Yankees among the best almost everywhere but starting pitcher

21 09 2015

Look around the baseball diamond, and at nearly every position, a Yankee was one of the best ever. But not at starting pitcher.

We say that pitching wins championships, and the Yankees through the decades have had excellent depth in good starting pitchers, and sometimes great starting pitchers. But none of the all-time greatest starting pitchers spent most of their careers with the Yankees.

The only Yankee pitcher you might see on a list of the 10 best starters ever is Roger Clemens, and his best years were with the Red Sox. Clemens won 20 games only once in his six Yankee years. His Yankee years wouldn’t rank him among the best Yankee starters ever, let alone among baseball’s best. (For purposes of this discussion, I’m dealing with actual performance, not trying to decide whose achievements to discount because of suspicions about use of performance-enhancing drugs.)

If you expand your best-ever list to 20 or 25, Whitey Ford usually gets a spot, but Yankees remain notably absent, or low, from any best-ever discussion of starting pitchers. And they’re prominent in such discussions at nearly every other position.

At six positions, at least one Yankee is either the best ever or one of two to five stars contending for the top spot:

Catcher

Yogi Berra often loses the best-catcher-ever debates to Johnny Bench, but he’s always in the discussion. With three MVP awards and more championships than anyone, plus still-impressive offensive numbers, Yogi figures prominently in discussing best catchers ever. And Yankee Bill Dickey would be on anyone’s top-10 list, maybe even top five. Read the rest of this entry »

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Without Roger Maris, the Hall of Fame isn’t complete

4 11 2009

Update: Now that Mark McGwire has admitted juicing when he broke Roger Maris’ record (which was obvious at the time, by the way), do I think he should be elected to the Hall of Fame? Yes, absolutely. 37 years after Maris gets in.

Roger Maris' autograph, with some St. Louis Cardinals teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

Roger Maris’ autograph, with some St. Louis Cardinals teammates, on a ball belonging to my son Joe.

When I was a young man, I swore I would not visit the Baseball Hall of Fame until Roger Maris was properly enshrined.

I retreated on the vow after making another vow. My oldest son, Mike, was a Johnny Bench fan. When Bench retired in 1983, Mike asked if he would make it to the Hall of Fame. I assured him that Bench would be voted in on the first ballot. Mike asked what year that would be. I said 1989. Mike asked if we could go to the induction ceremonies. I said sure. What kid remembers a promise like that five-plus years later?

Mike did. And we spent a marvelous weekend in Cooperstown watching Bench, Carl Yastrzemski, Red Schoendienst and Harry Caray inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The museum was fabulous, even crowded with induction-weekend fans. I didn’t spend much time in the hall itself. Maris wasn’t there and his absence cheapens the honor for those who are. If the selection process and the electors are obviously biased and skewed, how much can it mean to get in?

Read the rest of this entry »