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Tuesday Discussion – The Most Overrated Yankee

This week we asked our writers:

“Who is the most overrated Yankee of all-time?”

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Ed Botti – I’m going to go with Rick Cerone.

When he burst on the scene following the death of Thurman Munson, the media and Madison Ave loved him. Blue jean and beer commercials, it went right to his head.

His first year in 1980 he hit .277 with 30 doubles. Pretty good. We were all psyched.

That was basically the high point.

He played seven more years, in 3 separate stints, with the Yanks. He hit only 31 home runs, 81 doubles, 203 RBI and hit only .249.

He got more mileage from 1 year then any one player I can remember.

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Derek McAdam – While you may scratch your head, I believe Roger Maris is the most over-rated Yankee of all time. During his three-year stretch between 1960-62, Maris hit as many home runs as he would the other nine seasons of his career. He was also a career .260 hitter, which is average at best. He is only known for one season in which he beat Babe Ruth’s home run record, which would stand for 37 years until 1998.

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Paul Semendinger – This one is so difficult for me. I don’t want to admit that any Yankee wasn’t as good as we all thought. I tried to find a player widely considered great or very good who might not have been all that great or even very good.

I thought – David Wells! Nope. He was very good pitching to a 68-28 record as a Yankee.

Maybe Tino Martinez? Nope. In his first six years as a Yankee, he averaged 29.1 homers and batted .279.

People like to say that Catfish Hunter was overrated, but he was instrumental in bringing the first pennant in 12 years back to the Bronx.

Don Larsen? He had one good game…right? No, he pitched to a 45-24 record as a Yankee.

Bobby Richardson hit only .266 for his career, with a .299 OBP. But he was a strong force defensively and a quiet leader in his own way.

Clete Boyer hit only .241 as a Yankee, but, he, too, was a great defender – one of the best ever, they say.

Mickey Rivers is beloved, but he spent only three and a half seasons in the Bronx.

Needless to say this was very difficult.

In the end, I’ll choose Bucky Dent. he had a big home run and a World Series MVP in 1978, but he hit just .239 in his Yankee career. I think Bucky is remembered as a better player than he was.

But, these players were all Yankees and in a way, heroes… each in their own way.

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Mike Whiteman – Now this is a challenging one. I’ll go with Roger Clemens.

I’m not saying that Clemens didn’t make a contribution while in Pinstripes, but perhaps it wasn’t what was perceived. He was 83-42 in New York, with a 4.01 ERA and 116 ERA+. He took home the 2001 Cy Young award primarily on the strength of a 20-3 record with a number of folks, including his teammate Mike Mussina, arguably better candidates.

I still remember the frenzy when the Yanks signed him in 2007, only to see a 6-6, 4.18 ERA performance and a clunker against Cleveland in his only postseason appearance.

A good career in New York, but not among the Yankee greats.

*** Andy Singer – This is a really tough question! As a Yankee fan, I’m inherently a homer, though I’ve certainly lived through watching players whose playing time I never really understood. However, to get the label of most overrated Yankee, the player shouldn’t be a reserve player who gets a little too much playing time. That kicks guys like Ronald Torreyes off of my list. Same goes for pitchers like Tanyon Sturtze and Scott Proctor. To hold the title, I think we need to look at the player in the context of both his time and how the Yankees operated at that time.

My peers here at SSTN have come up with some good names, but I want to take you back to the 2003-2004 offseason. There were two premium outfielders on the market, one of whom was an absolute stud in his prime, while the other was an all-bat aging (but still effective!) star. The latter also happened to be the apple of George Steinbrenner’s eye, so no matter which player made the most baseball sense, George was going to get his man. Know who I’m talking about yet? The player in his prime was a 29 year old Vlad Guerrero. The man we got was a 35 year old Gary Sheffield.

This is not to say that Sheffield was bad in pinstripes! In 3 seasons in the Bronx, Sheffield had a .291/.383/.515 batting line, good for 135 OPS+ and 8.7 bWAR. In fact, until Giancarlo Stanton came along, I always said that Sheffield had the fastest hands I ever saw at the plate (now I think it would be a pretty tight race between Stanton and Sheffield for that honor). However, I can’t help but think about how things might have been different had Guerrero been the apple of George’s eye. Over the same period, Guerrero posted a .328/.389/.572 batting line, good for 149 OPS+ and 15 (!) bWAR. Even worse, Vlad aged beautifully, and was one of the best long-term contracts ever signed. This isn’t hindsight being 20/20 either; I hated the move then also. Sheffield vs. Vlad might have been the difference between playoff disappointment and maybe one or two more rings for the mid-2000 Yankees.

The Yankees overrated Sheffield to their detriment, so while Sheffield played well for the Yankees, he gets my vote for the most overrated.

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Ethan Semendinger – When you look at the New York Yankees history, there are plenty of names who didn’t live up to the hype, those who were overpaid, etc. However, a player is not true overrated until they become a legend while not being a legendary player. This is why I chose Aaron Boone.

Now, I was too young to remember (or likely be allowed to stay up and watch) Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. If you ask any Yankees fan, that has become one of the greatest moments in the Yankees post-2000 history. It has elevated Boone into this status that otherwise would surprise the typical fan.

Boone spent just 54 regular season games with the Yankees, hitting to a triple-slash of .254/.302/.418. He also almost left the reigning AL Champions without a third baseman after tearing his left ACL (which fortunately or unfortunately led the Yankees to acquire A-Rod). However, the case as to why Boone is overrated doesn’t just end with his lack of performance on the field.

One has to believe that a team like the New York Yankees would not go out and hire a manager with no managerial experience in baseball. When they did it was a surprise to many around baseball. When they did they hired a former hero of the team. Aaron Boone’s 2003 ALCS, Game 7, 11th inning home run is why he is the manager.

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