Ranking the New York Yankees' 10 Best Players in the Last 10 Years

Colin Tansits@@colin_tansitsContributor INovember 15, 2012

Ranking the New York Yankees' 10 Best Players in the Last 10 Years

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    Since 2002, a lot has changed in the New York Yankees Organization.

    From the departure of Joe Torre and the hiring of Joe Girardi to the George Steinbrenner’s death, the past 10 years have been anything but uneventful.

    Only three players from the Yankees’ 2002 roster played in pinstripes in 2012—Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera.

    Gone are the days of the fiery Rodger Clemens and the soft-spoken Bernie Williams, and in are the days of Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia.

    Obviously the dynasty of the late 1990s wasn’t repeated in the late 2000s, but the Bombers undoubtedly fielded future Hall of Fame players over the past ten years.

    Here is a glimpse into the past and at the present of the 10 best players to don the navy and white pinstripes over the past 10 seasons.

10. Bernie Williams

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    The days of John Sterling yelling “Bern Baby Bern” through our radios may be gone, but Bernie Williams' legacy as one of the best Yankees of his time remains.

    In 2002 at age 33, Williams finished the year batting a team-leading .333 with 204 hits, 19 home runs and 102 runs batted in.

    Although his numbers decreased as his age increased, Williams still was able to hit about .260 in all but one season from 2002 until his retirement after the 2006 season.

    Between 2002 and 2006, Williams collected 707 hits and 80 home runs.

    Although he was in the twilight of his career during this time span, Williams still deserves to be on this list.

9. Hideki Matsui

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    After being signed in 2002, 29-year-old Hideki Matsui went on to finish second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2003.

    Matsui started his Yankee career off with a bang—literally, hitting a grand slam in his first game in the Bronx.

    He then finished off his time with the Bombers on top, winning the World Series and the World Series Most Valuable Player.

    From 2003 to 2009, Matsui had a .292 batting average and collected 977 hits while driving in 597 runs.

    When he was healthy, the Japanese-born outfielder was one of the most consistent bats in the Yankee lineup. His 2006 and 2008 seasons were slowed down by injuries.

    Matsui came into what was arguably New York's most divided clubhouse since the infamous “Bronx Zoo.”

    Alex Rodriguez's massive contract and Joe Torre's final years had built tension, both between players and between the manager and the New York front office.

    Like a true professional, though, Matsui showed up every day to play for the Yankees and statistics tell the tale.

8. Jorge Posada

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    Unsurprisingly, Jorge Posada, a member of the “Core Four,” is on this list.

    A true Yankee, playing in the organization from 1991 until 2011, Posada was an integral part of New York’s success over the past 10 seasons.

    In 2002, Posada finished third in MVP voting while earning All-Star and Silver Slugger honors.

    During the span between 2002 and 2011, Posada had a .273 batting average while hitting 190 home runs and collecting 1,148 hits.

    Although it was sad to see his big ears and fierce competitiveness go, Posada’s production began to drop after the 2009 World Series.

    He is a classic and beloved Yankee, and Posada’s production over his last 10 years was consistent.

7. Mike Mussina

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    Unluckily for Mike “Moose” Mussina, his time with the Yankees was literally right in between World Series Championships, from 2001 to 2008.

    Lucky for the Yankees, though, was how sharp Moose was during those years.

    From 2002 through 2008, Mussina won 106 games for New York, not including three postseason victories.

    Mussina also won two Gold Gloves in New York, and posted a 4.07 earned run average from 2002 to 2008. The righty had eight complete games and five shutouts during the same time span.

    The Moose pitched during a rocky time in New York, when the Bombers were struggling to find solid pitching and the lineup was in transition.

    Mussina was a rock in the rotation, winning 12 or more games in all but one season since 2002.

6. CC Sabathia

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    Heading into the 2009 season, the Yankees desperately needed an ace in their pitching staff and that is exactly what CC Sabathia has been for New York.

    In his four years in the Bronx, Sabathia has been selected to three All-Star Games and finished in the top four of Cy Young Award voting three times.

    Sabathia has won 79 games for New York, all while posting a 3.22 earned run average and averaging 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

    The big southpaw has been a workhorse for manager Joe Girardi, and has always seemed to answer the call.

    Although this is a list of the top players over the past 10 years, Sabathia’s four years in New York have certainly been special.

    He won 19 or more games in his first three years with the Yankees, and this year won 15 games while battling injuries and spending time on the disabled list.

    Like I said, Sabathia is New York’s true ace, which is something they haven’t had in a little while.

5. Robinson Cano

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    The newest American citizen of the group, Robinson Cano, is also the youngest on this list. He is one of the few that wasn’t part of the “old guard” and never played in the 1990s.

    But since Cano joined the team in 2005, he has simply been tearing it up. Cano has a .308 career average and already has 1,459 hits and 715 runs batted in.

    Don’t forget that Cano was only 29 years old this year.

    Currently in his prime, Cano is arguably the best second baseman in baseball both offensively and defensively.

    He is a four-time All-Star and has won three Silver Slugger Awards and two Gold Gloves.

    In a strong New York lineup, Cano is one of the best players on the team.

    Obviously we don’t know how high Cano’s ceiling is quite yet, but from what he’s done so far it seems pretty high.

    Cano is young and still getting better every year, which is scary for most other teams considering what he’s done over his career already.

4. Andy Pettitte

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    That intense stare isn’t the only thing that Andy Pettitte has become known for.

    Consistency throughout his prime and into the end of his career has been another trademark of the 40-year-old lefty.

    Although Pettitte took a hiatus from the Bronx from 2004 through 2006, his impact on the Yankees over the past 10 seasons has been irreplaceable.

    From 2002 through 2012, Pettitte has won 93 games and posted a 3.71 ERA.

    More importantly, though, he’s posted an 8-3 postseason record for New York since 2002.

    Pettitte is a straight up competitor and has been for the past 10 years.

    Had he stayed in New York rather than signed with the Houston Astros for those three years, his impact would’ve been even greater and his name would have most likely been higher on this list.

3. Alex Rodriguez

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    All the power in the world can’t cure the serious cases of playoff struggles that have plagued Alex Rodriguez’s career in New York.

    But whether you like him or not, Rodriguez has been one of the best to ever play in the Bronx.

    Since he joined the Bombers in 2004, he has won two MVP Awards and has been a seven-time All-Star.

    Rodriguez has 302 home runs in a Yankee uniform, and has collected 1,366 hits along with 960 runs batted in and a .292 batting average.

    The numbers Rodriguez put up early in his career as a Yankee were spectacular, hitting 54 home runs in 2007 and 48 in 2005.

    But Rodriguez’s postseason struggles in New York are well documented, with only 54 postseason hits in 221 at bats (.244 batting average).

    Since 2008, when Rodriguez finished with a .302 batting average, he has yet to hit above .300 again.

    Rodriguez’s numbers have continued to drop, most notably in the power department with only 34 home runs in the past two years.

    Whether or not Rodriguez will be in the Hall of Fame is unclear, especially with his admitted use of steroids.

    What is certain, though, is that over the past 10 years Rodriguez has been one of the best players in the game.

2. Mariano Rivera

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    His nasty cutter, which has been breaking bats since the mid-1990’s, has pushed Mariano Rivera into an elite club.

    With 608 career saves and 892 games finished, Rivera holds two major league records.

    Over the past 10 seasons, River has posted an ERA under two in all but three seasons.

    He has 393 saves in the past 10 years, including this season when an ACL injury only allowed Rivera to appear in nine games.

    Since 2002, River has been an eight-time All-Star and finished in the top five of Cy Young Award voting three times.

    Rivera has been a model of consistency in one of the toughest times of a ballgame, the ninth inning.

    A first-ballot Hall of Famer in my book, Rivera has been one of the best in the game over the past 10 seasons and will only continue to further his legacy if he decides to return.

1. Derek Jeter

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    The Captain, Mr. November, or simply Derek—whatever name you want to call him, Derek Jeter has been the heart and soul of New York for the past 15 years.

    Since his debut in 1995, Jeter has literally been through it all in the Bronx, from success to failure, and he has always done it with class.

    Over the past 10 years, essentially the second half of his career (give or take three years), Jeter has batted below .290 only once and has been named an All-Star nine times.

    He continues to defy age, this year playing shortstop almost every day at 38 years old, all while leading the league in hits.

    Jeter has provided all Yankees fans with great memories and high-caliber play throughout these past 10 years.

    Since 2002, Jeter has 2,105 hits, 336 doubles and scored 1,153 runs. The numbers truly speak for themselves.

    Off the field, though, Jeter has guided his team through an uneasy clubhouse, a controversial managerial change and the team's first time missing the playoffs since 1994.

    These past 10 years for Jeter have been truly historic and a joy to witness, and he has without doubt been the best player in New York over the past 10 years.