Yankees Award Winning Seasons And Championships
by Paul Semendinger
November 17, 2023
Often times when a great player has a career year and that player wins one of baseball's most coveted awards, his team also wins. This has been especially true of the Yankees throughout their long and distinguished history. Most often, if a Yankee won the MVP or Cy Young Award, the team was also a winner, often reaching and winning the World Series.
Here is a quick look at the award winners as reported by mlb.com:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER AWARD:
1923 - Babe Ruth - Yankees won World Series
1927 - Lou Gehrig - Yankees won World Series
1936 - Lou Gehrig - Yankees won World Series
1939 - Joe DiMaggio - Yankees won World Series
1941 - Joe DiMaggio - Yankees won World Series
1942 - Joe Gordon - Yankees lost World Series
1943 - Spud Chandler - Yankees won World Series
1947 - Joe DiMaggio - Yankees won World Series
1950 - Phil Rizzuto - Yankees won World Series
1951 - Yogi Berra - Yankees won World Series
1954 - Yogi Berra - Yankees finished in second place
1955 - Yogi Berra - Yankees lost World Series
1956 - Mickey Mantle - Yankees won World Series
1957 - Mickey Mantle - Yankees lost World Series
1960 - Roger Maris - Yankees lost World Series
1961 - Roger Maris - Yankees won World Series
1962 - Mickey Mantle - Yankees won World Series
1963 - Elston Howard - Yankees lost World Series
1976 - Thurman Munson - Yankees lost World Series
1985 - Don Mattingly - Yankees finished in second place
2005 - Alex Rodriguez - Yankees lost ALDS
2007 - Alex Rodriguez - Yankees lost ALDS
2022 - Aaron Judge - Yankees lost ALCS
CY YOUNG AWARD:
1958 - Bob Turley - Yankees won World Series
1961 - Whitey Ford - Yankees won World Series
1977 - Sparky Lyle - Yankees won World Series
1978 - Ron Guidry - Yankees won World Series
2001 - Roger Clemens - Yankees lost World Series
2023 - Gerrit Cole - Yankees finished in fourth place
In 2023, the Yankees just had their first major award winner, Gerrit Cole, who finished on a second-division ballclub. It was the first time in their long history that the team had a Cy Young Award winning pitcher and the team failed to reach the World Series.
Also, never before in the Yankees history did they have two players who won either of these major awards in back-to-back seasons with the team failing to reach the World Series in both years.
In 2022, Aaron Judge had his best season ever. He played in 157 games (the most he ever played in a season). He set career highs in plate appearances, at bats, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentages, OPS, total bases, and OPS+. Judge's WAR was 2.6 points higher than his next best WAR and well above his career norms. It was Judge's career year. It is highly unlikely that he'll ever have a year like that again. Unfortunately, the design of the team, the roster built around Aaron Judge, wasn't strong enough to get the team to the World Series. While the Yankees finished in first place, much of their success was based on an amazing first half of the season. The team played very poorly in the season's second half. In fact, for most intents and purposes, the 2022 Yankees were as good as they were only because of Aaron Judge. The Yankees were so bad in the second half that the sweep they experienced against the Astros in the ALCS did not come as a shock or surprise. The Yankees had a chance to ride Judge's career year to greatness, but for a host of reasons (and we've been over them time and time again), the team fell short.
Aaron Judge's WAR in 2022 was 10.6. In 2023, it was 4.5. Heading into the 2024 season, Aaron Judge will be 32-years-old. Again, it is very likely that the Yankees squandered what was his career best season.
In 2023, Gerrit Cole had one of his best season ever. He accumulated 7.4 WAR (his highest total ever). It's unlikely that he'll be that great again. We hope he will be, but he too might have just enjoyed his career best season.
Of note, the only other times the Yankees had a major award winner and failed to reach the World Series were all somewhat different circumstances from what we have seen the last two seasons:
In 1954, Yogi Berra won the MVP and the Yankees won 103 games. They had a great season. This came after they had won the previous five World Series consecutively. It just so happened that the Cleveland Indians had a more remarkable season in 1954.
The 1985 Yankees, the year Don Mattingly won the award, were actually a very good team. That team won 97 games and finished just two games out of first place. Unfortunately, 1985 came during one of the franchise's leanest periods. That was the only time, until now, that a Yankee player won a major award amid a multi-year period without the team reaching the World Series.
Alex Rodriguez's two MVP award came in seasons where the Yankees failed in the first round of the playoffs. In 2005, the Yankees finished in first place. In 2007, they finished in second place, two games out. Surrounding those years, though were World Series appearances in 2000, 2001, 2003, and soon after, 2009.
When teams have great players, it makes sense to surround those players with other exceptional talents and a deep and talented roster so that the great players' great seasons can help lead the team to the glory of championships. That used to be the Yankees' way.
What we have witnessed the last two seasons has been two career-like years from two of the Yankees' biggest stars. It's a shame that these seasons were squandered without a championship.
The hope is that the Yankees realize that constructing a team doesn't mean only investing in a few stars. The Yankees need to build a complete roster so when the stars shine, as they will, the team also rides that success to the ultimate victory.