If you had the ability to put together a lineup for your favorite team, using players from the franchise's history as well as the current roster, what would the lineup look like?
That's my goal: to try to create the ultimate lineup. This time around I will see what I can come up with for the New York Yankees.
The only criteria I had for deciding who the players could be (my article, my rules) were:
- The player had to have played in at least four seasons for the franchise.
- The player must only be considered for the position he played the most games at for his career, not only limited to the Yankees (except for the designated hitter; that could be a player from any position). For an example, I couldn't put Mickey Mantle in LF just because he played there once, I had to decide between he and Joe D for CF.
So with those caveats in mind, who would make the cut and just where would they bat? Let's start with the leadoff hitter.
Yes, Rickey only played in four full seasons and a part of the fifth for the Yankees and was mainly a center fielder for the Yankees. However, he played left field for the majority of his career, which meets the criteria.
Rickey is arguably the greatest leadoff hitter in baseball history. He has the most career leadoff HRs and his .401 OBP along with 1,406 stolen bases makes him the ultimate leadoff hitter for this lineup.
Career stats: .279 batting average, .401 OBP, .419 slugging, .820 OPS, 127 OPS+ along with 1 Gold Glove
Other players considered: There weren't many to choose from; LF is one of the Yankees' only weaknesses when it comes to all-time MLB greats (along with 3B and starting pitcher). I did consider Dave Winfield and Lou Piniella, but they don't come close to what Rickey brings you, especially when you need a leadoff hitter.
Can an active Yankee player ever replace Rickey in this lineup? No. No offense to Brett Gardner, but Rickey was the ultimate game changer from day one in the league and I just don't see that from Gardner.
Any lineup would love to have Joe DiMaggio as their number three hitter, but in this Yankees' lineup, he's a great option as the number two. His penchant for getting hits and not striking out is a great thing, especially with Rickey Henderson getting on base ahead of him. Also, his .398 OBP means he'll be on base a lot for the number three and four hitters in this lineup. Add in his smooth defense in center fielder and his great base running ability and you have the ultimate number two hitter.
Career stats: .325 batting average, .398 OBP, .579 slugging, .977 OPS and 155 OPS+
Other players considered: Mickey Mantle. It was a tough decision, thankfully I have the Designated Hitter available to me later.
Can an active Yankee player ever replace Joe in this lineup? No. I have Joe DiMaggio ranked as the sixth greatest position player in baseball history and Curtis Granderson just doesn't come close.
Any team would love to be able to pencil Gehrig into their lineup as the number three hitter for 14+ seasons. Having Gehrig batting behind Rickey Henderson and Joe Dimaggio would drastically increase his RBI chances and his .447 on base percentage would be outstanding for the cleanup hitter batting behind him. He would easily have over 150 RBIs (if not closer to 200) a season batting third in this lineup.
Career stats: .340 batting average, .447 OBP, .632 Slugging, 1.080 OPS and 178 OPS+
Other players considered: Not a single one. There have been many other Yankee first basemen, but none approach the Iron Horse.
Can an active Yankee player ever replace Lou in this lineup? No. The only way an active player could enter the discussion is if the Yankees trade for Albert Pujols. Even then, Pujols wouldn't be able to decline for the rest of his career. I have Gehrig ranked as the third greatest position player in baseball history; that would be pretty hard to top.
Was there ever any doubt about who would be the cleanup hitter in a Yankees' ultimate lineup? The only question I had was if I would use Ruth in right field or as the DH. I had to "settle" with having Ruth play right field (so I could get in another great bat at DH later).
I could explain why I put Ruth in the cleanup spot, but if you're reading this, chances are you know the reasons just as well as I do.
Career stats: .342 batting average, .474 OBP, .690 slugging, 1.164 OPS and 206 OPS+
Other players considered: Zero, none, nada, zilch.
Can an active Yankee player ever replace Babe in this lineup? Sorry, I'm trying to type an answer but can't stop laughing. No offense to Nick Swisher, but does this question even have to be asked? Ruth is the greatest player to ever set foot on a baseball diamond.
It was tough to not have Mickey playing in the field somewhere, but if you have to have a designated hitter, you can't go wrong with Mickey. To fill the DH spot, most franchises would choose either a hitter that was only all power or use whatever ninth greatest position player they could come up with. The Yankees would have the best switch-hitter the game's ever seen who hit for average and for power, with an OBP over .400 and was also a pretty good base runner as theirs.
Career stats: .298 batting average, .421 OBP, .557 slugging, .977 OPS and 172 OPS+
Other players considered: I could have considered Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Don Mattingly or several others seeing how it could be any positional player. Plus, the Yankees have a lot more of them than any other franchise that would garner consideration on their franchise's ultimate lineup. But once I decided to use DiMaggio in center field, Mickey was the only logical choice here.
Can an active Yankee player ever replace Mickey in this lineup? Not really. A player like Mark Teixeira or Jorge Posada might garner some consideration but they would fall short.
Finally we come to an active Yankee. Third base is arguably the weakest position in Yankees history and not one Yankee besides A-Rod has the complete package to warrant inclusion in this lineup. Alex's ability to hit for average and power, to get on base and field with above average defense is what gets him penciled into this lineup.
Career stats (so far): .303 batting average, .387 OBP, .571 slugging, .958 OPS, 145 OPS+ and 2 Gold Gloves
Other players considered: The pickings were slim but Graig Nettles and Clete Boyer were considered; they fell short in comparison to Alex.
Catcher for the Yankees is their deepest position when talking all-time. Picking the one I'd want in the lineup wasn't easy; they all have strengths that would benefit any lineup. I "settled" with arguably the greatest catcher in baseball history (it's him or Johnny Bench); the plaque in this slide says it all. Having Yogi, a three-time MVP winner, anchor the bottom third of the lineup is proof that your lineup is very strong.
Career stats: .285 batting average, .348 OBP, .482 slugging, .830 OPS and 125 OPS+
Other players considered: Let's take a look at Yankee catchers in chronological order that warranted consideration; Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson (those four were all in a row, mind you—the torch got passed from one to the other), Jorge Posada. Any other franchise has one catcher to choose from if they're lucky, the Yankees have five.
Can an active Yankee player ever replace Yogi in this lineup? Jorge Posada is in consideration but his career would have to end extremely strong to even come close to Yogi; so in reality, the answer is no.
Lazzeri batting eighth is basically by default (the batting spot, not the player choice). I wanted the guy batting ninth to be my "second leadoff hitter" so Tony couldn't bat there and his stats don't warrant a higher batting spot (at least not in this lineup). Second base in Yankee history is another "weak" position but it's not like Lazzeri was a default pick. He was a Hall of Famer and a great contributor to the Yankees of the mid-1920s through the mid-1930s.
Career stats: .292 batting average, .380 OBP, .452 slugging, .846 OPS and 120 OPS+
Other players considered: Joe Gordon, Willie Randolph and Robinson Cano. In a close decision, I went with Lazzeri; he was simply best overall.
Can an active Yankee player ever replace Rickey in this lineup? Robinson Cano is the only current active Yankee that has a chance to replace anyone in this lineup. In order to do this though, he would have to show that his 2009/2010 seasons are going to be par for the course and his 2008 season was just him being "lazy". If Cano can continue to prove that he is the MVP-caliber player he was last year, he'll easily replace Lazzeri. I just want to see more of him first, and that's why Lazzeri was picked instead.
Deciding to select Derek Jeter for this lineup was easy, deciding where to bat him wasn't. Do I bat him leadoff? Do I bat him second? How about eighth? I settled on ninth so I can have him as the "second leadoff hitter".
It's not a slight against Jeter at all; I just couldn't justify his batting leadoff over the greatest leadoff hitter ever in Rickey Henderson or second over a top 10 player in baseball history, Joe DiMaggio. His power numbers pale in comparison to the guys I had hitting third through sixth batting ninth was basically all what's left. Don't worry Jeter fans, there is no concern about this lineup not turning over enough to get Derek enough at-bats.
Career stats (for now): .314 batting average, .385 OBP, .452 slugging, .837 OPS, 119 OPS+ and five Gold Gloves
Other players considered: Basically it was between Jeter and Phil Rizzuto. While Rizzuto was much better defensively than Jeter, when you look at the offensive numbers, it wasn't even close.
So, here's what I believe the Ultimate Yankee Lineup would look like, in batting order:
1. Rickey Henderson
2. Joe DiMaggio
3. Lou Gehrig
4. Babe Ruth
5. Mickey Mantle
6. Alex Rodriguez
7. Yogi Berra
8. Tony Lazzeri
9. Derek Jeter
It's my opinion that if you would have to make an All-Star team from every other franchise to compete with this Yankee Ultimate Lineup in order to compete. It's further proof that the Yankees are America's greatest franchise in sports history.
What do you think? Would you change the order or any of the players? Please leave a comment and explain why you would. Also, if you'd like to see who I think your favorite's team Ultimate Lineup would consist of, just tell me the team's name.