Teams to win 2 of 3 major BBWAA awards

No club has swept MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year honors

November 10th, 2020

No team has ever swept the three major Baseball Writers' Association of America Awards -- Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year -- but there have been some close calls.

Overall, 55 teams have claimed two of those three awards in a single season, most recently in 2019 when the Astros took home the Cy Young Award (Justin Verlander) and Rookie of the Year Award (Yordan Alvarez). Alex Bregman finished as the runner-up in MVP voting behing Mike Trout.

Those 55 instances include 19 times when the same club produced specifically the MVP and Cy Young winner (not including years in which a pitcher won both awards on his own). It's happened only four times since the league's most recent expansion to 30 teams in 1998, with the most recent occurrence coming in 2013 when Tigers teammates Miguel Cabrera (MVP) and Max Scherzer (Cy Young) each took home hardware.

Below is a breakdown of each of those four instances, followed by a closer look at teams that came close to making history by sweeping the three awards.

Teams with MVP and Cy Young winners

2013 Tigers: Miguel Cabrera (MVP), Max Scherzer (Cy Young)
One year after earning the 2012 AL batting Triple Crown and edging out Trout in the AL MVP race, Cabrera again held off the Angels superstar in '13 AL MVP voting. Cabrera took home his second straight MVP honor after hitting .348/.442/.636 with 44 homers and 137 RBIs. That was good enough to earn 23 first-place votes, while Trout claimed only five as the runner-up. The AL Cy Young race was even more of a runaway, with Scherzer claiming 28 of the 30 first-place votes after going 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts. Tigers teammate Aníbal Sánchez earned one of the remaining two first-place votes, while the other went to Chris Sale.

In fact, the Tigers nearly completed the awards trifecta after a midseason three-team blockbuster brought José Iglesias to Detroit. The infielder, who began the year with the Red Sox, finished as the AL Rookie of the Year runner-up behind Tampa Bay's Wil Myers.

2006 Twins: Justin Morneau (MVP), Johan Santana (Cy Young)
While Morneau narrowly edged out Derek Jeter in a tightly contested battle for the 2006 AL MVP Award, Santana was a unanimous winner for the Cy Young Award. Santana took home all 28 first-place votes after going 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA and 245 strikeouts for the Twins. Morneau, meanwhile, racked up 34 homers and 130 RBIs en route to receiving 15 first-place votes for the MVP Award. That was enough to keep Derek Jeter (12 first-place votes) from earning his first MVP honor, despite the Yankees shortstop hitting .343 with 14 homers, 97 RBIs and 34 stolen bases. Minnesota teammate Francisco Liriano finished a distant third in AL Rookie of the Year voting, with future ace Justin Verlander claiming 26 of the 28 first-place votes in his impressive rookie campaign.

2005 Cardinals: Albert Pujols (MVP), Chris Carpenter (Cy Young)
Pujols held off Braves outfielder Andruw Jones to win the first of his three NL MVP Awards in 2005. The then-Cardinals first baseman hit .330 with 41 homers, 117 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and a 1.039 OPS to receive 18 first-place votes. Jones was a close second, garnering 13 first-place votes after finishing with 51 homers and 128 RBIs, albeit a .263 average and .922 OPS. Carpenter, meanwhile, earned 19 first-place votes after going 21-5 with a 2.83 ERA and NL-leading 213 strikeouts to beat out Dontrelle Willis (11 first-place votes) and Roger Clemens (two first-place votes) for the NL Cy Young Award. The Cards did not have anyone earn a Rookie of the Year vote, though skipper Tony La Russa finished second in NL Manager of the Year voting behind Bobby Cox.

2002 Athletics: Miguel Tejada (MVP), Barry Zito (Cy Young)
Both of these voting results could have turned out very different if conducted today. Tejada beat out Alex Rodriguez in a bit of a controversial race, as Tejada had an .861 OPS, 34 homers, 131 RBIs and a 5.7 WAR, while A-Rod put up a 1.015 WAR, 57 home runs, 142 RBIs and an 8.8 WAR. Zito also won a close battle, holding off Pedro Martinez thanks, in part, to wins and innings pitched. Though Zito had more wins (23 to Martinez's 20) and pitched 30 more innings, it was Martinez who had a sizable edge in ERA (2.26 to 2.75), strikeouts (239 to 182) and WHIP (0.92 to 1.13). Regardless, it was Zito who claimed the AL Cy Young Award after receiving 17 first-place votes to Martinez's 11.

Close calls for Award sweeps

Including the above instances, the same team has produced two of the three MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Award winners 55 times, including both the 2019 Mets (NL Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso and NL Cy Young Jacob deGrom) and Astros (AL Rookie of the Year Yordan Alvarez and AL Cy Young Justin Verlander). It's happened only 37 times when removing years in which the same player accounted for both, such as 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 55 instances, that same team was responsible for the runner-up for the third award just nine times. That number drops to seven when removing cases that include the same player vying for multiple awards. In other words, only seven 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 nine 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)
2013 Tigers: Miguel Cabrera (MVP), Max Scherzer (Cy Young), José Iglesias (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 three truly close calls -- the 2019 Astros, 1974 Rangers and '65 Dodgers.

While Verlander and Alvarez claimed the AL Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards, respectively, Bregman finished as the runner-up in MVP voting to Mike Trout. The Astros third baseman received 13 first-place votes, but Trout claimed the remaining 17 first-place votes en route to winning his third MVP Award. Trout edged out Bregman in total voting points by a margin of 355-335.

As for the 1974 Rangers, 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 three 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.