ESPN NY recently released a list of the top 50 Yankees as voted on by a group of local ESPN writers and radio personalities. Ron Abruzzese of BBD transcribed the list from its original slideshow format, which made it fairly easy for me to put it into a table and add some statistics. Let’s take a closer look at these players, both in terms of their overall contribution to the franchise and their per-season output while in pinstripes. You can sort the list by any of the columns.
[table id=23 /]
Sorted by total bWAR as a Yankee: The first thing that struck me was that the top 10 was pretty much right on the money, as the numbers are rearranged but 9 of the same 10 players head the bWAR list, while Red Ruffing dropped to #11. I was surprised to see that Mariano Rivera, despite being a closer, is 9th all-time in bWAR as a Yankee. Another thing that became evident from this list is that Willie Randolph and Roy White are incredibly underrated. Randolph is likely under appreciated due to his status as a middle infielder, while White played most of his career in the dark ages between the Maris-Mantle Yankees and the Bronx Zoo clubs.
As for overrated Yankees, Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage stand out. While Jackson was only with the club for 5 seasons and therefore would not be expected to be near the top of the list, his per season numbers are not good enough to propel him to #15. As for Goose, Gossage’s role limited his value to the club and he likely belonged near the bottom of any list of top Yankees.
Sorted by BWAR per season as a Yankee: Rickey Henderson was fantastic as a Yankee, with his per season output trailing only the clear top 4 in Yankee history (Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio). A-Rod is right there as well, and by the end of his current contract will likely have an argument for being one of the top-10 Yankees of all-time. Joe Gordon is likely a victim of the undervaluation of middle infielders, as he scores better than 38th in both categories examined.
I also wanted to note that Derek Jeter scores in the top 10 in both categories, despite the fact that WAR includes defense in its calculations. Jeter is clearly a top 10 Yankee based upon his statistics, which renders the oft-repeated claim that he would just be another guy if playing in Kansas City an absurd and meaningless statement. He is an all-time great and a surefire Hall of Famer, and it is not necessary to resort to discussions of intangibles and leadership to support that statement.
Mike Mussina got little respect from the voters, despite the fact that he scores much better than 50th in both categories. He provided enough total and per-season value to be somewhere in the middle of this list. So did Gil McDougald, who has a strong argument for being the most underrated Yankee of all-time. McDougald made 5 all-star teams, won the Rookie of the Year award, received MVP votes in 5 separate seasons, and played in 8 World Series (winning 5), but his name rarely comes up in discussions of great Yankees. As his placement at #47 on this list shows, he is something of a forgotten man in Yankee lore.
What do you think of the list? Who is missing, and who is misplaced?