Scott Thompson, SNY.tv | Twitter |
There are a total of 61 Hall of Famers who have been Yankees in their careers, so building an all-time team is definitely a daunting yet fun task.
With baseball currently on a hiatus, what better time than now to break down some of the greats that have worn a Yankee uniform and see who would make up the 25-man roster.
And in doing so, we're going to go ahead and choose the best 25 men possible -- not by their sole position during their pinstriped careers. However, these men must have spent a big chunk of their careers in the Bronx.
So, without further ado, here's the best of the best...
Catcher: Yogi Berra
Berra was a perennial All-Star who won enough World Series rings with the Yankees to fill up both hands and then some.
In his 18 seasons with the Yanks, Berra slashed .285/.348/.483 with 358 homers and 1,430 RBI in 2,116 games wearing pinstripes. And was a good a man off the field as he was a player on it. Berra caught Don Larsen's perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series and has been a part of many more iconic moments in franchise history.
First Base: Lou Gehrig
He considered himself "the luckiest man on the face of the Earth" when he had his career as a Yankee cut short after 17 seasons due to ALS -- later known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. But if you're a Yankee fan, you know the feeling was certainly mutual to be able to see his career in pinstripes.
A two-time MVP, Triple Crown winner and six-time World Series champion, Gehrig is the clear cut favorite to be the Yankees' all-time first baseman. His 2,721 hits were the most in franchise history until Derek Jeter broke that record (we'll get to him later).
The career slash line for The Iron Horse was a simply unreal .340/.447/.632.
Second Base: Robinson Cano
This is a tough one. Tony Lazzeri is a very close second to Cano, and he won five World Series titles back in the '20s and '30s. But in his nine seasons with the Yankees, Cano was simply the better player -- and that's with harder competition.
Cano slashed .309/.355/.504 with 204 homers and 822 RBI as a Yankee, and was one of the smoothest infielders the franchise has ever seen, earning two Gold Gloves. He still possesses that cannon for an arm, and his sweet and nonchalant lefty swing never gets old to watch.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter
Mr. November. The Captain. Whatever you want to call him, Jeter was the epitome of a Yankee during his 20 seasons in the Bronx. You can run down the list of his accolades -- five-time World Series champion, 14-time All-Star, World Series MVP, five-time Silver Slugger, Rookie of the Year -- or just remember all the iconic moments that he's had over his career. Either way, he comes out as the unanimous all-time shortstop...just as he should've been into the Hall of Fame.
Jeter was a career .310 hitter with 3,465 hits -- the most in franchise history. His number hangs out in Monument Park for a reason.
Third Base: Alex Rodriguez
OK, hear me out here if you're cursing up a storm thinking Graig Nettles deserves this slot. Yes, Rodriguez has had his personal career issues, which definitely affected his legacy as a Yankee. But there is no denying what he did when he stepped between those lines.
In his 12 seasons with the Yanks, Rodriguez hit .283/.378/.523 with 351 of his career 696 homers and 1,096 RBI. And he collected his only World Series ring in 2009 -- something he always says is his greatest accomplishment when looking back at his career.
A-Rod had some crazy seasons with the Yankees, too, like in 2007 when he had 54 homers and 156 RBI to lead the league.
Left Field: Babe Ruth
"The Great Bambino" is the easy choice here. You might have loved his personality off the field, but if you were a pitcher, you'd rather throw four straight balls than give him a pitch to hit into oblivion.
Ruth's 714 homers ranks third in MLB history behind Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron. In his 15 seasons as a Yankee, he hit a whopping 659 of them with a .349 career average, too. There were only three seasons of that where Ruth didn't have triple-digit RBI.
Just an absolute beast that did it all with the biggest smile on his face.
Center Field: Mickey Mantle
Another extremely hard one to choose. Joe DiMaggio comes in very close second place...like extremely close.
The numbers are eerily similiar, but in my head, Mantle squeaks out DiMaggio. Mantle had a Triple Crown to sport with his seven World Series titles, though DiMaggio had nine rings. They were both three-time MVPs, too.
In his 18 seasons, Mantle mashed 536 homers with 1,509 RBI. His career slash line was .298/.421/.557 as well. You can make the argument for both, but No. 7 will be manning the outfield for this list.
Right Field: Dave Winfield
There have been some stellar right fielders in Yankees history, including Roger Maris and Paul O'Neill. But Winfield just edges them out.
He played nine seasons with the Yanks, slashing .290/.356/.495 with 205 homers, 236 doubles and 818 RBI. Winfield never won a World Series with the Yankees, but he is a career seven-time Gold Glover and six-time Silver Slugger award winner. He was also an All-Star in every season he played with the Yanks.
Designated Hitter: Reggie Jackson
If Winfield is in right, then Jackson still has to be in this lineup. "Mr. October" was a World Series MVP in 1977 after hitting five homers and batting .450 to collect his second career ring in the series against the Dodgers.
Jackson hit .281/.371/.526 with 144 homers and 461 RBI in his five seasons with the Yankees from 1977-1981. The Hall-of-Famer was extremely feared at the dish.
1. Whitey Ford
The Yankee lifer was immaculate through his 16 seasons in pinstripes. A career 2.75 ERA with 1,956 strikeouts, 3.26 FIP and 236 career wins in 498 games is extremely impressive, and needs to be at the top of this rotation.
Ford won six titles with the Yankees, collecting a World Series MVP in 1961 against the Reds after not allowing a run in either start and only six total hits.
2. Ron Guidry
"Gator," or my personal favorite, "Louisiana Lightning" was a crafty lefty who won the 1978 Cy Young award as well as the Major League Player of the Year award that same season.
But it wasn't just that season with a 25-3 record and 1.74 ERA that puts Guidry on this list. It's his career 3.29 ERA in 14 seasons with the Yankees. It's that sub 1.2 WHIP and 95 complete games.
Guidry only made four All-Star teams, but he was as dominant as they come on any given day when the Yankees gave him the ball.
3. Roger Clemens
He might not have had his best career numbers with the Yankees, but his only two rings were with them and he was very crucial in making that happen.
The first came in 1999 when he redeemed his bad ALCS start against the Red Sox, and delivered a 7.2 inning start with just one run allowed on four hits to help complete the sweep of the Braves in Game 4. Then, in Game 2 of the Subway Series in 2000, Clemens delivered a gem -- 8.0 innings with just two hits allowed and no runs.
Clemens was always a great arm to have in the rotation when October came around, and was tremendous overall during his six years in pinstripes.
4. Andy Pettitte
Andrew Eugene Pettitte breathed consistency. A member of the Yankees' "Core Four" in the late '90s and early 2000s, you could trust Pettitte to go out there and get the job done whenever he got the ball.
And even more so in the postseason.
He had a career 3.94 ERA in 447 games with the Yanks, but his career 3.81 postseason ERA is more impressive. He won four rings in his first stint with the team, which included a stellar performance against the Padres in '98 with no runs allowed over 7.1 innings, and he collected one more in 2009 in the series against the Phillies.
The patented staredown to the plate with the glove over his face, the big leg kick and devastating slider was always so much fun to watch every fifth day, and worthy of this back end spot.
5. Red Ruffing
Rounding out the rotation is someone who can't be forgotten when it comes to Yankee royalty. While Gehrig and Ruth were the faces of the team, Ruffing was out there on the mound delivering what they needed on the other side of things to help lead New York to six World Series titles.
His championship numbers were impressive, too: 2.63 ERA over 10 starts with 67 strikeouts to 27 walks. In his 15 seasons with the Yanks, Ruffing had a 3.47 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP and 231 wins. 40 shutouts and 261 complete games were also on this Hall-of-Famer's stat sheet.
Closer: Mariano Rivera
The greatest closer of all time and the only unanimous inductee into the Hall of Fame is hands down the man for the job here. You knew what was coming with that nasty cutter, and Rivera dared you to hit it. If you even made contract, most of the time it was a shattered bat and an embarrassing trot to first as Rivera threw you out himself.
A career 2.21 ERA with the most saves in MLB history with 652 was the reason Rivera was so well respected by anyone who watched the game. But it's really that 0.70 postseason ERA -- being able to really lock in when Enter Sandman played over the loud speakers -- that solidified that unanimous vote.
Rivera finished his career with four rings, including the 1999 World Series MVP, and was a 13-time All-Star to boot.
Setup men: Goose Gossage, Sparky Lyle
A hard-nosed player with the arsenal on the mound to back it up, Gossage was a feared closer who used his power to beat you. He had 151 saves in a Yankee uniform and a 2.14 ERA over his seven seasons there. He also had a 2.77 K/BB ratio in 533 innings pitched.
Lyle came in to the Yankees' system in 1972 and set a career-high in saves with 35 that year and a 1.92 ERA on top of it. From there on out, the Yankees trusted him in that position, but we can't put him there because of Rivera's status. He'd finish his seven seasons in pinstripes with a 2.41 ERA.
Middle Relievers: Dave Righetti, Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Johnny Murphy
Let's start with Murphy. A six-time World Series champ, Murphy collected saves when that really wasn't a set position back in the '30s and '40s. He was also a World War II veteran, missing two seasons fighting for the U.S.
Righetti would be this team's long reliever given his starter history when he first entered the league with the Yanks. However, he transitioned to a bullpen role and thrived. He had a 3.11 ERA in 11 years with the Yanks, collecting 940 strikeouts over that span.
And then there's the most recent generation back-end duo of Chapman and Betances. Chapman is still writing his Yankees story, as he recently signed a three-year deal to remain in New York. Over four seasons already, "The Cuban Missile" that tops triple digits with his fastball has a 2.51 ERA and 111 saves.
Betances is an under-the-radar all-timer, but definitely deserves to make this list. When he's on, his triple-digits heater and nasty slider-curveball combo are virtually untouchable. A 2.36 ERA in his 358 games with 36 saves is something this all-time team deserves to have at the ready.
Bill Dickey (catcher), Don Mattingly (first base), Joe DiMaggio (outfield), Tony Lazzeri (infield), Jorge Posada (pinch hitter/DH)
Dickey is a no-brainer behind Berra, as they both share the same number retired by the team. Mattingly is another one, too, given his 14 seasons with a .307 average, which includes his insane years from 1984-1989 where he was one of the toughest outs in the league.
Because of Mantle's placement in center field, DiMaggio needs to make it on this team somewhere. Lazzeri is another with his five World Series rings and ability to play second, short, and third.
And finally, I wanted another hitter that has proven himself in clutch situations, so why not have one who can hit from both sides of the plate? Posada is the final member of the Core Four that makes this team and he does so with the ability to also play catcher if you need him to.