A Revoked Rookie of the Month Award

Zach Day once had a Rookie of the Month award revoked from him. Photo Credit: Montreal Expos

2003 was a pretty forgettable yet interesting season. The Florida Marlins won the World Series, the Detroit Tigers lost 119 games and the Montreal Expos were still a team, albeit on its penultimate year of existence.

Zach Day's name may not conjure up any memories in your head (unless you collected cards during the mid-2000s like me) as he spent four seasons in the MLB with the Expos, Rockies and Nationals. Day was a member of the 2003 Expos' pitching staff, sent to the rotation after a solid rookie season in 2002, pitching to a 3.62 ERA in 19 games, coming mostly out of the bullpen in 37 innings.

The move to the rotation was not too much of a challenge for Zach Day, who was a starter for most of his career and a sinkerballer, and his April 2003 was awesome and should not go unnoticed. He won Rookie of the Month initially, but it was revoked from him. How does something like this happen? Well, a lot of rookie service parameters have to be met.


Day's first start came in the second game of the season against the defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves, and he made an early case for winning the award. Day utterly silenced a potent Braves lineup, tossing seven innings of scoreless, three-hit ball as the Expos shut out Atlanta 3-0 with those hits being the only three allowed in the game. The top-four of the Braves lineup went a combined 1-13 on the night. He struck out four and walked three.

The second game Day started was the low point of his April, allowing three earned runs in 4.1 innings, walking four and striking out just one in Chicago. His ERA rose to 2.38 and he looked to bear down in his next start.

The Expos traveled to Estadio Hiram Bithorn in Puerto Rico to host the New York Mets, and on April 13, Zach Day took the mound against Mets' ace Al Leiter, matching him as best as he could through six innings. Allowing just a first-inning run after a wild pitch, Day absolutely shoved over six, scattering four hits, striking out four and exiting the game down 1-0 and lowering his ERA to 2.08. The Expos rewarded Day with a no-decision as they came back to win it thanks to a walk-off home run by Jose Vidro in the ninth inning.

Day had yet another solid start in Puerto Rico for his next outing against the Cincinnati Reds, throwing seven innings, striking out five and allowing three runs. He exited up 6-3, but unfortunately, Expos relievers blew two separate saves, including Scott Stewart blowing Zach Day's lead, giving him the hard-luck no-decision. Luckily, in the tenth inning, Brian Schneider swatted another walk-off home run and the Expos escaped with a win.

Day's final start of the month was back in Montreal at Olympic Stadium and his hot streak came north with him against the Astros. In 8.1 innings, Day was solid, allowing five walks and six hits but just two runs, striking out four in a 10-2 rout of the Astros. This start capped off a great month for Day at age 25.

His April statistics: 2-1, 2.48 ERA, 17 K, 25 H, 9 ER.

For his efforts, Day was awarded with Rookie of the Month for April. However, controversy arose the next day when the MLB determined that he had surpassed rookie limits in 2002. The rookie parameters are less than 50 innings, which he had just 37 in 2002, and less than 150 at-bats which he definitely had as a pitcher. However, the last one is they have to spend less than 45 days on the active roster before September 1, which, unfortunately, he did not have, spending 52 days on the roster before September 1.

They revoked the award from him and decided to give it to Hee-Seop Choi of the Cubs. Choi's line was .241 with five home runs and 14 RBI. Choi had an electric reaction to Day losing the award to him.

"I didn't know that," Choi said after the Cubs' 6-4 loss to the Rockies on May 1. "Wow."

Zach Day also did not seem too bothered by not winning the award.

"I'm not even thinking about it. It's in the past," he said in St. Louis, where the Expos lost 3-1 to the Cardinals. "I didn't know about it until yesterday. Today it's already gone. It's not a big deal."

Day's response game to not winning the award? Tossing one of two shutouts he threw in his major league career, blanking the Brewers in Milwaukee 5-0 and fanning five. He lowered his ERA to a sparkling 1.94.

While the rest of Day's season would not be as good as his April, he still was solid nonetheless, accruing a 9-8 record with a 4.18 ERA as the Expos finished 83-79. He only allowed eight home runs all season long thanks to his sinker as well. Another interesting stat is that he lead the league in wild pitches.

Service-time manipulation was not as talked about back in 2003, so maybe if the Expos had decided to keep him in the minors just a smidge longer, this wouldn't have happened, but it did.

Sometimes, a player can be playing as well as they can and get commended for it, and in Zach Day's case he was, but the award was taken away by just seven days of service time. It was a tough pill to swallow, but sometimes, that is just how the game goes.