New York Yankees
New York Yankees
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- Yankee Stadium II (2009 - Present)
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- Brian Cashman
All-Time Team – New York Yankees
With 27 world championships to their credit, the New York Yankees have the ability to field an all-time team second to none. Many of the greatest players in the history of the game have worn the Yankee pinstripes, making the selection of such an all-time squad an extremely difficult task. Nonetheless, we have done our best to select a group of players capable of doing justice to the sport’s most successful franchise. That list of players follows.
With the Yankees, it is not about which was the best team, but, rather, which was the best dynasty. The candidates are numerous:
Ruth Era: 1920 – 1932; seven pennants and four world championships in 13 years. The 1927 Yankees are still considered by many baseball historians to be the greatest team ever assembled.
DiMaggio Era: 1936 – 1951; 11 pennants and 10 world championships in 16 years. Although Ruth’s and Gehrig’s 1927 squad is perhaps a bit more famous, the 1939 Yankees’ 462-run differential prompts many observers to identify that club as the greatest in baseball history.
Mantle Era: 1951 – 1964; 12 pennants and seven world championships in 14 years. Some historians disagree, calling the 1961 Yankees of Mantle and Maris the best team ever.
Jeter/Rivera Era: 1996 – 2010; 14 division titles, seven pennants, and five world championships in a 15 year-period that included a three-round postseason format.
A valid argument could be waged on behalf of any of the four dynasties, but the Yankees have always placed a premium on winning championships. That being the case, it would be hard to overlook the DiMaggio Era Yankees, who won a total of 10 World Series over a 16-year period.
Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle would all likely be considered the greatest player in the history of most other franchises. But all three men must settle for an honorable mention on the Yankees. Babe Ruth – the greatest and most dominant player the game has ever seen – gets the nod here as the best player in Yankee history.
A difficult choice here. Whitey Ford is the greatest starting pitcher in franchise history. However, Mariano Rivera would have to be considered the best Yankee pitcher ever to take the mound. Although Rivera works far fewer innings than Ford did during his career, the game’s premier closer has reached a level of excellence unmatched by any other relief pitcher. The greatest postseason pitcher in baseball history, Rivera, perhaps more than any other player, helped the Yankees win four world championships between 1996 and 2000, excelling on the world’s largest stage, in the world’s biggest city.
First Base – Lou Gehrig
Don Mattingly is beloved by Yankee fans, and he was a truly great player before back problems robbed him of his home run power over the second half of his career. But Lou Gehrig is generally considered to be the greatest first baseman in baseball history. The Iron Horse won two Most Valuable Player Awards, captured the A.L. Triple Crown in 1934, and established an all-time league record by driving in 184 runs in 1931. Gehrig also posted the three best single-season RBI marks in team history, and five of the top 10. He also accomplished the rare feat of accumulating more than 100 extra-base hits in a season on two separate occasions. A great player, and a great man.
Second Base - Joe Gordon
Much tougher choice here. Willie Randolph played more games at the position than any other Yankee second baseman. But he lacked the hitting power of his chief competitors for this spot. Robinson Cano is a tremendous hitter and a fine fielder. However, he hasn’t been around long enough to earn the starting job on this team. As a result, the choice came down to two Hall of Famers – Tony Lazzeri and Joe Gordon. The final decision was to go with Gordon since he won an MVP Award with the Yankees in 1942, and, also, because he posted some exceptional offensive numbers for the team during his relatively brief time in New York. Keep an eye on Cano, though. He may ultimately pass both Gordon and Lazzeri if he continues to perform at the same level in the coming years.
Shortstop - Derek Jeter
Phil Rizzuto won an MVP Award and remains a Yankee legend long after his passing. But the only possible choice for the team at shortstop is Derek Jeter, one of the game’s greatest winners. A solid fielder, outstanding base-runner, and a pretty fair hitter as well, the Yankee captain will likely become the first player in team history to surpass 3,000 hits in 2011.
Third Base - Alex Rodriguez
We could have opted here for the longevity and Gold Glove offered by Graig Nettles, who helped the Yankees win back-to-back world championships in 1977 and 1978. However, it was impossible to ignore the overwhelming superiority of Alex Rodriguez as an offensive player. A-Rod captured two MVP Awards since coming to New York and compiled arguably the greatest season by any third baseman in baseball history in 2007, when he batted .314 and led the major leagues with 54 homers, 156 RBIs, and 143 runs scored.
Left Field – Mickey Mantle
Mantle never played left field, and there were some other viable options here, including Bob Meusel, Charlie Keller, and Roy White. But the primary objective here is to get the best team on the field, and The Mick was clearly one of the three best outfielders in Yankee history. He won three A.L. MVP Awards and finished either second or third in the voting five other times. Mantle’s 536 career homers are the most by any switch-hitter who ever played the game. Despite the blazing speed Mantle possessed in his youth, Joe DiMaggio was a better defensive centerfielder. That being said, we’ll shift Mantle over to left, in order to allow DiMaggio to patrol center.
Center Field - Joe DiMaggio
Perhaps the finest all-around player in baseball history prior to entering the service in 1943, the right-handed hitting DiMaggio posted incredible offensive numbers despite playing his home games in the original Yankee Stadium, with its enormous Death Valley in left-center field. DiMaggio hit 46 home runs, knocked in 167 runs, scored 151 others, and batted .346 in 1937, his second big-league season. He batted .381 two years later, before hitting in an all-time record 56 consecutive games in 1941. DiMaggio won three MVP Awards, and he finished out of the top 10 in the voting just three times in his 13 years in New York. DiMaggio hit 361 home runs, knocked in 1,537 runs, and batted .325 over the course of his abbreviated career.
Right Field - Babe Ruth
Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, and Paul O’Neill were all outstanding players. However, they must all take a back-seat to the legendary Bambino, who was the sport’s greatest star ever.
Catcher - Bill Dickey
One of the team’s deepest positions, the catcher’s spot served as home to five outstanding Yankee receivers over the years. Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson, and Jorge Posada were all among the premier catchers of their respective eras. However, only Dickey and Berra were seriously considered for the starting spot on this team. Posada posted impressive offensive numbers throughout his career, but he was a below-average fielder and only a marginal signal-caller. Munson was a fine hitter and a terrific team leader. However, his career was just too short. Howard also had all the qualities one would look for in a receiver. However, the presence of Berra on the Yankee roster limited Howard to only five full seasons as the team’s primary catcher. That left Dickey and Berra as the only possible choices. Dickey hit for a higher batting average than Berra, compiled a slightly better OPS, and was generally considered to be the finest defensive catcher of his time. Berra, though, was no slouch behind the plate, and he was a more dangerous hitter than Dickey. It’s a close call, and if only one of the two players could be selected for the team, the choice would be Berra. But, the presence of a designated hitter on our roster allows us to slide Berra into the DH spot, while turning over the catching duties to Dickey.
Designated Hitter – Yogi Berra
Three A.L. MVP Awards, 358 career home runs, five seasons with more than 100 RBIs, and 10 world championships in 17 seasons in pinstripes makes Berra the choice over several other outstanding candidates such as Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Bernie Williams, and Don Mattingly.
Starting Pitcher – Whitey Ford
The greatest starting pitcher in team history, Ford won more games (236), threw more innings (3,170), and tossed more shutouts (45) than any other Yankee hurler. With a career record of 236-106, Ford posted a .690 winning percentage – one of the best in baseball history. He also won the Cy Young Award in 1961, when his 25 victories made him the American League’s top winner for one of three times.
Starting Pitcher – Red Ruffing
Second in team history to Ford in wins (231) and shutouts (40), Ruffing surpassed 20 victories four straight times from 1936 to 1939, establishing himself as the staff ace on a team that captured four consecutive world championships.
Starting Pitcher – Lefty Gomez
The winner of two pitcher’s Triple Crowns, Gomez won more than 20 games four times for the Yankees during the 1930s. His 1934 campaign, in which he led the A.L. with a record of 26-5, a 2.33 ERA, 158 strikeouts, 25 complete games, and 282 innings pitched, was one of the finest seasons ever turned in by a Yankee starter.
Starting Pitcher – Ron Guidry
Owner of the greatest single-season performance ever recorded by a Yankee starter, Guidry captured A.L. Cy Young honors in 1978 by leading the league with a record of 25-3, a 1.74 ERA, and nine shutouts, while also striking out 248 batters. Louisiana Lightning won more than 20 games two other times for New York.
Starting Pitcher – Jack Chesbro
There were a number of legitimate candidates vying for the fifth and final spot in the rotation. Bob Shawkey, Herb Pennock, Waite Hoyt, Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, Mel Stottlemyre, and Andy Pettitte all merited serious consideration. In the end, though, Jack Chesbro’s record-setting 1904 campaign earned him the honor. Although the Hall of Fame right-hander posted a winning mark only three other times during his time in New York, he established a 20th century record by winning a mind-boggling 41 games for the Highlanders that year. Chesbro also compiled a 1.82 ERA, struck out 239 batters, and led the A.L. with 48 complete games and 455 innings pitched in his greatest season.
Closer – Mariano Rivera
The greatest relief pitcher in Yankee history is also the greatest reliever in the history of the game. He established a level of excellence during his career that few others have even been able to approach. Rivera will be ably assisted in the Yankee bullpen by Rich Gossage and Sparky Lyle, who will serve as our right-handed and left-handed set-up men.
Manager – Casey Stengel
Joe McCarthy would have been a very good choice as well. Miller Huggins, Billy Martin, and Joe Torre also received a great deal of consideration. But it was impossible to ignore the success Stengel experienced as manager of the team from 1949 to 1960; 10 pennants and seven world championships in 12 years.
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