The Tuesday Discussion: The Most Under-Rated Yankee Ever?
This week we asked our writers:
Who do you feel was the most underrated Yankee of all-time?
Here are their answers:
Lincoln Mitchell – I stand by my view that Roy White was the most underrated Yankee of all time.
Ed Botti – Bernie Williams. Core four is all we hear about. Yet, he was really the first of that team to emerge from within the system.
Overlooked by many. One of my all-time favorites. Number 51!
Smooth as silk in the outfield. Clutch at the plate. I’ll never forget his walk off home run off Randy Myers in game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, upper deck in the real Yankee Stadium!
Batting Champion, 4 rings.
Great person. As humble as it gets.
He left the game with very little fanfare. Yankees did the right thing and retired his number in 2015, but still under rated by many.
Bern Baby Bern!!!
Mike Whiteman – I think Elston Howard was the most underrated Yankee of all-time.
The Yankees’ first African-American player broke into the majors as a 26-year old catcher with the misfortune of having one of the all-time greats (Yogi Berra) blocking the way. For the first five years of his career, he played catcher, outfield and first base and was an All-Star three times. Yankee manager Casey Stengel paid Howard the highest compliment by stating “You can substitute, but you rarely can replace”. With Howard, “I have a replacement, not a substitute”.
In 1961, at the age of 32, Howard finally caught more than 100 games in a season. From 1961-1964 he averaged .306 with 21 home runs, taking home the AL MVP in 1963, leading the Yanks to four AL pennants, two World Series victories.
His career accomplishments include:
Nine time AL All-Star Two-time Gold Glover 1963 AL MVP; third place in 1964
The highest Howard reached in the Hall of Fame voting was 20% in 1981. The lack of accumulating stats due to his early usage certainly hurts his case and underestimates the impact of his Yankee career. In my opinion, a deeper look at his body of work reveals one of the all-time Yankee greats, and builds a good case for HOF enshrinement. Had Berra not been entrenched behind the plate for Howard’s mid to late age 20s seasons, I think Elston would have his plaque in Cooperstown.
To the Yankees’ credit, they did retire Howard’s number 32 in 1984, almost four years after his death. That being said, you hear a lot about Mantle, Maris, Berra, Ford, etc. of the 1950s and 1960s dynasties, but not much about Howard.
Paul Semendinger – I wanted my answer here to be Graig Nettles, my favorite player ever. Nettles, is a worthy candidate for this. He was a great Yankees who has still, not yet, been honored with a monument in Monument Park despite the fact that there probably would have been no late 1970s championships without him.
But there is a player who deserves this title more than Nettles.
The most under-rated Yankee ever ranks eighth on the Yankees all-time WAR (position players) list. His WAR of 54.0 is tied with Alex Rodriguez at that spot. This 54.0 WAR ranks higher than Hall-of-Famers Tony Lazzeri (45.9), Earle Combs (43.9), Phil Rizzuto (42.0), Joe Gordon (36.8), Dave Winfield (27.1), and others.
This player’s WAR also ranks ahead of such Yankees legends as Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, Don Mattingly, Jorge Posada, Bobby Murcer, Charlie Keller, Tommy Henrich, and so many others.
This Yankee played on the 1976-78 World Series Teams and also the 1980 AL East Championship team and the 1981 World Series team.
On the Yankees all-time Games Played list, he is 12th. He’s also 12th in all-time Offensive WAR. Even better, he is 2nd on the Yankees all-time in Defensive WAR.
This player was a Yankee from 1976 to 1988.
The most under-rated Yankee ever is Willie Randolph.
James Vlietstra – I have to say that Roy White is the most under rated Yankees player of all time.
He spent his entire 15-year career as a Yankees. He was an all-star twice and won 2 World Series championships. According to Baseball Reference, his career WAR was 46.8. These are all accolades that suggest that he is one of the best 25-30 Yankees of all time. However, he is not included in Monument Park, the museum that honors the best of the best from the organization. During his playing days, he was overshadowed by contemporaries like Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson, and Ron Guidry. After his playing days were over, he had all-time greats like Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and Mariano Rivera highlighted ahead of him during Old Timers Day commemorations. Of the 1709 players that have suited up to play baseball for the New York Yankees, Roy White is the most under rated of all time.
Chris O’Connor – One of the first players that comes to mind is Bernie Williams. He was brought up and developed by the team, routinely hit in the middle of the lineup during the dynasty of the late 90’s-early 2000’s, and played a premium defensive position in center field. He consistently hit .300 or higher with great durability in his prime, yet he only had two seasons in the top 10 of MVP voting and is not considered part of the Core 4 that built the dynasty. I think he gets overshadowed by the other stars on those Yankees due to the surplus of talent on those teams, his humble nature, and lack of award recognition (no Rookie of the Year, MVP, World Series MVP, etc.). In my mind, he is one of the great Yankees that often gets overlooked in historical discussions.
Patrick Gunn – One of the most underrated Yankees of all time is Willie Randolph. Yes, he was named a captain, but I don’t think fans or pundits realize how great he was as a Yankee, or as a player. Randolph had a 65.9 career WAR, via Baseball-Reference and a .373 on-base percentage, thanks to having 1,243 career walks (compared to just 675 strikeouts). He’s a player who you would scarcely see in today’s game, but man he was great at what he did.
Ethan Semendinger – Is there a debate for this that could include Brett Gardner? I know he has become a darling in the eyes of Yankees fans holding on to that last taste of 2009, but I think a case can be made that he is underrated. Over his 13-year career in pinstripes, Gardner has averaged 3.3 bWAR (2.9 fWAR) while stabilizing a part of the outfield with playing in 77% of games since 2008. He ranks #24 across all Yankees when it comes to bWAR, yet he has two personal accolades in his career: a 2015 All-Star Game appearance and a 2016 Gold Glove.
Gardner has never been “the player” on the Yankees either. From his rookie year in 2008 to 2015 he was overshadowed by Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeria and CC Sabathia. While he did lead the team in bWAR in 2014 with 3.8 bWAR that was Jeter’s retirement tour year and nobody could’ve told you Gardy was the best player that year. It honestly didn’t matter much.
Then, once everybody from the old core was gone, Gardner has been getting old and the new stars of the future took all the media light: Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, and Gleyber Torres. Gardner has been underrated his whole career. A great career (of which he should not come back in 2021), and an underrated career all things considered.