The Yankees Mount Rushmores
by Paul Semendinger
June 17, 2023
I heard some debate the other day as to whether or not Aaron Judge will one day become a player on the hypothetical Yankees’ Mount Rushmore. In other words, people were asking whether or not Aaron Judge would one day be considered one of the four greatest players in the history of the New York Yankees.
I happen to think not.
I believe the Yankees’ Mount Rushmore is pretty secure. The four players I would put there are each, in their own way, bigger than the game itself. These four players are among the greatest of the great, inner-circle Hall of Famers:
It would be difficult for any player to break into that group. I dare say, it would be almost impossible. Some of the greatest recent players were not good enough, or legendary enough, in spite of their own Hall of Fame careers, to crack this distinguished group.
But what if there was a second group? What if there was a second Yankees Mount Rushmore? Who would make that list? Is Aaron Judge on pace to be one of the eight greatest Yankees of all-time?
Again, in spite of his success, and his record-breaking home run season, I don't see Aaron Judge making the second Mount Rushmore either.
I would submit that the following four players would comprise the second Mount Rushmore of Yankees. I further suggest that these four would also be difficult, if not impossible, to supplant:
Aaron Judge is great. He currently sits in 24th place among Yankee position players in WAR. If he averages just 4.0 WAR over the next 9 seasons, he will end in fifth place all-time, just behind the first four players above and slightly ahead of Derek Jeter.
But, still how does one take the place of:
The greatest closer in baseball history,
The only Yankee to have 3,000 hits,
The Yankee with the most World Series rings (and a three-time MVP) whose legend only grows, or
The winningest Yankees pitcher of all time?
Aaron Judge would have to have a host of amazing seasons to be able to crack into that second Mount Rushmore. And, in spite of his great abilities, I simply do not see this happening.
Further, the Yankees have a tradition, not just of excellence, but of greatness. In spite of his own record, and an MVP, Aaron Judge lacks the one thing that all of the players above possess, and in bulk -- not just a World Series ring, but multiple championships. Let's take a very quick look at the eight players above and the total amount of Yankees World Championship teams they have been on:
Babe Ruth - 4
Lou Gehrig - 7
Joe DiMaggio - 9
Mickey Mantle - 7
Mariano Rivera - 5
Derek Jeter - 5
Yogi Berra - 10
Whitey Ford - 6
Aaron Judge does not have any World Series championships. Furthermore, he's never even played in a World Series. Judge would have to be on a host of championship teams to be able to break into that esteemed group.
Once one begins this exercise, the big question becomes, not if Aaron Judge will be legendary enough to make it onto the first or second Yankees Mount Rushmore, but will he have a career worthy enough to be on the third Yankees Mount Rushmore?
There are a host of legendary Yankees who would have to be considered to be the four players on that third Yankees Mount Rushmore. Would Aaron Judge even be able to make that mountain?
From the early days, there are players such as Jack Chesbro and Willie Keeler who deserve consideration.
From the Yankees of the 1920s and 1930s, Earle Combs, Tony Lazzeri, and Bill Dickey deserve some thought.
The Yankees have had a host of excellent pitchers including Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez, Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, Ed Lopat, Mel Stottlemyre, and Ron Guidry who might be worthy. In more recent years, David Cone and C.C. Sabathia deserve at least a look.
Closers Sparky Lyle and Goose Gossage might also be considered.
Aaron Judge set the single-season home run record, but Roger Maris had the previous American League record and he also had two MVPs. If one were to consider outfielders, might Tommy Henrich, Reggie Jackson, or Dave Winfield be worthy?
If we were to put a Yankees great without a championship on this mountain, would Aaron Judge be more worthy than Don Mattingly?
There are also three other catchers who deserve to be there: Elston Howard, Thurman Munson, and Jorge Posada.
Finally, there are the over-looked and under-appreciated Yankees form the 1970s and 1980s who were much better players than they have ever been given credit for. Among these players are Roy White, Graig Nettles, and Willie Randolph.
As amazing as this might sound, at this point in his career, Aaron Judge might still have to take a back seat to all of them.
The Yankees have a rich enough history to create a mountain chain of Mount Rushmores. If they started carving, the Yankees chain might comprise the entirety of the Adirondacks. There are that many great players who are worthy of this recognition.