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The Tuesday Discussion: Who Was The Greatest At Second in NYY History?

This week we asked our writers to reply to the following:

The best Yankees second baseman of all-time was ___________, because _________.

Here are their responses:

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Lincoln Mitchell – This is a tough question because there are several good candidates-Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon, Willie Randolph and Robinson Cano.

For peak performance it is really a two person race between Cano and Gordon, but Gordon did not play long enough with the Yankees to get my vote. However, Lazzeri is just short of Gordon and Cano on peak value.

For career value as a Yankee it is more of a three person race with Gordon not in the running. Although Lazzeri would not get my final vote there are a few things Yankees fans should know about him. First, he is perhaps the only Hall of Fame to have survived the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. Second, he and Joe DiMaggio are the only two Hall of Famers who attended the same high school and then went on to be teammates on two World Series winning teams. As a footnote, that high school, Galileo, was my local public high school. Among the other famous athletic alumni are O.J Simpson.

Ultimately, this is a two person race between two very different ballplayers. The answer depends on what you want in your second baseman. Robinson Cano was at times an MVP caliber hitter who played very good defense for almost a decade. Willie Randolph was an elite defender and table setter for over a decade.

Randolph gets my vote because of his longevity and his ability to remain scandal free and well respected during a very difficult time in Yankees history.

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Paul Semendinger: I thought this would be a fun questions as there were numerous great second basemen in Yankees history, chronologically (Del Pratt, Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon, Bobby Richardson, Willie Randolph, Alfonso Soriano, and Robbie Cano) that it would be a challenge to choose. I also didn’t want to miss guys like Aaron Ward, Horace Clarke, Steve Sax, Chuck Knoblauch, and D.J. LeMahieu.

But, who among them was the best?

My gut says it was Tony Lazzeri, but my heart is with Willie Randolph. (We do tend to love the players we grew up with best.)

I went to WAR to find out.

Robinson Cano ranks as the 7th best second baseman of all-time, but that includes his whole career, of course.

Next in line is Willie Randolph who ranks just above Joe Gordon at #16 and #17 respectfully.

Tony Lazzeri comes in at #28.

Poor ol’ Horace Clarke, who always seems to get the short stick. he ranks #143 all-time. He did outrank Aaron Ward (#156) and Sandy Alomar (#183) among many (many) others.

Del Pratt, who was an early great ranks #35 all-time.

Bobby Richardson, who is remembered greater than he was in many respects clocks in at #218.

(I love this stuff…)

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Chris O’Connor – Growing up, I always loved watching Robby Cano. He played such a smooth game from his swing to his defense, and I always thought he was one of the most talented players in the game during his nine years with the Yankees. He slashed .305/.355/.504 with 204 home runs with the Yanks, but I couldn’t pick him for two reasons: he played only 9 seasons with the team, and the multiple positive steroid tests cloud my judgement of his accomplishments. Instead, I will go with Tony Lazzeri. He slashed .293/.379/.467 with 169 homers in 13 seasons with the Yankees. He also won 5 World Series with the team. Special shoutout to the massively underrated Willie Randolph who played 13 seasons with the Yankees, won 2 World Series, had a .374 OBP, and actually has more WAR as a Yankee than both Lazzeri and Cano. I would go Lazzeri, Randolph, Cano.

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Tim Kabel – Tony Lazzeri As a member of the Yankees through 1937, he averaged 79 runs scored, 14 home runs, 96 RBIs and 12 stolen bases, including seven seasons with over 100 RBI and five seasons batting .300 or higher (including a high of .354 in 1929). During this period, the Yankees won six American League pennants (1926, 1927, 1928, 1932, 1936 and 1937) and five World Series(1927, 1928, 1932, 1936 and 1937).

*** Ethan Semendinger – Depending on how you read this question, you can get some interesting results. So, instead of giving a normal answer as many above have already done (to be fair, I think Robinson Cano was the best Yankees 2nd baseman) I’m going to purposefully misunderstand the question. Who was the greatest Yankee to ever play second-base (at one point or another)?

Well, Mickey Mantle is an option. For one inning in 1954, Mickey Mantle played 2nd base for the Yankees, recording 2 put-outs on 2 chances. He’s as good a choice as any to pick as one of the best Yankees of all-time.

In a similar note of beloved Yankees greats, Don Mattingly spent 0.1 innings at 2nd base in 1983, though he didn’t get any chances at making a play. (Interestingly enough, this happened during the infamous George Brett Pine-Tar game.)

Somewhat recently, another Yankee great did a similar thing in 2011 during a 22-9 route of the Oakland Athletics as Jorge Posada played the final inning and recorded the final out of the game while at 2nd base.

So, I’m going to go with Mickey Mantle as the best guy to play 2nd base in Yankees history.

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