New York Yankees: The Most Underrated Player at Each Position in Team History
The New York Yankees.
Just about everyone in America knows of the Yankees. Just about everyone in America can name at least one Yankee player. That's what happens when you win 27 championships and dominate a sport like no other team.
Everyone recognizes the Yankees' history and acknowledges that they have had many great teams. Even your most staunchest Boston Red Sox fan from Yawkey Way has to admit it. He probably won't do it in public, but any baseball fan recognizes the legacy of the Yankees.
The Yankees have had many legends don pinstripes. Superstars have played for them in both Yankee Stadiums. Monument Park is filled with their plaques and each fan has their favorite Yankee.
Championship teams aren't built on those stars alone, however. The more important pieces are the guys around them. For every Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle, there's a Bernie Williams, Jimmy Key or Tony Kudek doing the little things.
This is a list of those players so they finally get their moment in the spotlight, if even for just a moment.
Starting Pitcher: Mike Mussina
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We don't have to go very far back for this one folks.
Mike Mussina was a staple in the rotation in the 2000s. Of all the big-name signings, trades and call-ups, he was the lone guy to stay the entire time.
Mussina had the misfortune of starting and ending his New York Yankee career between two Yankees championships in 2000 and 2009. He also pitched in the shadow of Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite. The Yankees even traded for Randy Johnson because they felt they needed a big-name, elite pitcher.
What the Yankees failed to recognize was that they had that pitcher in Mussina all along. Sure, his name isn't as flashy as Pettite or Clemens and won't have as much historical significance as Ron Guidry or Whitey Ford, but he's one of the best pitchers to ever don pinstripes.
His control, composure and cerebral approach to the game will be overlooked in favor of those flamethrowers and strikeout masters. To be a consistently good pitcher in the Steroid Era, however, is a feat of its own even if Mussina never got to wear a championship ring.
Honorable Mentions: Jimmy Key, Mel Stottlemyre, David Wells, David Cone
Relief Pitcher: Sparky Lyle
When it comes to the New York Yankees, any reliever will always end up being considered underrated thanks to Mariano Rivera.
Rivera's had several excellent set-up men to help him out who deserve to be mention in a list such as this. However, I'm gonna go with the Yankees' original great closer, Sparky Lyle.
You can blame me for being a bit of a homer since he now manages my hometown Somerset Patriots, but I feel Lyle doesn't get the credit he deserves at times. In 1977, he was the second reliever ever to win a Cy Young. And yet, he was traded after the 1978 season because he was deemed expendable.
Lyle was replaced by Goose Gossage and was then traded for someone named Dave Righetti.
In the shuffle of great relievers, Lyle's name gets mentioned but seems to be lost behind some of those other guys.
Honorable Mentions: Mike Stanton, Jeff Nelson, John Wetteland
Catcher: Jorge Posada
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Since it might be too soon to give the spot to Austin Romine and rather blasphemous as well, the nod goes to Jorge Posada.
Jorge Posada may never get the recognition Thurman Munson, Bill Dickey or Yogi Berra, he may never even get into the Hall of Fame. Posada, however, is still one of the greatest New York Yankee catchers.
He was part of the Core Four that gave the New York Yankees those five championships. Posada was also one of the leaders on those Yankee teams in the 2000s. His loyalty to the Yankees was unquestionable, which is why it was unfathomable that he might sign with another team this offseason.
In his prime, Posada was one of the best offensive catchers. Yogi Berra is the only other Yankee catcher to ever hit 30 home runs in a season. Posada's defense has always been questionable which takes him down a notch from the other Yankee catchers.
Honorable Mentions: Joe Girardi, Wally Schang, Mike Stanley
First Baseman: Bill "Moose" Skowron
Were you expecting Tony Clark?
Even I've got to say that Moose Skowron isn't the first name I think of when it comes to great New York Yankees first basemen. Don Mattingly and Lou Gehrig have him beat for that.
Despite the lack of name recognition, he was just as good with the bat, hitting 165 home runs with 672 RBI over nine seasons. Skowron even blasted 28 home runs in 1961, the year of the Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle race. He also won eight pennants and four World Series with the Yankees.
Skowron was part of Casey Stengel's great Yankee dynasty in the 1950s. He played along side Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford. Of course, playing with those guys meant they overshadowed him.
You rarely hear Skowron's name among those mentioned when discussing Stengel's Yankees.
Don't Forget: Tino Martinez, Chris Chambliss, Joe Pepitone
Second Baseman: Joe Gordon
In the list of the New York Yankees' all-time greats, Joe Gordon's name is one that seems to get lost a bit.
The Yankees haven't exactly had legendary players fill the second base spot each year. And yet, names like Bobby Richardson, Tony Lazzeri, Willie Randolph and Billy Martin come to mind when talking about great Yankee second basemen.
Gordon would prove to be a gem among second basemen as he had power which many of them did not. His 25 homers in his rookie season set an American League record for second basemen. Gordon would continue to hit homers in his career with the Yankees.
He was also known to be gifted defensively. Gordon had, quite possibly, the greatest range of any Yankee ever, and that's saying quite a lot.
Don't Forget: Gil McDougald, Aaron Ward, Chuck Knoblauch
Third Baseman: Clete Boyer
This guy was by no means a great hitter. Clete Boyer simply played his position, and he did a great job of it.
Boyer was known for his glove, but unfortunately for him, so was Brooks Robinson. It was near impossible for him to win a Gold Glove in the American League.
His offensive stats wasn't going to get him recognition either. New York Yankees fans nowadays take power-hitting third basemen for granted with Alex Rodriguez. There was a time, however, when Clete Boyer's .242 career batting average was the best the Yankees were gonna get.
Defense was Boyer's game and he was one of the best at it. His lack of Gold Gloves and power numbers meant he wasn't going to get much fame, but it didn't matter. He did his job and he did it well.
Don't Forget: Gil McDougald (Casey Stengel had him play the entire infield), Scott Brosius, Frank Baker
Shortstop: Frank Crosetti
Kinda hard for a seven-time champion to be underrated, but Frank "The Crow" Crosetti is just that.
Surprisingly, the New York Yankees haven't had many famous shortstops don pinstripes. Yankee fans nowadays take the shortstop position for granted with Derek Jeter having been there since 1995.
Crosetti is a name that doesn't get mentioned all that much on those championship teams of the 30s and 40s. Someone named Joe DiMaggio might have something to do with that.
Lost beneath the legend of DiMaggio was Crosetti's 260 doubles, a feat for shortstops back then.
Perhaps the most interesting part about Crosetti is that he was tied to just about every Yankee great from Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to DiMaggio to Yogi Berra to Mickey Mantle by becoming the third base coach after retiring.
In total, Crosetti has 17 World Series rings which has to be some sort of record.
Don't Forget: Tony Kubek and Bucky Dent
Left Fielder: Roy White
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Roy White was stuck in the shadow of Reggie Jackson, so him being overshadowed is a bit of an understatement, despite playing in three World Series teams and helping to win two of them.
White toiled on those New York Yankee teams of the 1960s that were being run into the ground before George Steinbrenner showed up to rescue the team. He had the misfortune of joining Yankees at their worst and spending the latter part of his career in Reggie Jackson's shadow.
His defensive skills were buried under the embarrassment of the late 1960s Yankees teams and the superstar power of Reggie Jackson. White led all left fielders in fielding percentage for four consecutive years, 1968-1971.
Don't Forget: Hideki Matsui, Charlie Keller, Tim Raines
Center Fielder: Bernie Williams
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I've got to give this spot to Bernie Williams. With all that talk about the Core Four these past couple of years with them winning another championship and Andy Pettite and Jorge Posada retiring, it seems like people forget that Bernie Williams was part of those Joe Torre teams too.
Williams was one of the smoothest centerfielders I ever witnessed. Even the way he swung the bat was smooth. That swing of his gave him several postseason batting records, including most home runs until Manny Ramirez passed him.
People don't realize Williams was at his best in the postseason with his on-base percentage and RBI totals being the best markers of his production for the team.
Despite his postseason and regular season performance, Williams was always outshone by his teammates. Derek Jeter was made the captain, Andy Pettite's retirement was more publicized, the front office brought in guys like Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, and Jason Giambi to put up offensive numbers.
Then in the end, Bernie Williams just faded away, strumming along on his guitar.
Don't Forget: Mickey Rivers, Bobby Murcer, Earle Combs
Right Fielder: Hank Bauer
The man of the hour.
Hank Bauer's another name that gets lost in the Casey Stengel era with greats such as Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford grabbing the headlines.
Bauer was also replaced by Roger Maris after the 1959 season, so there's that working against him too.
Despite the lack of name recognition, Bauer helped Stengel's teams win seven titles in 10 years. Five of those championships were consecutive, a major league record.
And by help, I really mean help. Bauer made a sliding catch to get the final out in the 1951 World Series and homered in the 1958 World Series to extend his World Series hitting streak to 17 games. He was always coming through when it mattered most.
I wonder if Fox got Jack Bauer's name from him.
Don't Forget: Bobby Abreu, George Selkirk, Nick Swisher