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Astros just miss out on BBWAA awards history  

No team has won all 3 awards -- but here's a look at some close calls
@paul_casella
November 14, 2019

Though the Astros came up short in Game 7 of the World Series, they still nearly achieved something in 2019 that no team had ever done -- sweep the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards. The American League Cy Young Award was a two-pitcher race

Though the Astros came up short in Game 7 of the World Series, they still nearly achieved something in 2019 that no team had ever done -- sweep the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards.

The American League Cy Young Award was a two-pitcher race between Houston teammates Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, with Verlander ultimately prevailing by just four first-place votes. Earlier in the week, Astros designated hitter Yordan Alvarez was the unanimous pick for AL Rookie of the Year.

2019 BBWAA Award winners

That left only the AL MVP Award, which Astros third baseman Alex Bregman lost to Angels superstar Mike Trout by just 20 points. But the Astros are still in pretty exclusive company even by winning just two of the three major BBWAA Awards, while also finishing with the runner-up in the other category.

Through 2019, the same team has produced two of the three MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Award winners 54 times, including the ‘19 Mets (NL Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso and NL Cy Young Jacob deGrom) and Astros. That includes years in which the same player accounted for both, such as Clayton Kershaw winning the NL MVP and Cy Young Awards for the ‘14 Dodgers, or Ichiro Suzuki taking home AL MVP and Rookie of the Year honors for the '01 Mariners.

Of those 54 instances, that same team was responsible for the runner-up for the third award just eight times -- including this year’s Astros. That number drops to five when removing cases that include the same player vying for multiple awards. In other words, only six times in MLB history has the same team had three different players account for winning two of the awards and finishing second for the other.

Below is a list of those eight times the same team won two of three awards and produced the runner-up for the third (bolded names were runners-up; unbolded names won the award).

2019 Astros: Alex Bregman (MVP), Justin Verlander (Cy Young), Yordan Alvarez (ROY)
1993 White Sox: Frank Thomas (MVP), Jack McDowell (Cy Young), Jason Bere (ROY)
1988 Athletics: Jose Canseco (MVP), Dennis Eckersley (Cy Young), Walt Weiss (ROY)
1985 Cardinals: Willie McGee (MVP), John Tudor (Cy Young), Vince Coleman (ROY)
1974 Rangers: Jeff Burroughs (MVP), Fergie Jenkins (Cy Young), Mike Hargrove (ROY)
1973 Orioles: Jim Palmer (MVP), Jim Palmer (Cy Young), Al Bumbry (ROY)
1967 Red Sox: Carl Yastrzemski (MVP), Jim Lonborg (Cy Young), Reggie Smith (ROY)
1965 Dodgers: Sandy Koufax (MVP), Sandy Koufax (Cy Young), Jim Lefebvre (ROY)

Obviously, not every runner-up finish is created equal. Jason Bere finished second in the 1993 AL Rookie of the Year race, but the White Sox right-hander did not receive a single first-place vote in his quest to join teammates Frank Thomas (MVP) and Jack McDowell (Cy Young) in the winner's circle. Angels outfielder Tim Salmon was voted the unanimous Rookie of the Year that season.

Likewise, Cardinals left-hander John Tudor received zero first-place votes in his runner-up finish for the 1985 NL Cy Young Award (Dwight Gooden was the unanimous winner). Orioles right-hander Jim Palmer was also second to unanimous '73 AL MVP winner Reggie Jackson, though Palmer at least took home the Cy Young Award that season, while teammate Al Bumbry was named the Rookie of the Year.

While those three runners-up did not receive any first-place votes, Dennis Eckersley and Reggie Smith each received exactly one first-place vote, respectively, in the 1988 AL Cy Young and '67 AL Rookie of the Year races. Eckersley lost out to Frank Viola, who received the other 27 votes, while Smith yielded way to Rod Carew.

That leaves two truly close calls -- the 1974 Rangers and '65 Dodgers.

Texas outfielder Jeff Burroughs held off a trio of Athletics -- Joe Rudi, Sal Bando and Reggie Jackson -- for the 1974 AL MVP Award. Teammate Mike Hargrove won the Rookie of the Year Award in decisive fashion, beating out Bucky Dent and George Brett.

That left only the AL Cy Young Award. Texas right-hander Fergie Jenkins went 25-12 with a 2.82 ERA, 225 strikeouts and 29 complete games in 1974 -- but it wasn't enough. Jenkins' 10 first-place votes were two fewer than Oakland righty -- and fellow future Hall of Famer -- Catfish Hunter, who received 12 votes after posting an identical 25-12 record to go along with a 2.49 ERA, 143 strikeouts and 23 complete games.

Moving on to the 1965 Dodgers, Sandy Koufax was the unanimous Cy Young Award winner at a time when the award was given to only one player across the Majors, instead of one from each league. That same year, Dodgers infielder Jim Lefebvre easily claimed Rookie of the Year honors over future Hall of Famer Joe Morgan.

As for the NL MVP race, the Dodgers actually had two of the top three finishers -- and three of the top five. Koufax received six first-place votes to go along with his Cy Young Award, and teammate Maury Wills received five first-place votes. Neither had enough to edge Giants outfielder Willie Mays, who received the other nine first-place votes after racking up 52 homers and 112 RBIs.

Though those are the two closest calls since the Cy Young Award was first handed out in 1956, it's worth mentioning the 1952 Philadelphia Athletics. Left-hander Bobby Shantz won the AL MVP Award, while teammate and fellow pitcher Harry Byrd won AL Rookie of the Year honors. The Cy Young Award did not exist yet, but it stands to reason that Shantz would have won the award for the league's best pitcher, considering he won the AL MVP Award in convincing fashion -- and the MVP on the NL side was outfielder Hank Sauer.

The Astros figure to at least join the ranks of these close calls barring any surprises in Cy Young or Rookie of the Year voting, but time will tell if the MVP voting results in a first-of-its-kind sweep for Houston.

Paul Casella is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.