Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #359, Willie Randolph (Article 66)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
It has been a joy looking back on the careers of all of the players who were Yankees who have been featured on the 1977 Topps set. This long-running series has been a big hit. In these articles, I have uncovered a lot of stories about players, famous and otherwise, that have shared new perspectives, ideas, thoughts, and such.
But this article was one that I knew would be a challenge. Willie Randolph was one of the great Yankees of that era. A quiet leader. A steady player. A fan favorite. Randolph later became a beloved coach on the Yankees.
Writing a post about Willie Randolph presented somewhat of a challenge. What could I write that was new or different or exciting?
How much of a Yankees’ legend is Willie Randolph?
Willie Randolph ranks in or near the Top-10 on a host of the Yankees All-Time Charts. The following is a sample:
WAR for position players – 8th (54.0) (Every Yankee above him is in the Hall-of-Fame)
Defensive WAR -2nd (17.0) (The only player above him is Phil Rizzuto)
Games Played – 12th (1,694)
At Bats – 10th (6,303)
Runs – 9th (1,027)
Hits – 13th (1,731)
Doubles – 20th (259)
Triples – 21st (58)
RBI’s – 38th (549)
Walks- 6th (1,005)
Stolen Bases – 4th (251)
I could go on. Willie was a long-time and highly successful Yankee, of that there is no doubt.
The man deserves a plaque in Monument Park.
Of that there is also no doubt.
All of this brought up the age old question – It’s clear that Willie Randolph deserves the ultimate Yankees honor, but does he deserve baseball’s greatest honor…
Should Willie Randolph be in the Hall-of-Fame?
A case can be made for Randolph to be in Cooperstown, but first a quick little philosophy lesson (if you will)…
Each era, each time, each period we live through has certain narratives that many, most, or all hold to be true. This is in the realm of life, sports, politics, entertainment… everything. Over time, we sometimes find that those narratives weren’t so true or accurate or reflective of the situation. What we once took for the truth, over time, is sometimes proved false. It’s been that way throughout human history.
When Willie Randolph played, it was taken as a certainty, an absolute truth, that Randolph was good, very good, in fact, but that Frank White (the second baseman on the Kansas City Royals) was better. At the time, many (or most) stated that Frank White was the best second baseman of that era.
He wasn’t. Frank White was not a better player than Willie Randolph. What seemed true at the time has been proven incorrect.
Simply, and even more, the players’ lifetime stats don’t demonstrate that Frank White was anywhere near the player Randolph was. Willie was the better player – by a long shot.
On the All-Time WAR list for second baseman, Frank White ranks 60th.
Willie Randolph is 16th… light years ahead of White. Light years ahead.
One might argue that White had a shorter career (he didn’t – they both played for 18 years) and a higher peak (he didn’t). Frank White’s WAR7 (his seven best years) was 23.6. Willie Randolph’s was 36.3.
If one looks at JAWS, Randolph buries White 51.1 to 29.2.
Frank White was a great player. He was amazing. Willie Randolph was better. He was more amazing.
Which brings us to the Hall-of-Fame question.
Does Willie Randolph belong in the Hall of Fame?
We can begin to answer that question this way – Willie Randolph ranks with a higher All-Time WAR than the following second basemen already in the Hall-of-Fame:
With that alone, there is a case to be made.
But, what if we look to see who ranks above Randolph who also isn’t in the Hall. (It’s a short list) :
(It’s interesting… in the late 1970s and into the 1980s, Whitaker would have been considered the third best second baseman in the American League after White and Randolph, and yet he ended up the best of the all, at least by lifetime WAR.)
I see a day very soon when Lou Whitaker earns Hall-of-Fame recognition. Bobby Gritch might as well. And if they go, why not Willie Randolph?
There’s a case to be made for Willie Randolph to be in the Hall-of-Fame. A strong case.
I hope he makes it.
One final reflection…
ConEdison used to acquire tickets to bring New York City kids to Yankees games. It used to be a “thing.” They would show those kids at the game during the TV broadcasts. I can still hear Phil Rizzuto. “Holy Cow, Messer… the ConEd Kids are at the game. Look at them all having a great time.”
I was a New Jersey kid. I wished that I could be a ConEd kid. (Later I had a friend, his name was also Paul. He had lived in Brooklyn and had been a ConEd Kid. I thought that was the coolest thing ever.)
Before he was a Yankee. Long before, Willie Randolph attended games in the Bronx as a ConEd kid.
They used to mention that a lot when Willie played.
I wish there were more things like that – big organizations bringing hosts of kids to the ballgames.
I wonder what ever happened to the ConEd Kids program.