COUNTING DOWN: The Best Yankee At Each Uniform Number (#55)
By Paul Semendinger
I have to admit, before I do any research into this post, that I am going into this with extreme writer’s bias. I have a pre-determined outcome I am rooting for.
Among my favorite Yankees of all-time was Hideki Matsui.
Matsui was my son Ethan’s favorite player. He loved Hideki Matsui. As I dad, that makes Matsui one of my favorites as well.
I am beginning this process with the hopes that I find out that Matsui wins the honor as the greatest #55 in Yankees history.
I should be rooting for anyone as I write these posts, but I am rooting, right from the start, for Hideki Matsui.
Twenty Four players have worn #55 as Yankees.
Let’s not fool around today. I won’t list them all. I’ll only list the best players who wore the number.
(I want to get on with this and see if Matsui can earn this honor.)
The best Yankees to wear #55 were:
Bob Grim from 1954 to 1958
Russell Martin in 2011 and 2012
Domingo German from 2019 to today…
(thanks to ProfRobert, loyal reader, for reminding me about…) Ramiro Mendoza from 1996-2002
Was Matsui better than them?
To date, German has won 24 games against 16 losses. He owns a 4.50 lifetime ERA. German’s lifetime WAR is 3.3. He’s never won a major award or led the league in any categories as a Yankee.
In his two seasons as a Yankee, Russell Martin was named to one All-Star game. He batted .224/39/118 as a solid catcher. His Yankees’ WAR was 4.2.
Bob Grim, largely forgotten, was the Rookie of the Year in 1954. He went 20-6, 3.26 that year. After that, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but as a Yankee, Grim won 45 games against only 21 losses. He was an All-Star in 1957 when he went 12-8, 2.63. Grim’s WAR as a Yankee was 4.8.
(Update) And then there was Ramiro Mendoza. In the great Yankees Championship Period of 1996-2000, Mendoza was a very important pitcher. He’d start, he’d pitch in middle relief, he’d come in in big spots, and he even closed a few games. The Yankees relied, a lot, on him. In his Yankees career, Mendoza pitched in 278 games for the Yankees. His lifetime record of 54-34 (with 16 saves) doesn’t quite tell the story of how good he was. His lifetime ERA of 4.10 also doesn’t tell the story. His 11.6 WAR as a Yankee does. He was an essential cog in those championship teams.
Hideki Matsui led the league in Games Played in 2003, 2004, and 2005. Matsui his 20, or more, homers as a Yankee five times. He drove in 100 + runs four times. Four times he batted .290 or better. Matsui was a two-time All-Star (2003 and 2004). He was also the 2009 World Series MVP. As a Yankee, Hideki Matsui batted .292/140/597 over seven seasons. As a Yankee, Hideki Matsui accumulated 20.4 WAR.
It’s a landslide.
The greatest Yankee ever to wear uniform #55 was Hideki Matsui.
Most of the background research for this project came from Baseball-Reference.com.
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