All-Time New York Yankees Starting Lineup

Phil Watson@FurtherReviewCorrespondent IFebruary 9, 2013

All-Time New York Yankees Starting Lineup

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    It’s always a fun exercise: Suspend the rules of time and put together a starting lineup for a team based on that franchise’s best players.

    The New York Yankees are Major League Baseball’s most accomplished franchise, with 27 World Series titles and 21 players or managers in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    So it should be easy to put a lineup together out of that group, right?

    Not as easy as one might think. Some of the decisions were more difficult than others and, as is the case with all exercises such as this one, your opinion may vary.

    With the prelude out of the way, here is the all-time starting nine for the New York Yankees, listed by batting order, plus a starting pitcher.

1. Derek Jeter, SS

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    Yankee tenure: 1995-present

    Yankee totals: .313/.382/448 with 255 HR, 1,254 RBI, 1,868 R, 3304 H, 348 SB in 2,585 G (11,895 PA)

    Career totals: Same; has played entire career with Yankees

    Derek Jeter is the New York Yankees’ all-time leader in hits (the only Yankee to amass more than 3,000 hits while in pinstripes), games played, at-bats, plate appearances, strikeouts, stolen bases and times hit by pitch.

    He is in the franchise’s top 10 in batting average, runs, total bases, doubles, home runs, RBI, walks, adjusted batting runs, adjusted batting wins, extra-base hits and stolen-base percentage.

    Jeter has been one of the cornerstones for the franchise’s most recent run of success, playing on five World Series champions (1996, 1998-2000 and 2009) and appearing in seven World Series (losses in 2001 and 2003).

    Since his first full season in 1996, the Yankees have failed to make the postseason just once, in 2008, and Jeter has played in more postseason games (158) than anyone in baseball history and is the only player with 200 or more hits in postseason competition.

    Apologies to: Phil RizzutoRoger PeckinpaughFrankie Crosetti, Kid Elberfeld.

2. Roy White, LF

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    Yankee tenure: 1965-79

    Yankee totals: .271/.360/.404 with 160 HR, 758 RBI, 964 R, 1,803 H, 233 SB in 1,881 G (7,735 PA)

    Career totals: Same; played entire career with Yankees

    Roy White toiled for several years as perhaps the New York Yankees’ best player during a tough era for the franchise.

    His debut season coincided with the end of the Yankee dynasty that stretched from the late 1940s into the middle of the 1960s. But it certainly wasn’t White’s fault that New York fell on some hard times in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    He led the league with 99 walks in 1972 and his 104 runs in 1976 also topped the American League.

    He was a two-time All-Star, starting in 1969 and making the game as a reserve in 1970. White was also an outstanding defender in left field, leading the American League six times in range factor per game (1968, 1970-72, 1975 and 1977).

    When White did finally get a chance to perform in the postseason, he fared well. He hit .278/.387/.430 with two home runs, eight RBI and 20 runs scored in 25 games and 95 plate appearances as the Yankees won three straight American League pennants from 1976-78 and won back-to-back World Series titles in 1977 and 1978.

    Apologies to: Charlie KellerBob MeuselBen ChapmanTom Tresh.

3. Babe Ruth, RF

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    Yankee tenure: 1920-34

    Yankee totals: .349/.484/.711 with 659 HR, 1,971 RBI, 1,959 R, 2,518 H, 110 SB in 2,084 G (9,198 PA)

    Career totals: .342/.484/.690 with 714 HR, 2,213 RBI, 2,174 R, 2,873 H, 123 SB in 2503 G (10,622 PA)

    OK, so some choices were easier than others.

    Babe Ruth was, well, Babe Ruth. He led the American League in home runs 10 times as a New York Yankee (12 times overall) and set the then-single-season record of 60 home runs during his monster 1927 campaign. He was also a five-time RBI champ (six titles overall), led the American League in runs scored seven times as a Yankee (eight overall), was a nine-time leader in on-base percentage (10 overall) and drew the most walks in the AL 11 times.

    His .690 career-slugging percentage and 1.164 OPS are still the best of all time, as are his 178.3 wins above replacement, his 159.2 position-player WAR, his 151.3 offensive WAR, the 206 adjusted OPS, 1,383 adjusted batting runs, 130 adjusted batting wins and .858 offensive win percentage.

    Throw in that he was one of the members of the charter class inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and that the old Yankee Stadium was known simply as “The House That Ruth Built” and it’s easy to see why Ruth was a no-doubt pick for this lineup.

    Apologies to: Any future Yankee right fielder, and Tommy HenrichHank BauerRoger Maris and Dave Winfield.

4. Lou Gehrig, 1B

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    Yankee tenure: 1923-39

    Yankee totals: .340/.447/.632 with 493 HR, 1,995 RBI, 1,888 R, 2,721 H, 102 SB in 2,164 G (9,663 PA)

    Career totals: Same; played entire career as a Yankee

    Lou Gehrig was another slam-dunk pick for this list. He was a three-time American League home-run champion, led the AL in RBI five times, in runs four times, had the most walks three times and led the AL with 211 hits in 1931.

    He also played on six World Series champions in the Bronx (1927-28, 1932, 1936-38) and was a lifetime .361/.477/.731 hitter in World Series play with 10 homers and 35 RBI.

    Along the way, Gehrig also established a standard for going to work every day by playing in a then-record 2,130 consecutive games (later broken by Cal Ripken) and his 23 grand slams are tied with Alex Rodriguez for the most in baseball history.

    He was also one of the 13 Yankees ever named captain, according to Baseball-Almanac.com, serving in that capacity from April 21, 1935, until his death on June 2, 1941.

    Apologies to: Don MattinglyWally Pipp (sorry about the headache, dude), Bill SkowronJason Giambi.

5. Mickey Mantle, CF

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    Yankee tenure: 1951-68

    Yankee totals: .298/.421/.557 with 536 HR, 1,509 RBI, 1,676 R, 2,415 H, 153 SB in 2,401 G (9,907 PA)

    Career totals: Same; played entire career as a Yankee

    We go from two of the easiest choices to what was absolutely the most difficult. On the other hand, choosing between Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio is akin to choosing between a Bugatti Veyron and a SSC Ultimate Aero—either way, you’re getting one heck of a ride.

    Mantle’s 18 postseason home runs are still tied for fourth all time, even though he played his entire career in an era when there was just one round of postseason play—the World Series.

    He is still the all-time leader in World Series home runs and held the overall postseason record from his final World Series appearance in 1964 until his mark was tied by Reggie Jackson of the California Angels in the 1982 American League Championship Series.

    Mantle was a three-time American League MVP (1956-57 and 1962) and won the Triple Crown for his .353, 52-homer, 130-RBI campaign in 1956. He led the American League in home runs four times, in runs five times, in walks five times and, for good measure, won his lone batting title in 1956 and led the league in triples in 1955.

    He did all of that despite going on to become one of the sport’s all-time cautionary tales. Royce Webb wrote for ESPN in 2002 that Mantle “was the perfect physical specimen…but his hearty partying caught up with him.”

    Mantle, at one point, was considered a legitimate threat to break Babe Ruth’s career home-run record—Mantle had 404 homers by the time he was just 30 years old—but due to injuries and, well, other extra-curricular activities, only played seven more seasons and retired in 1968 with 536 home runs, the most ever by a switch-hitter.

    Apologies to: Joe DiMaggio, Bernie WilliamsEarle CombsRickey Henderson, Joe DiMaggio, Joe DiMaggio, Joe DiMaggio and, oh by the way, Joe DiMaggio.

6. Joe DiMaggio, DH

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    Yankee tenure: 1936-42 and 1946-51

    Yankee totals: .325/.398/.579 with 361 HR, 1,537 RBI, 1,390 R, 2,214 H, 30 SB in 1,736 G (7,673 PA)

    Career totals: Same; played entire career as a Yankee

    Being in the American League, with the designated hitter spot available, created a lineup spot for the toughest omission from the position players in Joe DiMaggio.

    This is the one position where the methodology for this list was broken; whereas players were considered only at their primary positions for each other spot in the lineup, the designated hitter position was used as a wild-card of sorts to name the best player not already in this list.

    Obviously DiMaggio was never a DH; his career ended 22 years before the rule was implemented in 1973. But, back to DiMaggio's case...

    He’s one of the many players from the 1940s who leaves the unanswered question of how much greater would his career totals have been had he not lost three years in the prime of his career (ages 28, 29 and 30 seasons) while serving in the military during World War II.

    As it was, DiMaggio had a great career, winning three American League MVP awards (1939, 1941 and 1947) and being named to 13 All-Star teams in a 13-year career. So, yeah, the guy was pretty good.

    DiMaggio was a two-time batting champion (1939-40), twice led the AL in home runs (1937 and 1948) and also led the circuit in RBI twice (1941 and 1948). He was also a part of nine World Series champions in the Bronx (1936-39, 1941-42, 1947 and 1949-51) but was just a career .271/.338/.422 hitter with eight homers and 30 RBI in 220 World Series plate appearances.

    Apologies to: No one; there was only one choice for this spot.

7. Alex Rodriguez, 3B

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    Yankee tenure: 2004-present

    Yankee totals: .292/.387/.538 with 302 HR, 960 RBI, 889 R, 1,366 H, 141 SB in 1,249 G (5,476 PA)

    Career totals: .300/.384/.560 with 647 HR, 1,950 RBI, 1,898 R, 2,901 H, 318 SB in 2,524 G (11,163 PA)

    And let the howling begin.

    Alex Rodriguez has been a lightning rod for criticism since he signed that enormous 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers as a free agent after the 2000 season. Then there was the 10-year, $275 million deal with the New York Yankees after he opted out of his other enormous contract following the 2007 season.

    Then there’s that whole performance-enhancing drug thing, including an admission in 2009 and a recent report in the Miami New Times that calls his confessed timeline of PED use from only 2001-03 while with the Texas Rangers into question.

    But on the field, it’s hard to deny Rodriguez has been an outstanding, productive third baseman since coming to the Yankees in 2004. He’s won two MVP awards as a Yankee (2005 and 2007) and his postseason in 2009 helped carry the Yankees to a World Series title. He’s led the league in home runs twice since coming to New York (2005 and 2007) and five times overall. His 156 RBI in 2007 also topped the American League.

    His production has slumped dramatically the last two seasons due to injuries, but by the numbers, Rodriguez is still the best third baseman the Yankees have had.

    Apologies to: Graig NettlesRed RolfeHome Run BakerClete Boyer and any other less controversial third baseman the team has employed.

8. Yogi Berra, C

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    Yankee tenure: 1946-1963

    Yankee totals: .285/.348/.483 with 358 HR, 1,430 RBI, 1,174 R, 2,148 H, 30 SB in 2,116 G (8,350 PA)

    Career totals: .285/.348/.482 with 358 HR, 1,430 RBI, 1,175 R, 2,150 H, 30 SB in 2,120 G (8,359 PA)

    This was another very close choice, with three candidates vying for one spot. But Yogi Berra got the nod because he was Casey Stengel’s guy—the only Yankee who was present for every one of Stengel’s 10 American League pennants and seven World Series titles during Stengel’s unprecedented 12-year run as manager of the Bronx Bombers.

    Berra was a three-time MVP (1951 and 1954-55) and an 18-time All-Star. He was also a solid contributor in October, hitting .274/.359/.452 with 12 homers, 39 RBI and 41 runs scored in his 75 World Series games and 295 plate appearances in the Fall Classic.

    His 306 home runs hit while playing catcher ranks fourth all time behind Mike PiazzaCarlton Fisk and Johnny Bench, so that’s some pretty good company, as well.

    Throw in the whole Yogi-ism thing and he’d be a fun guy to have in the dugout and clubhouse, as well.

    Apologies to: Bill DickeyThurman MunsonJorge PosadaElston Howard.

9. Willie Randolph, 2B

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    Yankee tenure: 1976-88

    Yankee totals: .275/.374/.357 with 48 HR, 549 RBI, 1,027 R, 1,731 H, 251 SB in 1,694 G (7,464 PA)

    Career totals: .276/.373/.351 with 54 HR, 687 RBI, 1,239 R, 2,210 H, 271 SB in 2,202 G (9,461 PA)

    This was a tough call, but in a lineup filled with offense, Willie Randolph got the nod for his glove work in the middle of the infield. He’s ranked third all time among second baseman in total zone runs and turned the third-most double plays among second basemen as well.

    Randolph was not a superstar at the plate, but he could hold his own, moving up runners, setting the table for sluggers behind him and stealing bases. He was a five-time All-Star as a Yankee (six overall selections) and led the American League with 119 walks in 1980. He also stole 30 or more bases four times (1976, 1978-80) and very seldom struck out—his strikeout-to-walk ratio as a Yankee is almost 2-1 (1,005 walks, 512 strikeouts).

    Randolph never won a Gold Glove for his defensive work, in part because he had the bad luck of playing at the same time as Bobby Grich and, later, Frank White and Lou Whitaker were getting the votes.

    Randolph was a part of two World Series winners in New York (1977-78), although he missed the 1978 postseason due to injury, and also played in the World Series for the Yankees in 1976 and 1981.

    Apologies to: Tony LazzeriGil McDougaldJoe GordonRobinson Cano.

Whitey Ford, P

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    Yankee tenure: 1950 and 1953-67

    Yankee totals: 2.75 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 236-106 in 498 G (438 GS), 3,170.1 IP, 1,086 BB, 1,956 K, 156 CG, 45 ShO

    Career totals: Same; played entire career as a Yankee

    The New York Yankees have had a host of Hall-of-Fame caliber pitchers through the years, but to take the mound in a lineup for a single game, it’s got to be Whitey Ford.

    Ford won 20 games just twice in his career, but he pitched for a manager in Casey Stengel who used his bullpen more than any other manager in his era.

    In the postseason, Ford had a 2.71 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 22 career starts and tossed three shutouts while completing seven games.

    He won the Cy Young Award in 1961, when it was still awarded to just one pitcher in all of baseball, after going 25-4 in 39 starts with a 3.21 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. He twice led the American League in ERA (1956 and 1958) and was a 10-time All-Star.

    Ford ranks second in Yankee history—and first among starting pitchers—in pitcher WAR and is the franchise leader in wins, innings, strikeouts, starts, shutouts, adjusted pitching runs, adjusted pitching wins, base-out runs saved and base-out wins saved.

    Apologies to: Andy PettitteRon GuidryRed RuffingLefty Gomez.

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