The Tuesday Discussion: My Favorite Yankees Second Baseman
This week we asked…
Who is your favorite Yankees’ second baseman of all-time?
The writers responded:
Lincoln Mitchell – This is not even close. Willie Randolph came over to the Yankees prior ot the 1976 season in one of the best trades the team ever made. For more than a decade he was one of the best second basemen in the game. Randolph played with the Yankees during a period where they were both winning championships and completely dysfunctional-often at the same time. He played on teams that won the World Series and on others that lost in the post-season or missed the playoffs despite having many stars. Through all of that, Randolph fielded his position with excellence and élan while being one of the game’s elite table setters, position a .374 OBP during his 13 seasons with the Yankees. Letting him go as a free agent following the 1988 season and thinking Steve Sax, who was younger but not as good, could replace him was a mistake. Randolph, perhaps because of his quiet nature, limited ability as a power hitter or some other reason, has been overlooked by Hall of Fame voters. He is a borderline candidate, but there are several second baseman in the Hall of Fame who were not as good.
Chris O’Connor – My favorite Yankees second baseman of all time is Willie Randolph. As a young fan, I would normally say Robinson Cano. A top 5 position player through much of his tenure with the Yankees, I could not fault Cano for taking the money and moving on to Seattle after 2013. However, his multiple uses of performance-enhancing drugs clouds my opinion of him. Though I never saw Randolph play, from everything I have read about him he appears to have been the ultimate grinder and consummate teammate and professional. A key part of the Bronx Zoo World Series teams in 1977 and 1978, Randolph demonstrated his excellent plate discipline with a .374 OBP across his thirteen years with the Yankees, more than making up for his lack of power. I also love it when guys become coaches for the team after their playing careers are over. It shows they were a beloved member of the team and Randolph’s 11 year stint as a key coach for the team during the late 90’s dynasty only adds to his place in Yankees history.
Paul Semendinger – How can I say other than Willie Randolph? Class act. Great player. A cornerstone Yankee. I wish he had also had the opportunity to manage the Yankees. For me the easy answer is Willie Randolph.
That being said, I have always respected Bobby Richardson. Bobby might have been one of the very best human beings ever to play the game.
Joe Gordon, who it was said, never knew his own stats being that he only focused on the team winning also deserves mention.
But, in the end, if I’m asked who my favorite second baseman is, it’s Willie Randolph.
Ed Botti – The best second Basemen in team history would have to be Tony Lazzeri of the famed Murders Row teams of the late 1920’s.
Of the second baseman I have seen play, this former player is not only my favorite Yankee second basemen, but is also one of my favorite Yankees of all time.
In today’s version of baseball, he would be over looked, as he did not possess the power numbers the league and the analytic departments are so intoxicated with today. You know the numbers that power the new stats such as WAR? Those stats never take heart and determination into account. Willie’s value was in his knack for getting on base, and his baseball smarts on the field of play.
Willie helped them win back to back World Series in 1977 and 1978 (he was hurt during the 1978 World Series when Brian Doyle became an overnight sensation).
He never won a Gold Glove, yet somehow he is 4th in Team history in the defensive stat of “Total Zone”.
He eventually became co- team captain with Ron Guidry in 1986, then a bench coach and third base coach under Joe Torre during the dynasty years.
A class act through and through.
His number 30 wasn’t retired, he never won an MVP, but Willie was always playing hard, getting clutch hits, making great pivots at second base, and had that certain intangible working all the time.
Mike Whiteman – I never saw Joe Gordon play, but as a student of Yankee history, he always fascinated me. I don’t think he has ever really gotten his due as an all-time great.
His career started in 1938 and from that time until 1943 he averaged .278/.364/.482 with 24 home runs, 95 RBI and 11 stolen bases. He was named to five All-Star games. He was the 1942 AL MVP. All this while usually batting in the lower half of the lineup due to having teammates like Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Keller, Tommy Henrich and Bill Dickey.
He was elite on defense, averaging 2.2 dWAR (for comparison, DJ LeMahieu has averaged about 1.0 dWAR in his career, with a high of 1.8 dWAR).
The Yanks’ won four World Series title with him at second base.
All while being paid on average $13,750 per season. Were he to hit the free agent market in 2020, what kind of contract could he have gotten?
Andy Singer – I grew up hearing stories about Willie Randolph’s mastery of 2B and steady production at the plate from my father. One of my favorite baseball memories (or memories, period) was taking my Dad to Old Timer’s Day the day that Willie Randolph got his plaque in Monument Park. I grew up with Willie as the loveable 3B coach on the dynasty Yankee teams of the late ‘90s, so it’s really hard for me to not pick Willie…
But that’s what I’m doing. I know that this player is in complete disgrace, but I can’t ignore Robinson Cano. He is my favorite Yankee second baseman. Robinson Cano, minus the obvious stain from multiple PED suspensions, was a living Hall-Of-Fame caliber player during his time in Pinstripes. I’m not even going to get into the statistics, as is my typical proclivity, both because the numbers are self-explanatory and because there was such a pleasing aesthetic to his play on the field, particularly as a younger player. Cano’s left-handed swing was so smooth, sweet, and effortless, yet surprisingly powerful. He glided through the infield, making the seemingly difficult look routine, often ranging far to his left to snag grounders in the hole prior to flicking the ball with surprising speed and accuracy to Tex (and others) at first base. Cano got a ton of flack for not running out ground balls, and while some of that may have been warranted, I don’t think there’s any question but that he worked hard on his craft at the plate and in the field. Beyond that, Cano had a general joy and ease about the game that was fun to watch as a fan, and his smile was often wide and infectious. Brian Cashman made the right decision not to match the Mariners’ offer in the 2013-2014 offseason, but I’ve missed seeing a player like Cano in Pinstripes ever since.
Ethan Semendinger – Being one of the younger writers for this blog, thought experiments like these are hard for me because I’ve only ever seen so many true second basemen for the Yankees. However, I’m going to make an unconventional pick: Gleyber Torres is my favorite second baseman. While Robinson Cano was a joy to watch through my youth, there were other Yankees on those teams that outshined him to me and I never fully appreciated what he did there.
Gleyber Torres on the other hand is a budding superstar for the Yankees now and in the future and I think he fits best at second base long-term. My offseason dream is that the Yankees acquire Lindor, but even if they wait until the 2021-22 offseason to go after the plethora of shortstop talent who are all better defensively than Torres who would go back to playing second base full time.