The Best Rookies of the Spring, The James P. Dawson Award Winners (Part 10, 2000-2004)
by Paul Semendinger
March 26 , 2021
Of note – My research for this project took me to the wonderful site Baseball Almanac where I was able to access the list of all the James P. Dawson winners in Yankees history. I also used Baseball-Reference for the players’ statistics.
In 1956, the Yankees began awarding the James P. Dawson Award to the best rookie in Spring Training.
I began to wonder how many of these players went on to successful careers with the Yankees or other teams.
Here I continue my examination of that important award and the players who earned it.
James P. Dawson was a longtime Yankees’ reporter with the New York Times. He served as the Chairman of the New York Chapter of the BBWAA.
It was very difficult to find an image of the award itself and it seems there is no actual trophy. Rather, it seems that the player is given a watch. Here is an auction from 2013 that highlights Johnny James’ watch. This photo shows Masahiro Tanaka being presented with a watch as well. In 2018, Miguel Andujar tweeted this photo of him earning his watch. The cover image on our home page is cropped from this Tweet.
The 2000-2004 Award Winners
2000 – No Selection Made
2001 – Alfonso Soriano
Alfonso Soriano was a very (very) good Yankee. I sometimes wonder how different his career might have been if the Yankees had not traded him in the A-Rod deal. What would have happened with Soriano? Would he have remained the second baseman? Would he have moved to the outfield? Would he have been so good that Robinson Cano would have been traded?
In 2001, Alfonso Soriano hit .268/18/73 with 43 stolen bases.
In 2002, he hit .300/39/102 and led the league in hits (209), runs (128), and stolen bases (41).
In 2003, he hit .290/38/91.
And then he was traded for A-Rod, in a huge move that made a lot of sense. A-Rod was better than Soriano, but, one has to wonder what might have been…
Soriano was a seven-time All-Star. He won four Silver Slugger Awards.
All-Time WAR = 28.6
2002 – Nick Johnson
As a Yankee from 2001-03, Nick Johnson batted .256/31/113. Many thought he’d be the first baseman for the next decade or so.
But he couldn’t stay healthy…
Johnson was traded to the Montreal Expos for Javier Vazquez.
Johnson would play for the Montreal Expos, Washington Nationals, Florida Marlins, and the Baltimore Orioles. He came back for a brief cameo with the Yankees (24 games) in 2010.
All-Time WAR = 14.5
2003 – Hideki Matsui
One of my favorite players ever, Godzilla burst on the scene with big hits as he arrived, played great baseball throughout his Yankees career that went far too quickly, and then left with an exclamation mark by winning the 2009 World Series MVP.
Along the way, Hideki Matsui batted .282/175/760 in his ten-year Yankees career. He was a two-time All-Star. He led the league in games played three times. He hit 20 or more home runs five times.
He was great. Absolutely great.
No Dawson Award winner had reached the Hall-of-Fame in Cooperstown, but Matsui might one day. It’s a stretch, but he is the only Japanese power hitter (to date) who came to the USA and was a star here as well. Hideki Matsui was a unique and very special player.
If nothing else, Hideki Matsui is a Yankees legend who deserves to be in Monument Park.
All-Time WAR = 21.2
2004 – Bubba Crosby
At one point, Bubba Crosby was said to be the Yankees’ starting centerfielder.
It wasn’t to be.
From 2004 to 2006, Crosby played in 196 games as a Yankee. He batted just .223 in his time in pinstripes.
Brett Gardner became the player that some thought Bubba Crosby might be.
All-Time WAR = -1.6
Highest All-Time WAR of Players Highlighted (thus far) In This Series:
Willie Randolph 65.9
Roy White 46.8
Jorge Posada 42.7
Al Leiter 42.5
Don Mattingly 42.4
Jose Rijo 35.0
Alfonso Soriano 28.6
Tom Tresh 22.0
Bob Tewksbury and Hideki Matsui 21.2
Norm Seibern 21.0
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