Many players come through the Yankee organization and most are average players. Then there are those exceptional few who leave a lasting mark on the franchise and the game of baseball in general. Out of those few, some make the Hall of Fame, others don’t. Most people know who has made the Hall so let’s focus on that a select number that did not.
Honorable Mentions: Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Tommy John.
Roger Maris (RF): You know him for 61. He won the MVP that year. He won a Silver Slugger Award as well. What’s not well known is that he won the MVP award the year before when he slugged a whopping .581. He was close to the best back to back seasons across any players’ career in the Majors. While his career wasn’t too long, he made the most of it. In seven seasons as a Yankee he hit .265/.356/.515 with 203 home runs and 547 runs batted in.
Robinson Cano (2B): This is clearly a stretch. I include him is solely because of his past seven seasons in Pinstripes have been tremendous (see: 33 WAR). He is currently posting a career year boasting a slash of .300/.368/.540. He’s hit 30 home runs, a career high, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. If he continues on for four more years at his current pace, he’ll be in talks as one of the best second basemen to ever play the game. He’s already the best the Yankees have ever had.
10. Jorge Posada (C): Jorge Posada, member of the Core Four, will go down as one of the better switch hitters of all time. He’s joined great ranks of hitting catchers and kept the great Yankee catching tradition alive. Posada owns four World Series rings, five Silver Slugger Awards, and a career 39 WAR.
9. Thurman Munson (C): Let’s stay in line with the catching theme. He was taken before his time. He followed in the path of great Yankee catchers like Berra, Dickey, and Howard. Munson was a seven time All-Star, a two time World Series champion, Rookie of the Year in 1970 and the AL MVP in 1976. If he played a couple more years, it would warrant thoughts of him getting into the Hall of Fame not only a claim as one of the most beloved Yankees.
8. Andy Pettitte (LHP): As a member of the Core Four, Andy was instrumental in every one of those four World Series. Aside from his postseason prowess and leadership, Andy has largely been an above average pitcher when stacked up to the greats of his time. This is not a knock just to state that his impact was felt in the most important times. He holds the most postseason wins of any pitcher ever. Andy has been the best big game pitcher of the past 20 years. For example, Game five of the 1996 World Series. A pivotal game and the most important he’s pitched…ever. He threw 8.1 Innings while only allowing five hits, zero walks, and striking out four.
7. Graig Nettles (3B): While he may have never hit for average, Graig was a constant power threat. He hit 20 plus home runs for 8 of his 11 seasons with the Yankees. He amassed 390 home runs over his career and had a career WAR of 62.8. A very underrated player, for he was a two time Gold Glove winner and a six time All-Star.
6. Bernie Williams (CF): While he may be my favorite Yankee of all time, Williams deserves this position. He’s a three time World Series champion, a five time All-Star, and a four time Gold Glove recipient. Williams is second in all time postseason total bases, hits, home runs, runs scored, doubles, walks, and tops the postseason all time runs batted in list. He hit 6 home runs in the 1996 postseason and is arguably the greatest postseason baseball player the game has seen. The only competitor is listed later. Quite simply, without Bernie Williams the Yankees postseasons would have turned out quite differently.
5. Don Mattingly (1B): Donnie Baseball. He still awaits Hall of Fame selection and I’m not sure if it’s coming. A beloved Yankee, he was a terrific fielder noted by his 9 Gold Gloves and career .996 fielding percentage. He was a seven time All-Star and posted a .939 OPS in his sole MVP season. It will be a shame if he doesn’t get voted in the Hall of Fame.
4. Ron Guidry (LHP): Guidry is a tiny guy if you didn’t already know. Next time he’s in the dugout, look at him. He’s no more than 5’10” but the man could pitch. Guidry finished in the top five for the Cy Young four different times, including the year he won (1978). That year he posted a 25-3 record with a 1.74 ERA. Of the 35 games he started that season, he threw 16 complete games 9 of which were shutouts. He had an eye dropping WHIP of .946. He would continue this dominance throughout his career. While no year ever directly mimicked 1978, he was close in 1981 and 1985.
3. Alex Rodriguez* (3B): The man has always been a physical specimen and will continue to be. He is on the decline but that will never take away from the 2009 playoffs or his whole career for that matter. A 14 time All-Star, three time MVP (finished second twice and third once), 10 time Silver Slugger and two time Gold Glove winner, Rodriguez will be in the Hall based on those numbers alone. Add 646 home runs, and counting, to a career slash line of .301/.385/.562 and the fact he’s 119 hits shy of 3,000, there is an argument to be made that he’s not only a great Yankee, but he’s in the upper echelon of the all-time greats.
2. Mariano Rivera* (RHP): We may have seen the end of Mariano and it is truly bittersweet. What more can be said about the greatest reliever/pitcher the game has ever known? His career postseason ERA spanning 141 innings is a .70. His 608 career saves are the most compiled by a single pitcher. Over 1219.2 innings pitched, his career WHIP is .998 and career ERA is 2.28. While he didn’t start, I regard him as the best pitcher the Yankees have ever had.
1. Derek Jeter* (SS): When it’s all said and done and Jeter hangs up his cleats, he’ll be the greatest Yankee ever. He may even be the all-time hits leader. People thought he was on the decline this year at age 38 but he posted a slash of .324/.368/.449, has recorded 58 multi-hit games, which leads the majors, and will surpass 200 hits for the seventh time in his career. He’s the Yankee leader in just about every offensive category you can think of sans home runs. He is Mr. November; he rivals Bernie Williams.
*-Will be a Hall of Famer