Out of 29 players to be full-season starters at second base for the Yankees, Cano ranks fourth in total games played—a feat sufficient enough to make your mark as one of the best of all time.
The debate over the top Yankee second baseman of all time comes down to a group of five notable players: Joe Gordon, Willie Randolph, Bobby Richardson, Tony Lazzeri and Robinson Cano. Each a powerhouse in his own right, it is difficult to rank the five players side by side, each playing for the Yankees for varying lengths of time in very different eras.
Lazzeri and Gordon are members of the Hall of Fame, although both were voted in by the Veteran’s Committee more than 50 years after their playing days ended.
This impressive group of players has amassed 24 All-Star selections, six Gold Glove awards, four Silver Slugger awards, one MVP award, one World Series MVP award and 15 World Series championships as members of the Yankees.
Whoever tops this list of some of baseballs finest must be quite the accomplished ballplayer.
*Note: all statistics from baseball-reference.com
Batting Average/On Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage .266/.299/.335 WAR – 6.5
While Bobby Richardson’s stats may not represent him as a great hitter, his hefty list of achievements proves him to be a star on second.
The second baseman made the World Series-winning grab in 1962, heroically snagging Willie McCovey’s line drive to end Game 7 and secure the series for the Yankees.
In addition to his World Series heroics, Richardson was an eight-time All-Star and a five-time Gold Glove Award winner.
Alongside shortstop Tony Kubek, Richardson was one half of one of the greatest double play duos in Yankees history. Richardson was a Yankee for 12 years, but only played full-time for 10 of them, leaving him well short of the numbers that would serve to push him up the list.
.275/.374/.357 WAR – 51.7
Randolph is the longest tenured Yankee on the list at 13 seasons.
He has the highest career WAR at 51.7 of any Yankee second baseman and the highest career defensive WAR of the group at 16.3.
Even with these monstrous stats, Randolph failed to earn a Gold Glove Award in his career, despite being known as a great defensive player.
While Randolph wasn’t much of a power threat—compiling only 48 home runs in 13 years—he was an asset at the top of the lineup, as evidenced by his .374 on-base percentage.
The six-time All-Star (five as a Yankee) and two-time World Series winner may have the longevity to make him a Yankees legend, he wasn’t enough of an offensive threat to land farther down the list.
.271/.358/.467 WAR – 35.1
Of the five second basemen in question, Joe Gordon might have the most accolades.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 2009, Gordon won the MVP Award in 1942 after quite an incredible season, smashing 18 home runs and driving in 103 runs—an impressive total for a second baseman at the time. A nine-time All-Star (six as a Yankee) and five-time World Series winner (four as a Yankee), Gordon is the only Yankees' second baseman to ever win MVP.
Gordon’s numbers for the Yankees are irrefutably fantastic; however, there just aren’t enough of them to land him further up on this list.
Due to two lost seasons fighting in World War II and a trade to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Allie Reynolds (Reynolds was part of six World Series championship teams with the Yankees, and Gordon helped the Indians to their most recent title in 1948. Quite the trade!), Gordon simply doesn’t have the staying power to top the list.
.293/.379/.467 WAR – 44.7
The second Hall of Famer on our list, Tony Lazzeri was truly a force to be reckoned with at the plate.
As a member of the infamous Murderer’s Row, Lazzeri tops all Yankees second basemen with 169 career home runs—an astonishing total when you consider the era he was playing in.
Lazzeri was a member of the first ever American League All-Star team in 1933, and with five World Series wins, he has the most championships as a Yankee of any player on the list. But when you’re on Babe Ruth’s team for most of your career, you might be expected to have inflated statistics.
If we were looking only at statistics from before the current season, Lazzeri would undoubtedly top the list; but one player is in the midst of another immense season, that he has already surpassed Lazzeri before the end of the year.
.308/.350/.502 WAR – 32.1
Don’t you know?
It’s Robbie Cano!
Robinson Cano has officially driven his way into the coveted spot as the best Yankees' second baseman of all time.
The four-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger and one-time Golden Glove recipient is the best hitter of any second baseman in Yankees history, amassing the highest batting average of the five ranked players.
At 7.8, Cano is tied with the highest single-season WAR of any Yankee second baseman.
Cano is also the biggest power threat, holding the highest slugging percentage and currently on the verge of setting the home run record for Yankees second basemen. Cano also beats out his fellow contestants with the highest OPS+, scoring an impressive 121, a measure designed to take the effect of different ballparks out of players’ OPS numbers.
In addition to his offensive talents, Cano also has one of the strongest arms of any second baseman, with his patented cross-body, side-armed throw, saving the Yankees countless runs over the years. Although at times he has a tendency to seem lackadaisical in the field, Cano more than makes up for appearances in his prowess at the plate.
Any way you slice it: this is a great group of second basemen.
From now until he finishes his career as a Yankee, Robinson Cano can only add jewels to his crown as the top Yankees second baseman of all time.