The All NYY Non-HOF Team: Position First Team
I’ve been on a little bit of a Hall-of-Fame kick since the Derek Jeter induction two weeks ago, and have been thinking of a very specific question:
What would be the best Yankees team one could make using only non-Hall of Fame players?
Through the rest of this week, I will make this team. Today we finish this quick series with our positional first team!
Given that this question I became consumed with is specific in nature in narrowing down an entire franchise into effectively one team while excluding the most prominent names of typical discussion (a.k.a Hall-of-Famers), I also wanted to make sure I was honoring players who played long enough in pinstripes to be deserving of the honor. Thus, I’ve also come up with my own rules for requirement:
Position players need to have played 7 years of baseball for the New York Yankees (While pitchers had to pitch 5+ years with the Yankees).
They cannot have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, be eligible on/for a current/future ballot for the HOF, or currently be playing baseball in the MLB.
Only their time in New York is being considered for their placing/inclusion on the list.
Now that we have these rules understood, let’s get into it!
All-NYY Non-HOF Position Players (First Team):
Catcher: Thurman Munson
Years in NY: 1969-1979
Batting Line: .292/.346/.410 (.756 OPS/116 OPS+), 1558 Hits, 229 HR’s, 701 RBI’s, 46.1 bWAR
There is no other option for who should be the Yankees starting catcher for players not currently in the BBHOF. While he should have had a longer career- which results in lower counting statistics- his accolades are exceptional.
Winner of the 1976 AL MVP, 1970 Rookie of the Year, a 7-time All-Star, and a 3-time Gold Glove winner, few catchers in baseball history can match his peak. His name should come up again soon with a veteran’s committee and he is more than deserving of being a Hall of Famer.Embed from Getty Images
First Base: Don Mattingly
Years in NY: 1982-1995
Batting Line: .307/.358/.471 (.830 OPS/127 OPS+), 2153 Hits, 222 HR’s, 1099 RBI’s, 42.4 bwAR
Another Yankee MVP winner (1985), Don Mattingly is a first baseman who is the epitome of a borderline case for the BBHOF. He was a dominant player in the 1980’s, but fell off in the 1990’s after a back injury that ultimately took his career.
Even so, he was a 9-time Gold Glove winner, 6-time All-Star, 3-time Silver Slugger, and he took home a batting title. A future with a plaque is possible for Mattingly; could it also come via managing?Embed from Getty Images
Second Base: Willie Randolph
Years in NY: 1976-1988
Batting Line: .275/.374/.357 (.731 OPS/105 OPS+), 1731 Hits, 48 HR’s, 549 RBI’s, 54.0 bWAR
Outside of the trade that netted the Yankees Babe Ruth from the Red Sox, a trade the Yankees made with the Pirates in 1975 may go down as one of the best in their history. For Doc Medich, the Yankees got back their best second baseman in their history in Willie Randolph. He may also be their most underrated player ever.
A 6-time All-Star and a Silver Slugger winner, Willie played in a very quiet period in Yankee history as the Yankees saw little postseason success in the 1980’s, though he was a member of the 1977 and 1978 World Series winning teams.Embed from Getty Images
Third Base: Graig Nettles
Years in NY: 1973-1983
Batting Line: .253/.329/.433 (.762 OPS/114 OPS+), 1396 Hits, 250 HR’s, 834 RBI’s, 44.4 bWAR
If only not for Brooks Robinson I am convinced that Graig Nettles would already be in the BBHOF. One of the greatest defensive players at third base in baseball history, Nettles only ever won 2 Gold Glove awards due to Robinson’s winning 16 in-a-row (including some that should’ve gone to Nettles). For this smaller hardware collection, it has greatly hurt Nettles’ case.
While a Yankee, Nettles was a 5-time All-Star and he hit 250 HR’s, (10th most in Yankees history) over his 11 seasons with the team. Like Munson, he should be up for serious consideration soon by a BBHOF veterans committee (anything else is a joke).Embed from Getty Images
Shortstop: Roger Peckinpaugh
Years in NY: 1913-1921
Batting Line: .257/.334/.342 (.676 OPS/93 OPS+), 1170 Hits, 36 HR’s, 428 RBI’s, 32.1 bWAR
Though his career accolades came after he left New York (an MVP in 1925, World Series in 1924), Roger Peckinpaugh is on of the great forgotten Yankees due to his playing in the 1910’s. A great defensive shortstop- likely the best of his time- he was a Yankees captain from 1914 to 1921 and a player-manager in 1914 for three weeks at the end of the season (the youngest in MLB history).
Peckinpaugh was also a good hitter (for his time) with the Yankees, having 3 of his 9 years with an OPS+ over 100, including his 1919 season with a 123 OPS+. Is this an unconventional pick? Of course, but that’s part of the fun of this experiment!
Left Field: Roy White
Years in NY: 1965-1979
Batting Line: .271/.360/.404 (.764 OPS/121 OPS+), 1803 Hits, 160 HR’s, 758 RBI’s, 46.8 bWAR
A career-long Yankee, Roy White was a 2-time All-Star and a 2-time World Series winner during his 15-year-long career. A great player for any “Hall of Very Good” talk, Roy White will never sniff the HOF…unless more players like Harold Baines get in and greatly reduce the barrier for induction.
That isn’t to discredit White’s playing career as he was a great Yankee and was likely the best left fielder in Yankees history (who isn’t in the BBHOF). He was a excellent fielder as he led AL Left Fielders in fielding percentage for 4 straight years (1968-1971) which he combined with far above average hitting (121 OPS+). An all-time great for this experiment.Embed from Getty Images
Center Field: Bernie Williams
Years in NY: 1991-2006
Batting Line: .297/.381/.477 (.858 OPS/125 OPS+), 2336 Hits, 287 HR’s, 1257 RBI’s, 49.6 bWAR
An honorary member of the “Core Four”, I’m not upset he wasn’t included in the group as he started his career years before the rest of them. However, Bernie Williams as a center fielder helped contribute (and added to) a legacy of great center fielders in Yankees history. In this experiment he wins out as Combs, DiMaggio, and Mantle are all in the BBHOF.
“Bern Baby Bern” had an excellent baseball career, playing in the height of the steroid era without an accusation against him (and often used to promote his HOF case) while maintaining an OPS+ in the 130-160 range for most of his career. He was also a great defensive outfielder, and all told was a 5-time All-Star, a 4-time World Series winner, a 4-time Gold Glove winner, took home a Silver Slugger and a batting title. Plus, his cover of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is a personal favorite.Embed from Getty Images
Right Field: Tommy Henrich
Years in NY: 1937-1942; 1946-1950
Batting Line: .282/.382/.491 (.873 OPS/132 OPS+), 1297 Hits, 183 HR’s, 795 RBI’s, 39.7 bWAR
Leaving the Yankees to serve with the Coast Guard during World War Two from 1943 to 1945, Tommy Henrich missed out on his 3 peak years (ages 30-32) that were coming right as his career was starting to take off. (He likely would be at ~55 career bWAR if not for losing these years.)
A 5-time All-Star, Henrich was a career-long Yankee who won 4 World Series. He also hit the first ever walk-off home run in World Series history in Game 1 of the 1949 series. After retiring in 1950, Henrich was a coach for the 1951 World Series winning Yankees and was given the Pride of the Yankees award in 1987.Embed from Getty Images