The Best Rookies of the Spring, The James P. Dawson Award Winners (Part 6, 2000-2009)
by Paul Semendinger
I originally ran this series a few years ago. As Spring Training dawns, I figured it was worth revisiting again.
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.
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
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 played 1,688 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 = 13th
At Bats = 17st
Plate Appearances = 16th
Runs = 15th
Hits = 22nd
Total Bases = 20th
Doubles = 23rd
Triples = 8th
Home Runs = 35th
Walks = 16th
Stolen Bases = 3rd
Brett Gardner played and played and played 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 = 44.3
Highest All-Time WAR of Players Highlighted (thus far) In This Series:
Willie Randolph 65.9
Roy White 46.8
Brett Gardner 44.3
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