The Tuesday Discussion – Who is the Most Under-Appreciated Yankee of All-Time?
This week we asked our writers:
Who is the most under-appreciated Yankee of all-time?
Here are their responses:
Paul Semendinger – My original thought here is Graig Nettles. He was a Yankees’ captain. He was a World Champion. He was a home run leader. He won two Gold Gloves. He saved the 1978 World Series for the Yankees. He is arguably one of the greatest third basemen in the game’s history. And yet, he’s not in Monument Park. A good case can be made for Nettles. In Yankees’ history, he is 14th All-Time in WAR.
But, if I go with WAR, I also must name Tony Lazzeri (13th, and in the Hall-of-Fame), Roy White (11th), and Willie Randolph (8th) who are also ahead of Nettles in All-Time WAR and are also not in Monument Park.
Patrick Gunn – The most under-appreciated Yankee of all-time is Roy White. He started his career in arguably the Yankees’ worst period as a franchise and started to show his age by the time the Bombers returned to form. Also, he always seemed to be overshadowed by bigger names, like Bobby Murcer, Lou Piniella, and Thurman Munson. He ended his career with an OPS+ of 121. He walked 12.1% of his at-bats during his career while striking out just 9.2% of the time (imagine, a player with considerably more walks than strikeouts playing baseball). White most likely flew under the radar because his triple crown stats never popped off the screen; he only hit at least 20 home runs once, never drove in over 100 runs, and he never hit .300 or above. White simply played consistently for his entire career and provided a steady calming presence in the locker room. White does not get enough credit for his contributions to Yankees’ baseball during the late-1960s and throughout the 1970s.
Ed Botti – There is a big difference between under rated and under-appreciated.
In my view, over the last 25 years, or so, the most under-appreciated Yankee is Bernie Williams.
Don’t get me wrong, he has millions of adoring fans, but he is also put as second fiddle when the glory years are discussed. Not because of his play, he was excellent. But more so because of his demeanor.
We often hear all the talk and fond memories of the “Core Four” but just before them, and just as important was when the team promoted Bernie Williams and then turned around and traded Roberto Kelly for Paul O’Neill. Instantaneously, the ground work was in place. Bernie was the centerpiece of that ground work.
Bernie didn’t get all of the publicity, like some of his teammates did. He kept to himself and went about his business in a classy way. But he was every bit as important to the 90’s dynasty as anyone else was.
Smooth as silk in outfield, a switch hitter with ice running through his veins. He made every play, and ran very well.
One clutch post season hit after another. I still get shivers when I think back on the Randy Myers home run in the 1996 ALCS. Yet, when most think back to the Joe Torre teams, it’s the Core Four that get all the praise.
“Bern Baby Bern, he did it again!!”
It should have been termed the Fantastic Five! But, somehow, I don’t think Bernie really cares.
Honorable Mentions, Mike Mussina and Roy White!!
Before my time, most say it was Clete Boyer.
Derek McAdam – The first name that came to my mind was Scott Brosius. Although he was not on the Yankees for long, he made a huge impact during his four years. He hit several clutch home runs during the 1998 and 2001 World Series, caught David Cone’s 27th out in his perfect game and won a Gold Glove in 1999. I was too young to see him play and may have missed many names that span back further than his, but he does not get the recognition he deserves.
Chris O’Connor – I can only speak to how appreciated or not a player is/was during my time, and I really started following the Yankees in the mid-late 2000’s. Using that as a cutoff, I think one of the more underappreciated Yankees was Hiroki Kuroda. He pitched like an ace in his 3 seasons here from 2012-2014, which was so important for the team because that is when CC really started to break down. Kuroda started 97 games in those 3 years, going 38-33 with a 3.44 ERA and 11.4 bWAR in 620 innings. While those 2012-2014 teams were, for the most part, not particularly memorable, the performances of guys like Kuroda should not be overlooked.
Mike Whiteman – “Underappreciated” with the Yankees takes on a certain context, as not a lot of players from the Bronx fly under the radar.
If I did have one player who I feel doesn’t get all the acclaim that’s due it’s Bernie Williams.
From 1996-2002, Bernie was a .323/.408/.538 slasher with four Gold Gloves. While the fielding awards may have been a bit questionable, the team won five AL Pennants and Four World Series titles with Bernie roaming centerfield, so he must have been pretty capable.
The shine of the era went to Williams’ “Core Four” teammate, but his elite switch hitting bat in the cleanup spot was just as crucial to the Torre Yankees’ dynasty of the 1990s.