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Good But, Not Great- Part Six

The Off-Season: Good But, Not Great- Part Six

By Tim Kabel

February 17, 2022

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In this series, I write about Yankees’ players who were good but, not great. These players were not Hall of Famers, however, they were key components of their teams. In many cases, they were the backbone of World Series championship teams. I have looked at players throughout Yankees’ history. Today, I will return to the 70’s for my subject.

Of all the Yankees teams that I have seen, the teams of the late ’70s were my favorite. There was something special about that group. Maybe it was just that they were the players of my youth and the team I grew up with. It was a simpler time then. Summers were spent running barefoot, fishing, and watching baseball. My hips were made of bone back then, rather than the titanium ones that I have now. I believe the Yankees’ Championship teams of the late ’70s, had more good but, not great players than teams from any other era.

On December 11th ,1975, the Yankees traded Doc Medich to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Dock Ellis, Ken Brett, and a 21-year-old second baseman, Willie Randolph, who was the most important player in that trade. Willie Randolph spent 13 of his 18 seasons as a Major League player with the Yankees. He was co-captain of the Yankees with Ron Guidry from 1986 to 1988. He was a six time All Star, a six-time World Series Champion as a player and a coach, a Silver Slugger Award winner in 1980, and he is a Monument Park honoree.

At the end of his playing career, Randolph ranked 5th in Major League history in games at second base. (2,152), 9th in putouts. (4,859), 7th in assists, (6,336), 8th in total chances, (11,429), and third in double plays, (1,547). He also had 2,210 hits and a career batting average of .276. Willie Randolph was a career number two hitter in the order. He made use of his skills as a bunter and a patient batter, who drew more than 80 walks seven times in his career. He was the starting second baseman on the 1977 and 1978 World Series Championship teams. He played In the World Series in his first three full years in the Major Leagues. His first American League hit was a home run off Jim Palmer in 1976 in Baltimore.

Willie Randolph played for the Yankees from 1976 through 1988. He was a key member of the World Series Championship teams and a team leader. He was reliable, steady and classy. He was the perfect number two batter In the Yankees order, sandwiched between Mickey Rivers and Thurman Munson. He was also an outstanding defensive player, known especially for his ability to turn the double play. He never received the Gold Glove Award, which was perennially awarded to Lou Whitaker or Frank White, both of whom were flashier than Randolph.

In 1980, Randolph led the league in walks (119), and was second in the league in on-base percentage (.427), eighth in stolen bases (30), and 9th in runs (99). He won the Silver Slugger award at second base in the AL. That year, he batted .332 leading off the inning and .340 with men in scoring position. Tommy John, Randolph’s teammate with the Yankees, called him a stabilizing influence and the club’s quiet leader. “You couldn’t believe how good Willie was until you were on the same team and saw him play every day,” John said.

After his playing career, Randolph coached for the Yankees as a base coach and later a bench coach for 11 years. He earned four more World Series rings in addition to the two he won as a player. He subsequently went on to manage the Mets from 2005 to 2008. His career record as a manager was 302-253. He was the first manager in Major League history to have his team’s record improve by at least 12 games in each of his first two seasons. He never had a losing season, and his years as the manager of the Mets were the team’s only winning seasons between 2001-2015. It is very surprising that he never received another chance to manage a Major League team.

Willie Randolph was not a superstar but, he was a solid, reliable, clutch player, who was an integral part of their Championship teams. He is a leader and a very classy man. If the Yankees ever acquire another player, who is described as the next Willie Randolph, you know they will have someone special. He was the type of player whose true value only became apparent when he was no longer on the team. Willie Randolph was another good but, not great player who was a key part of the team’ s history.

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Previous Articles in This Series:

Good But, Not Great- Part One (Bernie Williams)

Good But, Not Great- Part Two (Hank Bauer)

Good But, Not Great- Part Three (Chris Chambliss)

Good But, Not Great- Part Four (Moose Skowron)

Good But, Not Great- Part Five (Brett Gardner)

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