The All Time Yankees Hall of Very Good Team (Part 2 of 2)
Yesterday we brought you the infield for my Yankees All Time Hall of Very Good team.
Here is the rest of the squad!
The left fielder on this team is Roy White. I have written that White is probably the most underrated player in Yankees history, so won’t add much here. White is one of five players on this team who were part of the late 1970s Yankees mini-dynasty. Three, Nettles, Lyle and Randolph were acquired in trades that rank among the best in Yankees history while Munson and White were products of the Yankees farm system. One possible explanation for why this period is so over represented is that the players from the 1970s and 1980s are still underrepresented in the Hall of Fame, so players of Nettles, Munson or Randolph’s caliber from the first two thirds of the twentieth century would probably be enshrined in Cooperstown. Meanwhile, more recent players, like Andy Pettitte or Mark Teixeira are not yet eligible for this team based on my criteria.
The center fielder on this team is the only representative of the post 1990 Yankees. Bernie Williams was a wonderful player who could do it all. He fielded his position, hit, hit for power and ran well. He won four Gold Gloves, led the league in batting once and finished with a career .297 batting average, hit twenty or more home runs every year from 1996-2001 and even stole 147 bases. The most amazing thing about Williams is that he batted cleanup and played center field on several championship Yankees teams and was still frequently overlooked. Among those who overlooked him were Hall of Fame voters. Williams fell off the ballot after his second year, never even getting ten percent of the vote. Williams is a marginal Hall of Fame candidate, he was clearly better than several Hall of Fame center fielders from the first half of the twentieth century.
Right field was the closest call for this team. Roger Maris and Charlie Keller were similar players. Both were overshadowed by the center fielders they played with on the Yankees-Maris by Mantle and Keller by DiMaggio. Both had relatively short careers of 12 and 13 years respectively; and both could hit. There are occasional boomlets of enthusiasm for electing Maris to the Hall of Fame, but he, like Keller, was simply not good enough for that honor. Maris is remembered for his record breaking 61 home run season in 1961 in which he was the American League MVP. He won that award as well in 1960, but other than those two years was never a truly great player. If he had played five more years, until he was 35, and hit another 100 home runs, he would have a much better Cooperstown case. However, for this team a two time Yankees MVP who was a big part of consecutive pennant winning teams is a good fit. Keller was a great hitter, but some of his best years were during World War II when the competition was not as strong. Keller also never had two years like Maris did in 1960 and 1961, so Maris gets the nod here.
Ron Guidry and Mel Stottlemyre are the two starting pitchers. Stottlemyre was a great pitcher whose career was cut short by injury and probably overuse. However, from 1965-1969 he was 88-70 with a 3.34 ERA. He was a real workhorse during those years as he averaged 276 innings pitched. Overall, Stottlemyre had a record of 164-139 with an ERA of 2.97 in a career that lasted parts of 11 seasons. Modern analytics also show that the right hander who spent his entire career with the Yankees was a pretty good pitcher. He accumulated 43.1 WAR and had a career ERA+ of 112. Stottlemyre was only on the Hall of Fame ballot once receiving less than one percent of the vote in 1980. His numbers were not Hall of Fame caliber, but he was a very good pitcher who later served as the Yankees pitching coach from 1996-2005. In that capacity Stottlemyre was part of four World Series winners.As a player he never won a World Series with the Yankees, although he started three games against St. Louis in the 1964 World Series when he was a 22 year old rookie. Unfortunately, he had his best years when the Yankees were having their worst and retired before the team’s mid-1970s renaissance.
Guidry is more familiar to Yankees fans. He is a stronger Hall of Fame candidate that Stottlemyre, but still came up short in his nine years on the ballot, never getting as much as ten percent of the vote. Guidry is most remembered for going 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA in 1978, but he was the Yankees ace well into the 1980s. He was a three time 20 game winner who was in the top ten in Cy Young balloting six times and a four time all star. The relative brevity of Guidry’s career kept him out of Cooperstown, as he only won 170 games and pitched fewer than 2,500 innings. Nonetheless, a good case could be made that his peak was strong enough to earn him more consideration, particularly given the election of Jack Morris to the Hall of Fame.
The reliever on this team was more of a closer than a fireman and was a teammate of both Guidry and Stottlemyre. Sparky Lyle was the top Yankees reliever from 1972-1977 and remained with the team through the 1978 season. During those years he saved 141 games, posted an ERA + of 148 and was one of the best relievers in baseball. In those days, relievers were less specialized and were called on to do many different things and pitch for more than one inning. Lyle’s demonstrated this in game four of the 1977 ALCS against the Royals when the Yankees were down two games to one-the ALCS was best of five in those days-facing elimination. He entered the game with the Yankees up 5-4 in the bottom of the fourth with the tying run on second, the go ahead run on first and George Brett, the Royals’ best hitter, at the plate. Lyle retired Brett and did not allow another run the rest of the game. The Yankees went on to win the game, the series and then the World Series. 1977 was also the year Lyle became the first American League reliever to win the Cy Young award. Dave Righetti, another great left handed Yankees reliever would be a good choice too, but I went with Lyle because of his Cy Young Award and postseason accomplishments.
The catcher on the Yankees Hall of Very Good team caught all three of these pitchers. Much has been written about how Thurman Munson belongs in the Hall of Fame. I won’t add much other than to say Ted Simmons was a fine ballplayer and a favorite of mine in the 1970s, but the argument that he belongs in and Munson does not rests largely on Simmons’ last few years in the majors when he was good but not great and mostly accumulating hits, RBIs and the like and on discounting Munson’s postseason work and his untimely death.
The players on this Yankees Hall of Very Good team all, with the exception of Mattingly, played important roles in pennant winning Yankees teams and are the kinds of players that consistently good Yankees teams need. It is easier to recall players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter, but without players like Ron Guidry, Bernie Williams and Graig Nettles there would be a lot fewer flags flying at Yankee Stadium