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Ranking the 7 Greatest Pure Hitters in New York Yankees' History

Colin KennedyFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2013

Ranking the 7 Greatest Pure Hitters in New York Yankees' History

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    When dealing with arguably the most storied franchise in all of sports, it is difficult to determine an order for the greatest pure hitters in the history of the New York Yankees

    However, I am here to make the argument a bit clearer. 

    From the Great Bambino to "Mr. November", the pinstripes have peppered some of the game's greatest players throughout baseball history. 

    Hitting for power and average, names like Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle collect attention throughout American households still today. 

    Not everyone, however, was fortunate enough to have a lengthy career like Derek Jeter or play in the same era as Babe Ruth. 

    So who belongs where among the elite hitters to ever grace the Bronx and which Yankee was the greatest pure hitter of all-time? 

    Here's my take.

# 7: Robinson Cano

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    Yes, I know it is premature to include Robinson Cano on this list, but anyone who watches him play can attest to the fact that his natural swing makes him arguably the best hitter in the game today. 

    Over in Detroit, Miguel Cabrera is pretty good too, but days after Cano registered his 1,500th career hit, I believe it is time to honor one of the sweetest swings the game has seen. 

    Selection issues troubled the left-hander early in his career as Cano piled up the strikeouts and let very few pitches pass him by. However, time has taken a toll, and a more mature approach at the plate has paid dividends for the man named after Jackie Robinson.

    At only 30 years of age, Cano has compiled 1,505 hits, 344 doubles, 187 home runs, and 738 RBI.

    If he continues his current pace, he may very well go down as one of the best three second baseman to ever play the game. 

    When he registered his 1,500th hit on Thursday, Cano became the fifth-youngest Yankee to reach the milestone. Putting that in perspective, the only players to do it faster are all on this list—Derek Jeter, Micky Mantle, Dan Mattingly and Lou Gehrig. 

    In the prime of his career, it is tough to predict where Cano might end up on the list of all-time greats, but if he continues at his current pace, it will be impossible to ignore his accomplishments. 

#6: Don Mattingly

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    Though he wasn't fortunate enough to win a World Series title with the Yankees, there is no hiding from the fact that Don Mattingly was one of the greatest pure hitters to don the pinstripes. 

    His abbreviated career in New York was highlighted by a 1985 AL MVP award in which he hit .324 with 35 home runs and 145 RBI.

    A six-time All-Star, "Donnie Baseball" clubbed an impressive 222 home runs before back problems shortened his career in the mid-90's. 

    Many believe that total would be much higher if it weren't for the injuries, but nonetheless, Mattingly's .307 average is a testament to the fact that he knew how to hit. His 1984 AL batting title proves that.

    He totaled 2,153 hits and 1,099 RBI in a remarkable 14-year career in New York and is often noted as the greatest Yankee to never play in a World Series. 

    You decide how you want to remember "Donnie Baseball", but I'll know him as one of the greatest left-handed hitters the franchise has ever seen. 

#5: Joe DiMaggio

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    When we're talking about pure hitters, Joe DiMaggio is one of the first names that comes to mind. 

    Perhaps it's the .325 career average, but more likely, it's the fact that he still holds the record for baseball longest hitting streak of 56 games. 

    That record, which may never fall, is one that helped make DiMaggio one of the most recognizable names in sports. DiMaggio's hitting streak, however, only touches the surface of his accomplishments. 

    DiMaggio recorded 2,214 hits in an abbreviated 13-year career to go with 361 home runs and more than 1,500 RBI as a Yankee. 

    A three-time winner of the AL MVP award, DiMaggio lost significant time to fighting in WWII from the ages of 28 to 30. Had he spent more time in the batter's box, there is no telling how far "Joltin' Joe" could have gone. 

    Even still, the nine-time World Series champion has to be noted as one of the greatest pure hitters to ever wear the pinstripes. 

#4: Mickey Mantle

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    Mickey Mantle was another rare breed, who possessed the ability to hit for both power and average. If it weren't for injuries, he might be higher on this list. 

    Either way, it is tough to keep "The Mick" out of my top-five greatest pure hitters in Yankees history because of his legendary status and impressive resume. 

    Mostly known for his mammoth home run shots to right field, Mantle was arguably the greatest switch hitter to ever play the game.

    His greatest season came in 1956, when he batted .353 overall and won the AL Triple Crown with 52 home runs and 130 RBI, but he wasn't a one-hit wonder by any means. 

    Mantle went on to win seven World Series and play in 20 All-Star Games before he retired in 1968.

    He was a three-time AL MVP and holds World Series records for most home runs (18), RBI (40), runs (42), walks (43), extra-base hits (26) and total bases (123). 

    When he retired, Mantle was third on the Yankees' all-time home run list although many believe that his total (536) would have been much higher if it weren't for his rumored alcohol abuse and numerous injuries. 

#3: Derek Jeter

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    It's tough to compare players from two entirely different eras, but if anyone is to be placed alongside greats like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, it's Derek Jeter. 

    The Yankees' all-time leader in hits (3,304) is entering his 19th season with the historic franchise and could surpass Pete Rose as the game's all-time hits leader before it is all said and done. 

    His uncanny ability to go the opposite way has enabled the captain to prolong a career many thought was done years ago. 

    His 216 hits led all of baseball in 2012 and silenced critics calling for his retirement. 

    Jeter hits mainly for average, but also happens to have 255 home runs. He figures to surpass Gehrig as the club's all-time leader in doubles this season and could score more runs than any Yankee before he hangs up the cleats for good. 

#2: Lou Gehrig

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    There was literally nothing that the "Iron Horse" did not do. 

    Lou Gehrig is another name that ranks not just atop the list of all-time Yankees, but the list of all-time greatest players as well. 

    Over 17 seasons in New York, Gehrig compiled a resume matched by few in the history of the game. He hit 493 home runs, won six World Series titles and batted .340 for his career. 

    Gehrig still ranks among the Yankees' all-time top three in average, hits, runs and walks. 

    He is the franchise's all-time leader in doubles, triples and RBI. 

    Gehrig won the AL MVP on two separate occasions (1927 and 1936) and even took home baseball's Triple Crown in 1934. 

    Only four players drove in more runs over the course of a career than Gehrig, who owns three of the six best RBI seasons of all-time. 

    If it wasn't for the Babe, we might be talking about Gehrig as the greatest to ever play the game. 

#1: Babe Ruth

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    No surprise here. Any list of all-time Yankee greats is inevitably going to start with arguably the greatest player to ever hold a bat. 

    Babe Ruth still remains the franchise leader in batting average, home runs, runs scored and walks. 

    His name is synonymous with baseball and some contend that Ruth is even one of the most recognizable names in all of sports. 

    His remarkable resume includes seven World Series titles, 714 home runs and a career .342 average. 

    Ruth also led the Amercan League in home runs 12 times, RBI six times and even led the league in ERA as a pitcher in 1916. 

    His .690 career slugging percentage and 1.164 career OPS are both major league records that won't be touched for some time while his inexplicable balance of power and pure hitting ability is something that no other human being has ever possessed. 

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