National League Rookies of the Year—1980s

Jerome Walton

Chris Sabo

Benito Santiago

Most of the National League Rookies of the Year in the ‘80s were recognizable names, but some of them you likely have forgotten about. Such is the fickle nature of professional sports. Here is a complete list of those winners from that decade:

1989-Jerome Walton, Chicago Cubs

Cubs' outfielder Jerome Walton took 22 of 24 first-place votes for the NL Rookie of the Year in 1989, with teammate Dwight Smith notching the other two. Walton led a resurgence, helping the Cubs make the playoffs by batting .293 with 23 doubles, 5 home runs, 46 RBI, 24 stolen bases, and an on base percentage of .335. He also boasted a .990 fielding percentage.

1988-Chris Sabo, Cincinnati Reds

In a fairly close vote over Chicago first baseman Mark Grace, Reds' third baseman Chris Sabo won the NL Rookie of the Year honors in 1988. Sabo, who was known just as much for the goggles he wore on the field as for his bat, hit .271 with 11 homers, 44 runs batted in, 40 doubles, and 46 stolen bases. He was also a big part of the Reds' team that won it all in 1990.

1987-Benito Santiago, San Diego Padres

With all 24 first-place votes, Padres' catcher Benito Santiago won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1987. He then went on to a very long and successful career, ultimately retiring in 2005 at the age of 40. Santiago won the ROY honors in 1987 by hitting .300 with 18 homers, 79 RBI, 33 doubles, 21 stolen bases, and a slugging percentage of .467.

1986-Todd Worrell, St. Louis Cardinals

Relief pitcher Todd Worrell won the National League Rookie of the Year in 1986 in his first full season, as he posted 36 saves. Worrell went 9-10 with a 2.08 ERA, and 73 strikeouts in 103 innings pitched.

1985-Vince Coleman, St. Louis Cardinals

Speedy outfielder Vince Coleman became the first of two straight Cardinals to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award, by taking it home in 1985. That season, Coleman helped the Cardinals reach the World Series by hitting .267 with an astounding 110 stolen bases. He added 20 doubles, 10 triples, one homer, and 40 RBI with an on base average of .320.

1984-Dwight Gooden, New York Mets

Dwight Gooden took New York and the sports world by storm in 1984, blowing hitters away with a blazing fastball and head to toe curveball. Gooden won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 1984, joining teammate Darryl Strawberry as consecutive winners for the Mets. Gooden went 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA, and 276 strikeouts in just 218 innings of work. He also had 7 complete games with 3 shutouts.

1983-Darryl Strawberry, New York Mets

Darryl Strawberry began a resurgence in New York in 1983, breathing life into a franchise that was stagnant for most of a decade. And that season, he became the first of two consecutive Mets to win the NL Rookie of the Year honors by batting .257 with 26 home runs, 74 RBI, 15 doubles, 7 triples, 19 stolen bases and a slugging percentage of .512. He also posted a .984 fielding percentage with 8 outfield assists.

1982-Steve Sax, Los Angeles Dodgers

In a very tight race between Dodgers' second baseman Steve Sax, as well as Pittsburgh's Johnny Ray and St. Louis' Willie McGee, Sax won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1982. That season, he became the fourth straight Dodger to win the award by batting .282 with 4 homers, 47 runs batted in, 23 doubles, 7 triples, 49 stolen bases, and 88 runs scored. Sax was a liability in the field but his offensive numbers made that easy to overlook.

1981-Fernando Valenzuela, Los Angeles Dodgers

With most of the first-place votes, Dodgers' phenom screwballer Fernando Valenzuela won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1981 over Montreal's Tim Raines. Valenzuela went 13-7 with a 2.48 ERA, and 180 strikeouts in 192 innings pitched. He also posted 11 complete games with 8 shutouts.

1980-Steve Howe, Los Angeles Dodgers

It was a mixed bag of players vying for the NL Rookie of the Year in 1980, but Dodgers' closer Steve Howe won the award, becoming the second of four straight Dodgers to win it. Howe went 7-9 with a 2.66 ERA, 17 saves, and 39 strikeouts. Sadly, Howe passed away from a car accident related to a drug problem in 2006 at the age of 48.

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