Conundrum: If The Negro Leagues Are Retroactively MLB, Does That Mean Jackie Robinson Is No Longer 1947 Rookie Of The Year?
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Earlier: Negro Leagues Baseball Records To Prevail Over MLB Records

As I mentioned earlier, I think Major League Baseball, in deciding to add the extremely patchy Negro Leagues’ statistics to their own, is missing the point about the appeal of its statistics: that they are immense but finite and thus more comprehensible than most social sciences, which helps explain the progress made by baseball analysts over the last half century.

A reader writes:

Wouldn’t the logic of Major League Baseball’s decision to elevate the Negro Leagues to major league status mean that Jackie Robinson’s 1947 Rookie of the Year Award should be taken away? He would no longer be eligible as he would no longer be a rookie, having played in the “major leagues” prior to 1947.

This issue came up in 2001 when Ichiro Suzuki was unjustly awarded the AL Rookie of the Year Award in addition to being justly awarded the AL MVP Award. It was unjust because Suzuki was not really a rookie, having played in Japan for the previous nine seasons. The real 2001 AL Rookie of the Year was of course C.C. Sabathia of the Cleveland Indians, who made his MLB debut earlier that year at age 20, coming directly from Double-A and having completely skipped Triple-A.

Those who defended Suzuki winning the Rookie of the Year Award of course brought up Jackie Robinson and how he was given the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award despite having played in the Negro Leagues.

Other ex-Negro League ballplayers beside Robinson who won rookie of the year awards in the Major Leagues include:

Don Newcombe, 1949 National League
Sam Jethroe, 1950 NL
Willie Mays, 1951 NL
Joe Black, 1952 NL
Jim Gilliam, 1953 NL

Some of them might not have played enough games in the Negro Leagues to lose Rookie of the Year eligibility, such as Willie Mays, who played 13 games in 1948 at age 17. But nobody is too sure.

Other Japanese major league veterans besides Ichiro who became RoYs in the U.S. MLB include Shohei Ohtani, Kazuhiro Sasaki, and Hideo Nomo.

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