Greatest New York Yankees of All Time

Anthony Maimone@@amaimone4Featured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2013

Greatest New York Yankees of All Time

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    The New York Yankees are the winningest franchise in all of sports. They have won 27 World Series titles that date back as far as the early 1920s.

    In order for them to have such success over that long of a time, many great players must pass through along the way.

    Back in 2011, David Schoenfield of, and a panel of fellow New York media members, created a list of the 50 greatest Yankees of all-time.

    What defines a player as the greatest is tricky. Baseball is a game of statistics and often times that is the easiest indicator.

    But stats don't always tell the whole story of a players impact to a franchise. Often times a player can be elevated because of their intangibles.

    Postseason success and a clutch gene are also massive factors. The era in which the player played also is taken into consideration.

    The following is a list of the 10 greatest players in Yankee history based off the criteria listed above.

Honorable Mention

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    Andy Pettitte: Pettitte was the man on the bubble. His 19 postseason wins and his 245 total wins were difficult to pass on. But Pettitte has rarely been the ace of the team and doesn't have a Cy Young or a dominant ERA. Today's Yankee fans will always appreciate his effort in October, but his performance overall just doesn't make the cut.

    Bernie Williams: Williams was rarely the best player. He was often the most reliable. He won four gold gloves playing a smooth center field. He also owns many offensive postseason records and won a batting title in 1998. Unfortunately to make the cut amongst some of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen, his numbers just didn't stack up.

    Don Mattingly: Leaving "Donnie Baseball" out of the top 10 was difficult. He is a nine-time gold glove winner. He won the 1985 MVP award and very well might have been the best player in the game in the mid-'80s. But for the same reasons he hasn't made the Hall of Fame yet is why he missed the top 10. A career cut short due a back injury that left his career numbers low and his career ringless.

    Paul O'Neill: If this list was of the biggest fan favorites in Yankee history Paul O'Neill very easily could be listed at No. 1. O'Neill hit over .300 his first six seasons with the Yankees. He batted .359 in 1994 to win the AL batting title. Often times referred to as a warrior by "the boss," O'Neill displayed his emotions on the field engaging his fans through his passion.

10. Red Ruffing

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    Red Ruffing is the first of two former Red Sox to make this list. His career numbers aren't staggering as a whole, but his time spent with the Yankees was a long stretch of dominance.

    Ruffing won 20 games or more for four seasons in a row. 

    In 1932, he struck out a league-high 190 batters. He often would contend for the top ERA in the league, finishing with an ERA under 3.0 four times.

    With the Yankees, he was 231-124. Ruffing played in seven World Series', and winning six of them. His regular season success carried over into October as he posted a 7-2 record with an ERA of 2.63.

    In 10 postseason starts, Ruffing finished eight of them on his own.

9. Bill Dickey

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    When thinking about Yankee catchers Bill Dickey often is the forgotten man. In reality, the long tradition of Yankee catchers actually began with him.

    Dickey is one of the best hitting catchers of all-time. He played 17 seasons, all with the Yankees, and finished his career with a .313 average.

    Like many of the players on this list, he is a multiple World Series winner, taking home seven total in his career.

    He finished in the Top Six in MVP voting four times, but never took home the trophy.

    However, Dickey's real impact may have come once he retired and stayed on as an aide to a future catcher and another player who will make this list shortly.

8. Whitey Ford

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    Whitey Ford gets the title of the greatest Yankee starter in history.

    He owns Yankee records in wins, strikeouts and complete games. The "Chairman of the Board" finished his career with a 2.75 ERA and his 50.6 WAR is the second-highest of any Yankee pitcher.

    In 1961, Ford went 25-4, throwing 283 innings that season and winning his only Cy Young award.

    The eight-time all-star finished in the Top Five in MVP voting twice. He won six World Series titles and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.

7. Yogi Berra

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    Yogi Berra to this day is a Yankee icon. His post baseball life has been as entertaining and eventful as his playing days, giving his fame a longer shelf life than most.

    That is not to downplay his Hall of Fame career in the slightest.

    Berra played almost his entire 19-year career with the New York Yankees. He is one of only four players ever to be named American League MVP three times.

    Based off of his career WAR, Berra ranks as the best catcher in baseball history. Berra finished his career as an 18-time all-star and winner of an astounding 10 World Series rings.

    In a long line of great Yankee catchers, Berra wasn't the flashiest, or even the most talented, but he was the greatest.

6. Mariano Rivera

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    Mariano Rivera is the first player from the modern day Yankees to make this list. The debate could easily be made that he should be even higher than this ranking.

    There is no question that Rivera is the greatest closer MLB has ever seen. The real debate is whether or not he is the greatest pitcher of all-time.

    The fact that is even a question shows the extreme dominance Rivera has had on the competition stretching his 18-year career.

    He already owns the MLB record for career saves at 608 and counting. His career era of 2.12 ranks 13th all-time and first among active players.

    His 52.7 career WAR places him first among any Yankee pitcher ever. If those numbers aren't enough of a case for his rankings his postseason numbers will.

    Rivera is a five-time champion. He has an 8-1 overall record with 42 saves. Most astounding of it all is his 141 innings pitched in the postseason with a unheard of .70 ERA.

    There has never been a pitcher as dominant as he has been, and there may never be one again.

    And to think, he did it all with just one pitch.

5. Joe DiMaggio

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    To be placed in the top five of the greatest Yankees of all-time you had to have done something pretty special in your career.

    For Joe DiMaggio, that something special to the common fan would be his nearly unbreakable 56-game hitting streak.

    For Yankees fans he is known for being a winner. In 13 seasons, he made the all-star team every year, went to 10 World Series—winning nine of them.

    Joe D won the AL MVP three times, and was a two-time batting champion. His .325 career average ranks fourth all-time on the Yankees.

    DiMaggio's career numbers, in all likelihood, would be even more impressive had it not been for three seasons he missed in the prime of his career to serve in the war.

    Unfortunately for his career, he did missed those seasons, which is why he places fifth on this list.

4. Mickey Mantle

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    Placing Mickey Mantle here on this list behind the next player was the hardest decision to make. Mantle places fourth, but if you talk to the right person, he could be considered the best player ever.

    Mantle played 18 seasons, all with the Yankees, and is regarded as the best switch-hitter in the game. He won the Triple Crown in 1956.

    Mantle won the AL MVP three times, appeared in 12 World Series—winning seven of them. He still holds most World Series records including home runs, RBI, runs, and walks.

    At his peak, it was Mantle and then everyone else. The problem with Mantle, which is why he ends up getting placed where he is, is when his name is discussed, the topic of his off-the-field activities comes into play.

    If there is ever the negative question of "imagine if" when discussing a player's career, it effects his overall image as a player. With Mantle there will always be "imagine if" negatively that hurts Mantle.

    The next three guys don't have that image.

3. Derek Jeter

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    Derek Jeter is the New York Yankee captain. Jeter is the central figure of the modern day Yankees success. Since winning the Rookie of the Year in 1996, Jeter has been the heart and soul of the franchise.

    His game is not that of the power hitters that appear on this list, but that should not slighten his greatness.

    Jeter is a 13-time All-Star. He has won five Silver Sluggers, five Gold Gloves and two Hank Aaron awards, which is given to the best hitter in their league.

    Jeter also owns five World Series rings in an era that is significantly more difficult to establish a dynasty.

    Jeter already tops the franchise in hits and stolen bases, and as I have previously written, can add several more to his resume in 2013.

    Jeter's ranking may seem high for a player who has never won a regular season MVP. He has finished in the Top 10 eight times and the Top Three three times. However, Jeter played in what is known as the "Steroid Era" and its difficult for a non-power hitter to be noticed when others are crushing over 40 homers every season.

    Jeter's numbers alone allow him to be placed here. If healthy, he will reach 4,000 career hits. But numbers alone don't tell the whole Jeter story.

    In an age with intense media coverage, the daily pressure Jeter must handle could crumble an average player. He has had to deal with factors most of the other players on this list never had to.

    Jeter has always presented himself as the perfect professional and that should not go unnoticed.

    If leadership was a statistic, there isn't a single player on this list who would rank higher.

2. Lou Gehrig

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    Lou Gehrig is still the best first basemen to ever play the game. His career is of storybook proportions.

    His career numbers are those that you'd see in video games.

    Eight straight seasons finishing in the Top Five in MVP voting, winning two in the process.

    Just under 500 home runs and 2,000 RBI, Gehrig also won the Triple Crown in 1934.

    Gehrig is tied with Alex Rodriguez for the most grand slams in baseball history.

    He finished his career with a .340 average and .632 slugging percentage.

    Nicknamed the "Iron Horse," Gehrig once held the record for most consecutive games played (2,130), until it was broken by Cal Ripken Jr.

    If not for his career being cut short due to ALS, which is now known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," its possible he could have overtaken No. 1 on this list.

1. Babe Ruth

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    There are many great names on this list. However, Babe Ruth is known by more non-baseball fans than any other player in history.

    When the stadium your team plays in his referred to "The house that Ruth built," your position on this list is pretty secure.

    His career numbers don't even begin to describe his dominance of the game. When his career was finished, he had set records with 714 home runs, a .690 slugging percentage and 2,213 RBI.

    Several of his records have since been broken, but his title of greatest player ever will be hard to shake.

    With the Yankees, he batted .349, hit a team record 659 home runs and scored a record 1,959 runs.

    He finished first in WAR 10 times in his career with the Yankees, and finished with a Yankee career total of 138.2, which was 30 more than the next closest player.

    The "Great Bambino" was looked at as a giant among men and there will never be a time again when one singular player will dominate their sport the way he did.