One thing I noticed in compiling this list: Any other franchise wouldn’t have a guy who won 3 MVPs, a triple crown and was probably the defining player of his generation….in 4th place on this list. But then again, these are the Yankees. And compiling this list was nigh impossible. But here it is: The 10 Best Yankees Ever.
10. Don Mattingly
Donnie Baseball had more intentional walks than any other Yankee ever. Ever. More than Ruth, Mantle, DiMaggio, everyone. Know what that tells me? That pitchers did not fear anybody else on the Yankees. So if they just gave Mattingly a pass, they would deal with Alvaro Espinoza, Ron Kittle, Steve Balboni or Wayne Tollenson. Mattingly is 9th all time for Yankee batting average, 7th in hits, 9th in runs scored, 8th in total bases, 9th in RBI, 8th in extra base hits and 1st in sacrifice flies—that last one typifying everything about Mattingly; he’d do anything to get the team a run. And remember, he played the second half of his career was with a bad back—a death knell for most athletes, yet Mattingly persevered. In the last series of his career, his first playoff series, Donnie Baseball batted .417 and slugged .708—a sad testimony to the fact that, if he ever had a decent supporting cast, what a post-season player he might have been.
9. Derek Jeter
The face of the latest generation of the Yankees. Has more signature moments in the playoffs than other Yankees have in their entire career (Mr. November, The Flip, 2000 WS MVP—2 HRs, 1 3B, 2 2B). Rookie of the Year, all-time Yankee hits leader. Jeter also compiled 3 Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers in a time when a there were a myriad of young shortstops (A-Rod Garciaparra, Tejada). 5th all-time Yankee Batting Average, 4th in runs scored, 4th in total bases. 10th in RBI. .309 lifetime postseason batting average, which encompasses 123 games—so far.
8. Mariano Rivera
The best at what he does. Ever. 3rd lowest WHIP in history of game. Lowest ERA+ in history of game. 4th lowest SO/BB in history of game. All-time Yankees saves leader with 522 and counting. Postseason ERA of a ridiculous 0.77. An intimidator. Simply the best ever at his position.
7. Bill Dickey
The first great Yankee catcher. Lifetime BA of .313. 11 time All-Star. 9th in Yankee history for total bases, 7th in RBI, 8th for doubles and amazingly, tied for 10th in triples—just ridiculous for a catcher. Hard to SO—5th all-time in Yankee history with 21.800 AB per SO. Was in 8 World Series, winning 7. Was 57th in Sporting News’ 1999 Best 100 baseball players of all time.
6. Whitey Ford
Nicknamed Chairman of the Board for his ability to remain cool and unflappable while under duress. All-time Yankees win leader and 7th with a .690 win percentage. All-time Yankee leader in innings pitched, shutouts & strikeouts. Compiled 156 complete games. 4th all-time in Yankee history in adjusted ERA+ at 133. Lifetime ERA of 2.75—the lowest ERA of starting pitchers whose career began after 1920—and has a ERA+ of 133. His postseason ERA mirrored his regular ERA—2.71. Broke Babe Ruth’s record of 29 1/3 scoreless innings pitched in the World Series. Would win 6 World Series with the Yankees and won the WS MVP in 1961, the same year he would win the Cy Young.
5. Yogi Berra
Dickey would have been the best Yankee catcher of all time, if not for Yogi. 8th all-time for hits in Yankee history. 7th in total bases. Won 3 MVPs in an era with Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams. Received MVP votes in 15 consecutive seasons. 5th all-time in Yankee home runs and RBI. All-time World Series hits leader. Caught the only World Series perfect game in baseball history. Won 10 World Series. Had a massive 10 RBI and 3 HR in 1956 World Series. Led the Yankees in RBI for 7 consecutive seasons. Greatest living Yankee.
4. Mickey Mantle
Along with Willie Mays, defined baseball for his generation. Won a Triple Crown—for both AL & NL—in 1956. Won 3 MVPs and was an All-Star for 16 of the 18 seasons he played. 3rd all-time in Yankee history in On-Base plus Slugging, and 12th all-time in all of baseball. 2nd all-time in Yankee history with 536 home runs, 4th in RBI, 2nd in walks, 3rd in extra base hits, 4th in RBI. 2nd all time in Yankee history in walks, and 7th in history of the game. All-time World Series home run, total bases, runs scored and RBIs. Played his entire career on balky knees. Eulogized by Bob Costas, who said: "In the last year of his life, Mickey Mantle, always so hard on himself, finally came to accept and appreciate the distinction between a role model and a hero. The first, he often was not. The second, he always will be.”
3. Joe DiMaggio
13 time All-Star, 3 time MVP who lost 3 years of his career to World War 2. 4th all-time in Yankee history with a .325 BA; 3rd in slugging percentage with .579. Tied with Mantle for 3rd in OPS. 6th in Yankee history with 389 doubles, despite over 2000 less plate appearances than Mantle who has 40 less than DiMaggio. 4th all-time in Yankee home runs, again having much fewer plate appearances than the players around him on the list. 3rd in RBI in Yankee history, 4th in extra base hits. Would have had more HRs had he not played in Yankee Stadium with its cavernous left field. Indeed, except for DiMaggio, all of the top 8 Yankee Home Run leaders are lefties or switch-hitters. It was estimated had he played anywhere else, he would have had about 90 more home runs in his career. An icon. Referenced in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and in Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.”
2. Lou Gehrig
Just preposterous numbers. Lifetime .340 BA, .447 OBP and .632 slugging percentage. 2nd place in Yankee history with a OPS+ at 1.080, which is 3rd in all of baseball history. 4th all-time in adjusted OPS+ (but some might say that Bonds usurping Lou Gehrig is questionable). His .632 slugging percentage is good for 3rd in baseball history. 2nd in Yankee history in runs scored, hits, total bases. First in doubles, triples, extra base hits and RBI. 3rd in home runs. Won a Triple Crown In 1934. Upped his play in the postseason to a batting average of .361, a slugging percentage of .731 and a OPS of a whopping 1.208. Had 184 RBI in 1931. Holds the record for 23 grand slams lifetime. His average season over his career consisted of 37 home runs, 40 doubles, 12 triples and 149 RBI. Played in 2,130 straight games.
1. Babe Ruth
There is a reason the absurd numbers Gehrig put up only get him to second place. And that because of a roly-poly unathletic-looking boozer and carouser named Babe Ruth. Simply put, Ruth was the Man who made baseball what it is in American society. 3rd all-time in HRs, but in much few AB’S than Bonds or Aaron (To say nothing of other enhancements Bonds may have received). 10th all-time in baseball history with a .342 BA. 1st in OPS, 1st in slugging, 2nd in OBP. 4th all-time in runs scored, 2nd in RBI, 1st in Adj. Batting Wins and in Offensive Win percentage. Needless to say, he is in 1st place in all of these categories in Yankee history, except for RBI, where he is second only to Gehrig.
Batted 393 in 1923. The first to not only reach 60 HR, the first to reach 50, 40 and 30 as well. From 1920-1933, he averaged 45.5 home runs. Turned a moribund franchise into the greatest team in all of sports.
Also a terrific pitcher, with a lifetime 2.28 ERA with a 0.87 ERA in the World Series. Had 65 wins in a 3-year period with the Red Sox. Despite throwing 324 innings in 1916, did not give up a HR. Had a 158 ERA+ that year. Was in the top 4 of the AL in hits per 9 IP from 1915 to 1918.
Impact on America culture was incalculable, from Candy Bars, to anti-American WWII slogans (“To Hell with Babe Ruth!”). 3rd on ESPN’s greatest athlete of the century, well before television or mass media could have aided him. Took baseball, which was in free-fall after the Black Sox scandals and brought it to height never before thought possible. The king of baseball. Forever.
Red Ruffing: 273 wins, 3.80 ERA, 7-2, 2.63 ERA postseason, HOF
Lefty Gomez: 3.34 ERA, 6-0, 286 ERA postseason, .649 W/L %, HOF
Bernie Williams: 2nd all-time Yankees 2Bs, 5th in hits, 6th HRs, 5th XBH
Jorge Posada: 5-time AS and Silver Slugger. 8th in Yankee history in HR
Spud Chandler: 2.84 lifetime ERA, 1.62 postseason ERA; 1943 MVP
Goose Gossage: Lowest Yankee ERA ever. 2nd in WHiP, 5th in SO/BB; HOF
Allie Reynolds: 6-time AS, .686 W/L %; 3.30 ERA, 2.79 postseason ERA
Mike Mussina: 5th all-time for Yankees at BB/9, 7th SO/9, 1st SO/BB, 123 ERA+
Tony Lazzeri: 10th All-time for Yankees in total bases, 8th in RBI, HOF
Ron Guidry; 3.29 ERA, .651 W/L %, Cy Young, 2nd all-time Yankee in SO
Bob Meusel: 10th in Yankee history in 2B, 7th in 3B, 8th in BA
Andy Pettitte: 3rd in Yankee wins, 3rd in SO, .632 W/L %
So that’s the list. Let’s hear what you all think and your top 10.