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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Derek Jeter: secure among Yankee legends, strong case as best shortstop ever

9 07 2011

Derek Jeter’s place in Yankee history is secure. He has reached the upper echelon where you really don’t rank the players. They are just the Yankee immortals: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, Jeter, Rivera. Those seven are clearly the top tier: each holding amazing records, each winning multiple world championships, each a Yankee legend, each playing all or most of his career as a Yankee, each one of the best ever at his position.

All the other Yankee greats — Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly, Ron Guidry, Thurman Munson, Lefty Gomez and so on — start a rung below those seven.

And it’s pointless trying to rank those top seven: How do you rank DiMaggio’s hitting streak or Mantle’s World Series homers or Gehrig’s consecutive-game streak behind anyone? But Babe has to be first, doesn’t he? And you can’t compare Rivera’s late-inning dominance with all these hitters. And no one won more World Series than Berra, whose masterful handling of the pitching staff again defies comparison. No, it’s a seven-way tie for first place as the greatest Yankee ever. No one gets dethroned at the top of this list, they just make room for another legend.

If you want to figure where Jeter ranks all-time, consider his standing among all the great shortstops of baseball history. More specifically, is he the greatest shortshop ever? Now, that’s a debate worth having, especially the day that he topped 3,000 hits with an amazing 5-for-5 day. Read the rest of this entry »