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MLB 9s: New York Yankees—Yogi, The Babe, A-Rod, Mickey, and Jeter Shine

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst IDecember 12, 2009

NEW YORK - JULY 19:  New York Yankees Hall of Famer Yogi Berra waves to the crowd during the teams 63rd Old Timers Day before the game against the Detroit Tigers on July 19, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

If you were looking to choose your greatest ever Yankee lineup, based on single-season offensive performances, where would you start?

Were Joe McCarthy's Yankees from the mid-to-late 1930s superior to the players that Casey Stengel managed in the early 1950s?

How do today's stars—Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez—compare to the heroes of decades past—names like Phil Rizutto, Babe Ruth, and Yogi Berra?

Is power more important than speed? Is the past worth more the present?

It all points to one question with hundreds of possibilities: Which New York Yankee had the greatest offensive season at his position?

Major League Baseball has been asking fans this same question in an effort to choose each team's best-ever collection of stars.

They are calling it MLB 9s.

With 48 playoff appearances, 40 pennants, and 27 World Championships, the New York Yankees really are the standard by which all other sports franchises are measured.

Here I have separated the contenders from the pretenders in an effort to pick my dream Yankees lineup, based on their one career year.

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My other MLB 9s you might want to check out are:

Diamondbacks , Braves , Orioles , Red Sox , Cubs , White Sox , Reds , Indians , Rockies , Tigers , Marlins , Royals , Angels , Dodgers , Twins , and Mets .

Catcher: Bill Dickey (1936)

The Hall-of-Fame catcher hit 22 home runs and drove in 107 batters in just 112 games of the 1936 season.

Dickey was instrumental in helping the Yankees to their first of four consecutive World Series victories, combining discipline and production in limited playing time.

Dickey batted .362 and struck out just 16 times in 472 plate appearances. He scored 99 runs, slugged .617, and finished fifth in the AL MVP vote behind Lou Gehrig, Luke Appling, Earl Averill, and Charlie Gehringer.

His .362 batting average is the highest by any Yankees backstop in history, while his 107 RBI ranks seventh all-time.

Highlight Game: May 7, 1936 vs. Detroit. Dickey recorded his only multi-home run game of the season against Vic Sorrell and the Tigers.

Dickey hit a solo shot in the bottom of the second inning and a three-run homer in the eighth, and the Yankees came from behind to win 6-5.

Competition: Yogi Berra batted .322 with 28 home runs, 124 RBI, and 116 runs in 1950, while Mike Stanley went deep 26 times in the 1993 season.

Thurman Munson drove in 105 runs and stole 14 bases in 1976 and Jorge Posada batted .338 with 20 home runs and 90 runs batted in during the 2007 campaign.

First Base: Lou Gehrig (1927)

Gehrig won his first of two MVP awards in 1927 after leading the American League with 175 runs batted in, 52 doubles, and 447 total bases.

His 47 home runs are the third most by any Yankees first baseman, while his 175 RBI ranks second only to the 184 he recorded in 1931.

The Iron Horse scored 149 runs and drew 109 walks, finishing the season with a .373 batting average, .474 on-base percentage, and .765 slugging percentage—the fourth highest by any Yankee in history.

Gehrig ranked third the AL in 1927 in batting average and OBP, second in hits, triples, home runs, and walks, and first in RBI, doubles, and extra-base hits.

Highlight Game: June 23, 1927 @ Boston. Gehrig powered the Yankees past the Red Sox with a trio of home runs.

The clean-up slugger hit a two-run homer in the second inning, and solo shots off Danny MacFayden in the sixth and eighth innings to pad New York's lead.

It was one of four games in the Hall-of-Famer's career with three or more home runs.

Competition: Tino Martinez leads the chasing pack with 44 home runs and 141 runs batted in (1997).

Don Mattingly hit .324 with 35 home runs, 145 RBI, and 107 runs in 1985, while Hal Chase stole 28 bases and batted .323 in 1906.

Second Base: Alfonso Soriano (2002)

Soriano posted the sort of season that would win a Most Valuable Player award in most years in his second full season with the Yankees.

The second baseman led the American League in hits (209), runs (128), and stolen bases (41) and he finished second with 381 total bases and third with 51 doubles.

No other Yankees second baseman has hit more home runs or scored more runs in a single season than Soriano.

It was still only good enough for third place on the MVP ballot behind Oakland's Miguel Tejada and Texas' Alex Rodriguez.

Highlight Game: Apr. 8, 2002 @ Toronto. Soriano went 5-for-7 with a home run and three RBI in a 16-3 rout of the Blue Jays.

He scored three runs, hit and double and stole his second base of the season in helping the Yankees win their sixth consecutive game.

Competition: No other second baseman in franchise history had the power-speed combination that Soriano possessed.

Robinson Cano hit 25 home runs and batted .320 in 2009, and Joe Gordon and Chuck Knoblauch both hit 18 long balls in 1942 and 1999 respectively.

Steve Sax stole 43 bases in the 1989 season but only hit five home runs, while the fantastically-named Snuffy Stirnweiss swiped 33 bags and scored 107 runs in 1945.

Soriano was the perfect lead-off hitter at the top of a potent New York lineup. He may not be the greatest ever, but his 2002 season stands alone in terms of single-season production.

Third Base: Alex Rodriguez (2007)

No other Yankee at the hot corner has ever hit more home runs, driven in more batters, or scored more runs in a single season than A-Rod.

The perennial All-Star exceeded the lofty standards he set himself in 2005, leading the AL with 54 home runs, 156 RBI, and 143 runs.

Rodriguez also stole 24 bases, his second highest total since swiping 46 a decade earlier with Seattle.

His .645 slugging percentage—a career high—was also top in the American League, and he won his ninth Silver Slugger award, his second as a third baseman.

Highlight Game: April 7, 2007 vs. Baltimore. A-Rod ended the game in the way that all children dream about: bottom of the ninth, two out, bases loaded.

Rodriguez launched the grand slam home run off Chris Ray, taking his 1-2 offering to deep right-center field to give the Yankees a come-from-behind win.

Rodriguez finished 3-for-4 with four runs, six RBI, a double, and a walk. He also went deep off Steve Trachsel in the first inning—a two run homer which gave the Yanks an early 2-1 advantage.

Competition: Similar to the situation at second base, A-Rod stands head and shoulders above the rest.

No third baseman has hit more than 37 home runs in a single year, and only one other player has recorded triple-digit RBI.

Graig Nettles hit 37 home runs and knocked in 107 runs in 1977, and Mike Pagliarulo launched 32 bombs 10 years later.

Red Rolfe scored 139 runs and batted .329 back in 1939, and Wade Boggs batted .342 in 1994.

After Rodriguez, the second most well-rounded season probably belongs to Scott Brosius who batted .300 with 19 homers, 98 RBI, 86 runs, and 11 stolen bases in 1998.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter (1999)

The all-time Yankees hit leader has shone so many times throughout his career that it is hard to pick a single offensive season.

For someone who has so many supposed defensive frailties, it is a testament to his offensive prowess that he is regarded as highly as he is.

If his defense is awful—which I still maintain it isn't—then he must being doing something extraordinary both on and off the field to be considered one of the best ever.

Jeter's 1999 season was as good as he was with the bat. He led all American League players with 219 hits, and he set career highs in home runs (24) and runs batted in (102).

The popular shortstop batted .349 and walked 91 times, racking up 19 steals, nine triples, and 134 runs.

Jeter's 24 home runs are the most by any Yankee shortstop. Only Lyn Lary has driven in more runs in a single season (107 in 1931), while Frankie Crosetti is the only player with more runs in one year (137 in 1936).

Highlight Game: May 7, 1999 vs. Seattle. Jeter went 3-for-5 with a home run, five RBI, and a steal to drive the Yankees past the Mariners 10-1.

It was Jeter's only five-RBI game of the season and only one of three times in his career.

He hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning off Mac Suzuki and a two-run single in the sixth.

Competition: Hall-of-Famer Phil Rizzuto won a MVP award for his 1950 season which featured a .324 batting average, 125 runs, seven home runs, and 66 RBI.

Frankie Crosetti scored 137 runs in 1936, finishing with a .288 average, 15 home runs, and 78 RBI.

Outfield: Babe Ruth (1920)

Where do you start with the Bambino?

His MVP season of 1923? The .533 on-base percentage he posted in his first season in New York after being traded from Boston? The 60 home runs he hit in 1927?

The truth is, you could choose any one of them and make a solid case for it being his single greatest offensive season.

While MLB picked his 1927 season for the shortlist, I chose 1920 when he led the league with 54 home runs, 137 RBI, 150 walks, 158 runs, a .533 OBP, and an .849 slugging percentage.

Having shone as a pitcher in Boston, the Sultan of Swat exploded as expected with then-career highs in almost every single offensive category.

The MVP award wasn’t given out for seven years between 1915 and 1921—if it had been, you know Ruth would have at least one more for this monster season.

His .849 slugging percentage is the most by any Yankee ever, and his .533 on-base percentage is second only to his .545 mark set three years later.

His 150 walks is second most by any Yankee in history (Ruth walked 170 times in 1923), his 54 home runs ranks fourth all time, and his 158 runs scored is good enough for fifth best.

Highlight Game: June 2, 1920 vs. Washington

I don’t have individual box scores for this 1920 season, but I can tell you that Ruth hit three home runs on June 2—two in the first half of a day-night double-header and one in the nightcap.

I can also tell you that he hit a walk-off home run against the St Louis Browns’ Bill Burwell on July 15, snapping a 10-10 tie in the bottom of the 11th inning, and that he hit home run No. 100 against Washington on Sept. 24.

Mickey Mantle (1956)

Mickey hit 52 home runs, batted .353, drove in 130 runs, and crossed the plate 132 times—all American League highs in 1956.

His .705 slugging percentage was also best in the league, and he collected a total of 376 bases—more than anybody else that year.

The Mick walked 112 times and stole 10 bases, and his .464 on-base percentage was second only to Ted Williams.

In a league which was dominated more by power than speed, Mantle’s 10 stolen bases ranked seventh in the AL.

The life-long Yankee—then in his sixth season—won the MVP award comfortably ahead of teammate Yogi Berra, and he was also selected to his fifth consecutive All-Star game.

Highlight Game: May 18, 1956 @ Chicago White Sox. Mantle hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning and the Yankees won it in the 10th, edging past the White Sox 8-7.

Mantle went 4-for-4 with two jacks, three RBI, four runs, a walk, and a double.

He gave the Yankees a 5-1 lead with a two-run shot off Billy Pierce in the fifth inning, and later saved the game with a solo homer when the Yankees were down to their final out in the ninth.

Joe DiMaggio (1937)

As with the Babe, DiMaggio had a number of stellar seasons with the Yankees, including three MVP years and back-to-back batting crowns.

His 1937 season featured neither, although the Yankees did win the World Series.

The 22-year-old DiMaggio—playing in his second season in the Bronx—hit a career high 46 home runs and drove in 167 runs.

He led the league in runs scored (151) and slugging percentage (.673), and he also racked up 418 total bases—the 12th highest total in the history of baseball.

Joltin’ Joe hit 35 doubles and 15 triples, struck out just 37 times in 621 at-bats, and finished second in the MVP race to Detroit’s Charlie Gehringer who batted .371.

Highlight Game: July 9, 1937 vs. Washington. DiMaggio hit for the cycle against the Senators, including solo home runs in the first and sixth innings.

The home runs represented the 50th and 51st of his career and they marked the fifth time in the season where he recorded a multi-homer game.

The Yankees won the game 16-2 and failed to drop a game in the four-game series.

Also in 1937, DiMaggio hit three home runs in the second game of a double-header in St Louis and hit a walk-off home run in August against the Senators.

Competition: The obvious name missing off this list is Roger Maris, who hit 61 home runs—a Yankee record—in 1961.

Despite winning the AL MVP and leading the league in runs and RBI, he doesn’t even make the list of top three outfielders.

Really, it was only his .269 batting average that held him back. He may have hit 15 more home runs than DiMaggio, but his batting average was 77 points lower.

To put it into perspective, Marris would have needed one more hit in every four games he played. It doesn’t sound a lot, but it makes the difference between an average hitter and a Hall-of-Fame hitter.

Considering Marris was a career .260 batter, a .340 average was never particularly likely. Then again, he had only hit 58 home runs in his first three seasons in the league before moving to New York.

Other notable names in Yankees history who were on the bubble but never realistically had a chance at beating out the trio of Ruth, Mantle, and DiMaggio include Bernie Williams (25 home runs, 115 RBI, 116 runs, .342 average) and Rickey Henderson (80 steals, 24 home runs, 146 runs, .314 average).

Designated Hitter: Jason Giambi (2002)

It’s hard to justify Giambi’s selection knowing full well that he has admitted taking steroids in the 2002 preseason as well as throughout the 2003 regular season.

It is impossible to tell just how much they boosted his game but even without the human growth hormone, it is plausible that he would have still put together the greatest offensive season by a Yankee DH.

His numbers—41 home runs, 122 RBI, 120 runs scored, and a .314 average—are substantially higher than his nearest rivals.

Only four designated hitters have recorded 100 runs batted in during a single year, and only Giambi has scored 100 runs. His .314 average is second best among DHs to Ron Bloomberg.

The fact that he played 92 of his 155 games as a first baseman is an argument for another time.

Highlight Game: May 17, 2002 vs. Minnesota. Giambi capped a wild night at Yankee Stadium with a grand slam walk-off home run in the bottom of the 14th inning of a game against the Twins.

Minnesota had scored three runs off Sterling Hitchcock in the top of the frame, but the Yankees rallied to load the bases with a pair of singles and a walk.

Giambi lashed at the very first pitch he saw, taking Mike Trombley’s offering to right-center field and giving the Yankees and unlikely come-from-behind win.

Giambi finished the game 4-for-8 with two runs and a double.

Competition: Danny Tartabull hit 31 home runs in 1993 but he only batted .250 and scored 87 runs. Jack Clark hit 27 homers in 1988 but his batting average was even worse at .242.

Ron Bloomberg’s .329 is the best among designated hitters in pinstripes, but his 12 home runs and 57 RBI rule him out of the race. Don Baylor would probably be the next best bet, having hit 21 homers, batted .303, scored 82 runs, and swiped 17 bases.

If Giambi was clean in 1999 and 2000, his average of 38 home runs, 130 RBI, 112 runs and .324 average would still beat any competitor.

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