New York Yankees: Mattingly, Munson and the All-Time 'Hall of Very Good' Roster
After writing the article breaking down each franchise's Hall of Very Good, it made me wonder what a Yankees roster of just Hall of Very Good players would look like.
The Yankees history is full of Hall of Famers but I do believe a pretty good lineup could be made from the almost Hall of Famers.
To do this, I came up with the following criteria:
- player can't be in the Hall of Fame
- if an active player, that player can't be bound for the Hall of Fame (or would be if PED use wasn't verified/suspected)
- player must have played for the Yankees for a minimum of three seasons
- only stats for the Yankees can be considered
- try to use each player in the position they played the most games for their career at (this is my article, so I reserve the right to ignore this if I have to!).
As always, if you think I picked the wrong player, please tell me why. You never know, if you make a strong enough case I just might change my mind!
Let's start behind the plate with catcher.
Catcher: Thurman Munson
Thurman Munson died tragically and ended what should have been a Hall of Fame career. He was one of the best catchers in the 1970s along with Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk.
During his 11 seasons in the Bronx, Munson won the Rookie of the Year, one MVP and three Gold Gloves.
Munson was the last in a long line of Hall of Fame/borderline Hall of Fame catchers for the Yankees. It started with Bill Dickey, then moved to Yogi Berra, then Elston Howard, ending with Munson.
I also considered Jorge Posada for this position but his lack of defense caused him to fall just behind Munson.
Munson's stats: .292 batting average, .346 OBP, .410 Slugging Percentage, .756 OPS and an OPS+ of 116
First Base: Don Mattingly
Donnie Baseball was the anchor of the 1980s Yankees. He was one of the best players in baseball from 1984 - 1989 until a back injury in late 1989 ended his shot at the Hall of Fame.
In his 14 seasons with the Yankees, Mattingly won one MVP, finished second and fifth in MVP voting once each, three Silver Sluggers and nine Gold Gloves.
Stats do not do Mattingly justice. To truly appreciate him, you had to see him play. Whether it was watching him play scoop an errant throw at first base or watching his compact swing hit home runs in eight straight games or slugging six grand slams in one season; when you saw Mattingly play, you knew you were watching a Hall of Famer.
I also considered Tino Martinez because what he did for the Yankees of the late 1990s was tremendous, but is there really any other player besides Don Mattingly that deserves this spot?
Mattingly's stats: .307 batting average, .358 OBP, .471 Slugging Percentage, .830 OPS and an OPS+ of 127
Second Base: Willie Randolph
Willie Randolph wasn't flashy and he wasn't going to hit home runs, he wasn't going to hit over .300 or win any awards.
It just seemed that the Yankees with Randolph playing second base were better than Yankees teams during the same time without Randolph playing second base. Whether or not this was true doesn't matter.
Watching the Yankees of the late-1970s and throughout the 1980s, Randolph always seemed to be underrated on defense, even though his numbers say otherwise. Also, he seemed to be underrated offensively and if you don't look at OBP (which was pretty good), his numbers say otherwise.
I also considered Alfonso Soriano and Chuck Knoblauch, but they didn't last long enough or were consistent enough.
Robinson Cano would be on this list, but he's turned his career into a potential Hall of Fame career so we have to wait and see on him.
Randolph's stats: .275 batting average, .374 OBP, .357 Slugging Percentage, .731 OPS and an OPS+ of 105
Shortstop: Frank Crosetti
Outside of Jeter and Rizzuto, great (or even decent) Yankee shortstops are hard to find.
Bucky Dent was an option, but one history-making home run in 1978 doesn't cut it (his OPS+ on the Yankees was 74!).
So, I had to go back to the Yankees of the 1930s and 1940s and I came up with Frank Crosetti; who played on the Yankees for 17 seasons.
Crosetti's stats: .245 batting average, .341 OBP, .354 Slugging Percentage, .695 OPS and an OPS+ of 83
Note: I don't consider Crosetti Hall of Very Good worthy, but I had to put someone at shortstop.
Third Base: Graig Nettles
Nettles was one of the best defensive third basemen in the game but underappreciated because he played at the same time as Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt (both tremendous defensive players).
I also considered Red Rolfe and Clete Boyer, but while Rolfe hit for a better average he lacked the power of Nettles and Boyer wasn't as good offensively as Nettles. Plus, when you consider his defense, the choice is Nettles.
In 11 seasons with the Yankees, Nettles won two Gold Gloves and finished in the top six for MVP twice.
Nettles' stats: .253 batting average, .329 OBP, .433 Slugging Percentage, .762 OPS and an OPS+ of 114
Left Field: Bob Meusel
Left Field is one of the deeper positions when it comes to Yankees Hall of Very Good. The choices were Meusel, Lou Piniella, George Keller or Roy White and you wouldn't be wrong picking any of them.
I went with Meusel because he was slightly better across the board. Keller had more power, but his durability was a concern. White and Piniella were very close, but Meusel was just slightly better offensively.
Meusel's stats: .311 batting average, .358 OBP, .500 Slugging Percentage, .858 OPS and an OPS+ of 121
Center Field: Bernie Williams
The Yankees have three Hall of Famers for center field; Combs, DiMaggio and Mantle, so just to be considered among those greats is a feat in itself.
There were two players I considered; Bobby Murcer and Bernie Williams.
I went with Bernie mainly because he was better defensively (till his legs gave out near the end of his career) and he was better overall offensively (even though Murcer had a better OPS+).
There is no denying what Murcer meant to the Yankees; from his performance on the field the day of Thurman Munson's funeral to his contributions following his career for the Yankees organization.
In my opinion, Bernie is one of the most underrated players during his career; though he only led the league once (batting average in 1998) he was routinely in the top 10 and top five for most hitting stats every year.
Bernie was one of those players that did everything well just never was truly great at any one thing.
Bernie's stats: .297 batting average, .381 OBP, .477 Slugging Percentage, .858 OPS and an OPS+ of 125
Right Field: Roger Maris
Another position that came down to a close call; a closer call than I initially thought. Would it be Roger Maris or Paul O'Neill?
O'Neill provided intensity and determination to the Yankees of the 1990s along with a batting average over .300 and a cannon for an arm in right field.
However, what Maris did in pursuit of the single-season home run record and winning back-to-back MVPs simply can't be ignored.
Maris' stats: .265 batting average, .356 OBP, .515 Slugging Percentage, .872 OPS and an OPS+ of 140
Pitchers: Guidry, Pettitte, Stottlemyre, Reynolds, Lopat and Lyle
The Yankees have a lot of Hall of Very Good pitchers to choose from, here's who my starting five would be and their stats as Yankees:
Ron Guidry: 170-91, ERA of 3.29, ERA+ of 119, WHIP of 1.184, One Cy Young
Andy Pettitte: 203-112, ERA of 3.98, ERA+ of 115, WHIP of 1.383
Mel Stottlemyre: 164-139, ERA of 2.97, ERA+ of 112, WHIP of 1.219
Allie Reynolds: 131-60, ERA of 3.30, ERA+ of 115, WHIP of 1.384
Eddie Lopat: 113-59, ERA of 3.19, ERA+ of 121, WHIP of 1.277
The Yankees also have several Hall of Fame closers (Gossage and Rivera) along with several others that did very well on the Yankees (Righetti, Wettleand). My choice for this Yankees' team closer is Sparky Lyle.
Lyle's stats: 57-40, 141 Saves, ERA of 2.41, ERA+ of 148, WHIP of 1.207, One Cy Young
So, did I pick who you would pick? If not, state your case in the comments below and maybe I'll change my choice.