Every baseball season, there are some rookies who catch our attention with spectacular games, months or seasons, and this year is no different.

Actually, this year is different because there have been so many outstanding rookie achievements.

The most amazing of those achievements are the Rookie of the Year seasons in each league.

Not only does each league have a clear-cut winner, but both will also probably finish in the top five in the MVP voting in their respective leagues.

Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki was the spark plug for Seattle?s league-leading offense. The Japanese import scored 127 runs, thanks to a league-leading .350 batting average and 56 stolen bases.

He set a rookie record with 242 hits ? including an AL record 192 singles ? and his 127 runs were the most for an American League rookie since Ted Williams scored 131 times in 1939.

Ichiro, as he likes to be called, also played Gold Glove-caliber defense. The 28-year-old rookie made only one error and threw out eight base-runners ? a number which may have been higher had teams not stopped trying to run on him once they realized how strong and accurate his arm is.

The National League Rookie of the Year is very different from Ichiro. Instead of speed, contact and superb defense, he provides power and versatility.

Albert Pujols is only 21 years old and had never played above Class A prior to this season. It was a shock when he made the St. Louis roster out of spring training.

However, the numbers he put up this season are even more mind-numbing. He hit .329 with 194 hits and 112 runs scored. He belted 37 homers ? one shy of the National League rookie record ? and 47 doubles ? the second most by a rookie. His .610 slugging percentage is the third highest by a rookie and his 1.013 OPS, or on-base plus slugging percentage, is a NL rookie record.

Pujols was not as good as Ichiro on defense, but he was more versatile. He started at least 39 games at four positions ? first base, third base, left field and right field.

Clearly these are two of the best rookie seasons ever, and the fact that they happened in the same year is even more amazing. However, that does not mean that the rest of the rookie class is a bunch of busts.

St. Louis lefty Bud Smith threw the 18th no-hitter by a rookie and Colorado?s Jason Jennings became the first pitcher since 1900 to throw a shutout and hit a home run in his major league debut.

Reds outfielder Adam Dunn hit 12 home runs in August to break the NL rookie record for any month and Arizona?s Junior Spivey became the first player in 52 years to collect five hits in a game twice in his rookie season.

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins topped the NL with 12 triples and 46 steals, the first to lead the league in each category since Lou Brock in 1968.

Several pitchers dominated after being called up and Houston?s Roy Oswalt is at the top of the list. The 24-year-old fireballer was called up in May and went 14-3 with a 2.73 ERA and 144 strikeouts ? compared to just 24 walks ? before succumbing to injury.

Then there are the late season call-ups who got a taste of the big leagues before possibly making a run at next year?s Rookie of the Year awards.

Florida pitcher Josh Beckett and Texas first baseman Carlos Pena are among those who could possibly compete for a trophy in 2002.

With so many impressive performances by rookies ? and there are many more I could have mentioned ? it is clear that this is one of the best rookie classes of all time.

As Cal Ripken, Jr., Tony Gwynn and probably Rickey Henderson put the finishing touches on Hall of Fame careers, it is comforting to know that the cycle of baseball continues. Some of these rookies will continue to amaze and entertain us, and who knows which of them we will sadly be bidding farewell to in 15 or 20 years.

Jacobs can be reached at bjacobs@campustimes.org.



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