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The Tuesday Discussion: Roger or Reggie?

This week we asked our writers:

Who had the better career as a Yankee, Roger Maris or Reggie Jackson?


Here are their responses…

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Paul Semendinger – I loved this question when I thought it up. It’s a dead heat in so many ways. Roger Maris had the 61 homers. Reggie the epic 3-home run game in the 1977 World Series. Maris won two MVP Awards. Reggie, none. But Reggie was an All-Star each year he was a Yankee, Roger was an All-star in only three of his Yankees seasons. Maris was the better defensive player. Reggie was the more colorful.

Maris was a Yankee for seven seasons, Jackson, just five.

Their Yankees stats:

Maris’ Batting Avg/Avg HR/OPB/Slg/OPS: .265/29/.356/.515/.872

Reggie’s Batting Avg/Avg HR/OPB/Slg/OPS: .281/29/.371/.526/.897

Oh my, they have very similar stats…

Maris’ bWAR as a Yankee: 26.4 (average WAR per season = 3.77)

Jackson’s bWAR as a Yankee: 17.2 (average WAR per season = 3.44)

Before Roger Maris came, the Yankees were winning lots of World Series.

Before Reggie Jackson came, the Yankees hadn’t won one in a long time.

I think it’s a dead heat, but if I have to choose, I’ll choose the guy who hit the three homers and made a nine-year-old kid a Yankees fan for life.

REG-GIE, REG-GIE, REG-GIE!

***

Tamar Chalker – That is a good question. I feel like there are very good arguments for both. Maris had the longer career with the Yankees and arguably one of the bigger Yankee moments in Yankee history, but Reggie has created a bigger Yankees legend persona, despite playing significantly more years with other teams. Honestly, I think when it comes to their on-the-field contributions to the Yankees, it’s a toss-up. When it comes to storytelling and excitement and bringing in more fans – I think Reggie has done a lot for the Yankees’ brand.

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Timothy Kabel – I believe that Roger Maris was the better Yankee by virtue of his two MVPs and the 61 home runs in 1961.

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Chris O’Conner – This is a very interesting comparison as both came to the Yankees after stints with multiple other teams and both did not have exceptionally long Yankee careers (7 years for Maris and 5 for Jackson). Despite this relatively short stint for each player, they both certainly made their mark while they were in New York. I am far too young to have seen either play, but I have read about how both had their struggles with Yankees fans despite their tremendous success (Maris for breaking the legendary Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record and Jackson for his propensity for strikeouts). Ultimately, I would go with Jackson. Going strictly off of value, Maris has the edge in Baseball-Reference WAR as a Yankee, 26.4 to 17.2. Both won two World Series with the Yankees, but Maris has the edge in MVP’s (2 to 0). Despite this, Jackson’s October exploits him him the edge. He is “Mr. October” for a reason with 8 home runs in 3 World Series with the Yankees. I find it notable and telling that he chose to enter the Hall of Fame as a Yankees despite playing twice as many seasons with the A’s and winning more World Series (3 to 2) with them.

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Ethan Semendinger – This question seems to be an easy one to answer as many of us would think: “Of course Reggie Jackson had the better career!”. He is the lone “Mr. October” (and this nickname was later revised for another Yankee legend in Derek “Mr. November” Jeter), he is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, collected 563 Home Runs, won 5 World Series, 1 MVP, and was a 14 time All-Star. Yet, we’re looking at solely the Yankee careers of two players who had short, but incredibly memorable, stints in pinstripes. And, while Reggie had his candy bars, and may be the more well-known player today (because he is alive and was a Yankee 15 years after Maris), I think Roger Maris was ultimately the better Yankee. Each player helped bring the Yankees to two World Series (Maris in 1961 and 1962, Jackson in 1977 and 1978), but Maris brought the Yankees 2 MVP awards to Jackson’s none. Maris spent 7 years in pinstripes to Jackson’s 5 and while it should be obvious Maris had more bWAR and fWAR (both +26.4) to Jackson (bWAR of +17.2 and +18.3), Maris also has a better bWAR and fWAR per year (+3.77 to +3.44 and +3.66). Maris was the better Yankees player, and unfortunately I believe his early death at age 51 in 1985 has left his Yankee days more forgotten.

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Patrick Gunn – Maris played for two more seasons than Jackson. That explains for differences in raw statistics. Aside from that, Maris and Jackson both had sparkling Yankee careers. Both have iconic moments (Maris breaking Ruth’s record, Jackson becoming Mr. October after his three-homer performance in 1977 amongst other things). And both players could swing it. In the end, I’ll lean towards Jackson for backing his talk, leading the Yankees to two World Series with his power, and for elevating baseball players more to celebrity status with his big personality (could you imagine a Roger Maris candy bar?).

***

Mike Whiteman – A couple of great Yankees.

I think in their prime as Yankees, Maris was the better player. He excelled at the plate and in the field until injuries started taking their toll.

Reggie was basically just a hitter, but what a hitter he was and he had impeccable timing. His 1977 World Series performance was one for the ages, and gives him a slight edge.

#ReggieJackson #RogerMaris

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