making major contributions to their respective teams. Well, first we'll have to see how the develop before we pass judgment, but it does look promising.

The only fly in the ROY ointment is that perhaps the most deserving AL rookie was not even eligible. I'm referring to Twins outfielder Lew Ford, who batted .299 with 15 and 72 RBI (ratios: .299/.381/.446/.827). That represents an adjusted OPS 15% better than the park-adjusted league average. Cosby's numbers were actually 9% worse than average.

So why was Ford ineligible when he came into 2004 with just 73 at-bats, about half the established threshold for rookies (130)? Ford was on the Twins roster for too long in 2003. He was seen as a role player in 2003 even though he put up good numbers in the limited ABs (.329/.402/.575/.978 or 53% better than the league average). When Jacque Jones moved from left to right field and starting left fielder Shannon Stewart went down with an injury, Ford was able to fill in for half (81) games in left. He also made many appearances in center, right, and as the DH. I still get the feeling that the Twins don't have tremendous confidence in him but can't sit him now because he produces. Maybe that's an argument against giving him the award. However, given the inane "major-league experience" codicil for rookie eligibility, Ford is being barred unfairly from ever being eligible for the award. The voters should at least have the option to vote for him.

I propose a change to the rookie eligibility rules. It's simple, if you reach the at-bats or innings threshold, you are eligible for the award that year. If you don't, you're still eligible. I don't care if you sat on the bench for three years before being given the opportunity. Basically, Lew Ford was never eligible for the award (well, technically he was last year, but with 73 at-bats, who would vote for him?). How can this possibly make sense? This isn't 1910 with John McGraw hoarding talent or the Yankee dynasties who did the same. This is a guy who was just given a shot this year. He produced and should be eligible for the award. The rule's got to go.

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