The Best Rookies of the Spring, The James P. Dawson Award Winners (Part 11, 2005-2009)
by Paul Semendinger
March 28, 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 2005-2009 Award Winners
2005 – Andy Phillips
Andy Phillips was a right-handed power hitting third and first baseman with big potential.
It didn’t really work out.
In 2005, after winning the Dawson Award, he appeared in 27 games and batted .150 with but one homer.
In 2006, he played in the most games he ever would in a season for the Yankees, 110. He hit .240 with seven homers.
In 61 games in 2007, he batted .292/2/25. After that season, he was signed with the Cincinnati Reds. In June of 2008, he was placed on waivers and claimed by the New York Mets. About a week later, the Mets placed him on waivers and he signed with the Reds. The 2008 season was the last Phillips would see of the Major Leagues.
In five seasons, Phillips hit .250/14/70 in 259 big league games.
All-Time WAR = 0.4
2006 – Eric Duncan
Eric Duncan was a left-handed power hitting third and first baseman with big potential.
It didn’t really work out. Eric Duncan never made the Major Leagues. He never even had a taste of the big show.
In a ten-year minor league career, he played in 1006 games and put up the following numbers: .249/109/515.
Eric Duncan became a coach in the Yankees’ system and is now the batting coach of the Miami Marlins.
2007 – Kei Igawa
What people don’t know about Kei Igawa is that he gave it the old college try. He sure did try to make it. After signing a big contract from Japan to pitch in the USA, it never panned out.
Igawa appeared in 16 Major League games. He won two, he lost 4 and he had a 6.66 ERA.
But, his lack of success didn’t mean the guy didn’t try. Igawa pitched, for years in Triple-A, from 2007 through 2011. For five years, he toiled at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In told, he pitched in 89 Triple-A games (making 75 starts). Overall, he went 33-22, 3.81.
After the 2011 season, Igawa returned to japan and pitched in the big leagues there through the 2015 season.
All told, as a professional baseball pitcher, Kei Igawa played for 17 years putting up a 137-112, 3.62 record.
People only remember his brief time as a Yankee, but it wasn’t a bad professional career, all told.
All-Time WAR = -0.5
2008 – Shelley Duncan
Here was another big-time power hitter. Shelley Duncan did have a few fun big league moments, but his success was also short lived.
For a brief moment in 2007, Shelley Duncan was what Aaron Judge became. The Yankees’ big strong power hitting rookie. Again, it just didn’t last.
Between 2007 and 2009, Duncan played in 68 games as a Yankee batting .219/8/24.
He also played for the Cleveland Indians (2010-12) and the Tampa Bay Rays (2013). All told, he played in 330 big league games batting 226/43/144.
All-Time WAR = 1.0
2009 – Brett Gardner
Brett Gardner is already third on the All-Time WAR list among Dawson Award winners. With a solid year in 2021, he could move into second place.
Gardy has played 1,548 games as a Yankee. He is a lifetime .259 batter.
On the All-Time Yankees charts, he is 16th in games played (111 games behind Tony Lazzeri for 15th).
You can find Brett Gardner among the Top-25 All-Time Yankees in a plethora of spots:
dWAR = 9th
Games = 16th
At Bats = 21st
Plate Appearances = 20th
Runs = 19th
Hits = 27th
Total Bases = 26th
Doubles = 25th
Triples = 11th
Home Runs = 34th
Walks = 19th
Stolen Bases = 3rd
Brett Gardner played and played and played, and is still playing, and in doing so became a more and more beloved Yankee. Amazingly, when it’s all said and done, Brett Gardner will probably have a permanent home in Monument Park.
All-Time WAR = 43.0
Highest All-Time WAR of Players Highlighted (thus far) In This Series:
Willie Randolph 65.9
Roy White 46.8
Brett Gardner 43.0
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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