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The greatest Rookie of the Year tandems in MLB history

Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa look like burgeoning superstars with the potential to be all-time greats. How do they stack up against the greatest Rookie of the Year combos in history?

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Not his rookie season, but look at that danged uniform.
Not his rookie season, but look at that danged uniform.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Not sure if you noticed, but I didn't write a column about the great Rookie of the Year battle, Francisco Lindor vs. Carlos Correa. The reason why isn't complicated: I couldn't stretch, "I don't know ... I guess Lindor because of his defense? Maybe?" into 1,000 words. There wasn't a wrong answer. There were just great rookies.

Better than great, really. These guys both have the whiff of historically great about them. The last shortstop to do what either Correa or Lindor did -- a 21-year-old or younger in his rookie season with more than four wins above replacement -- was Cal Ripken, 33 years ago. Except Correa and Lindor racked up their value in 99 games each; Ripken played 160 that year. It's freaky for one of these guys to show up. Two in the same year is probably a coding error.

And in the National League, Kris Bryant was the Rookie of the Year counterpart. All he did was arrive after 181 games of minor-league dominance and have one of the best seasons by a rookie third baseman ever, winning the award unanimously.

We're a long, long, long way from finding out, and getting way, way, way ahead of ourselves by asking this, but ... doesn't this feel like an all-time Rookie of the Year class? We know the entire 2015 rookie class was the most valuable in the live-ball era, but we're talking specifically about the players in each league who won the award.

Say that Bryant and Correa both had the careers we both expect (because that's how baseball totally works.) Which Rookie of the Year pairings stand out as the best of all-time? Who would be their competition?

We have categories and answers for that:

Willie Mays and anybody

The "anybody" in question is Gil McDougald, who made five All-Star teams and racked up nearly 41 WAR in 10 productive seasons before retiring relatively young. Together, the Rookies of the Year combined for 189 WAR, the most from any class in history.

But while that's fun, it's not exactly what we're looking for. We're looking for symmetry. We're looking for a pair of Hall of Famers if possible.

As close as you can possibly get to a pair of Hall of Famers without being a pair of Hall of Famers

If you want symmetry, you have it here. In 1964, both Dick Allen and Tony Oliva were Rookies of the Year, and both of them are ***this*** close to being Hall of Famers. Both of them hung around the ballot for the full 15 years with passionate supporters, and both still might get in through the Golden Era committee.

Both of them needed just a little something more. Oliva needed a longer peak, or at least a later decline. Maybe one more MVP-caliber season. Allen needed to act like a robot and answer every question with "110 percent," and he also needed to catch the ball a little better.

If you're looking for a pair like this in the future, keep your eye on what Ryan Braun and Dustin Pedroia (both ROY, 2007) do over the next three or four years. Braun will have a rough time, what with being framed by Big Shipping and all, and Pedroia is just entering that is-he/isn't-he stage of his Hall of Fame speculation. In 20 years, we still might be arguing if they belong.

Hall of Fame pair #3

Luis Aparicio was a light-hitting, fast-running, slick-fielding, 13-time All-Star shortstop. Frank Robinson is probably the most underrated Hall of Famer in baseball history. Both were Rookies of the Year in 1956, and they combined for 163 wins over their careers (Robinson with 107, Aparicio with 56).

For perspective, that's still just seven wins below Mays alone, but that's more perspective on how amazing Mays was, rather than anything wrong with these two.

For additional perspective, note that Aparicio played in 18 seasons, and he topped Lindor's 2015 WAR (4.6) just four times and Correa's (4.1) five times. Again, Lindor and Correa played in just 99 games. That's not a slight against Aparicio, just a note that, my goodness, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa sure look like special players.

Hall of Fame pair #2

Eddie Murray and Andre Dawson were both Rookies of the Year in 1977, which means I grew up in a world where they were already awesome and would continue to be awesome for the next decade.

They were also masters of a badass mustache-and-scowl combination for a lot of their baseball cards

Via Topps and Upper Deck (Fleer)

So if you're asking me if Correa and Bryant will combine for more WAR and general success than them? Dunno, maybe. Probably not, but maybe.

If you're asking me if Correa and Bryant will ever be as awesome as them, then hell no. I had Murray and Dawson Starting Lineup figures, and they were on my best Starting Lineup All-Star teams. They hit a million home runs in my family room, give or take. This is probably the coolest Rookie of the Year combination in history.

Your mileage may vary.

Future Hall of Fame pair #1

Okay, maybe Albert Pujols and Ichiro are cooler. Maybe. As in, I'll listen to an argument on their behalf and acknowledge that they've had the more productive careers. The 2001 Rookies of the Year combined have combined for 158 wins so far (100 for Pujols, 58 for Ichiro), but this is one of those times where it's almost like bringing WAR into the discussion is overkill. They're Pujols and Ichiro and they're awesome because they're Pujols and Ichiro, Q.E.D.

Just wait. In eight years or so, we'll actually have people debating Albert Pujols's Hall of Fame credentials. The counterargument to his Hall case will be "Well ... he seemed pretty strong, I don't know," and it's going to want to make you flip over a car.

Also, while we're on the subject, Willie Mays was worth about as much over his career as an inseparable Albert Pujols and Ichiro to this point. Just seemed like something worth mentioning.

Future Hall of Fame pair #2 (kind of)

Will Bryce Harper make the Hall of Fame? When you get a question like that about a 23-year-old, always take the under. Baseball is good at setting speed traps and creating detours on the highway to Cooperstown. He's on the right path -- an MVP and three All-Star appearances before turning 23 is a fine way to start a career -- but there are still 10 or 15 years to go.

Will Mike Trout make the Hall of Fame? When you get a question like that about a 24-year-old, always take the ... eh, screw it, yeah, he's probably going to the Hall of Fame. He might pass Jim Rice in WAR next year, after all.

This is an article about the Rookie of the Year combos that Correa and Bryant might aspire to be, and yet they aren't even the most exciting RoY combo over the last five years. Harper and Trout emerging in the same season is one of baseball's all-time greatest gifts to symmetry and easy comparisons.

Hall of Fame pair #1

Here it is, the winner. The best Rookie of the Year pairing in history.

For the American League: Rod Carew, first-ballot Hall of Famer (90.5 percent). An All-Star for 18 consecutive seasons. One of the best second basemen in history until he was one of the better first basemen in the game. Rookie of the Year, and later MVP. Lyrical inspiration for both the Beastie Boys and Adam Sandler.

For the National League: Tom Seaver, first-ballot Hall of Famer (98.8 percent, highest in history). Three-time Cy Young winner, and three-time ERA champion. Star pitcher for three different pennant-winning teams and World Series hero for the Miracle Mets.

The two combined for 187 WAR (106 for Seaver, 81 for Carew), and both are clearly some of the best players in the history of baseball. In 1967, both were Rookie of the Year in their respective leagues, and both of them kept producing long enough to almost make it into RBI Baseball.

That's it, the gold Rookie of the Year standard. Seaver and Carew. Bryant and Correa are one of the most exciting Rookie of the Year tandems in recent memory, but they have about a decade of doing what they recently did, just to get in the conversation. They'll need another five years after that to be among the all-time best tandems.

That's okay. We can wait. Baseball fans are very patient.


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