To be honest, this question was posed on Dubsism two years ago by myself and Dick Marple, the Chairman of the Dubsism Advisory Board. You can see the original post here, but since then, the numbers we examined have only gone up.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is the over-arching question. I know that means saying “yes” to that question means saying that Derek Jeter is a greater Yankee than some heavy-duty legends not just in pinstripes, but to baseball in general. Some people are simply going to scream their brains out stuck on the pre-eminence of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio.
However, doing so misses some really important stuff. For starters, let’s look at Jeter’s place in Yankee history, statistically speaking in the offensive categories. Also, don’t forget these number have at least two months of baseball left to change…
- Games Played: 2695 (1st)
- At-Bats: 10,988 (1st)
- Runs Scored: 1,510 (2nd, needs 50 to pass Babe Ruth)
- Runs Batted In: 1,288 (6th)
- Hits: 3,420 (1st)
- Doubles: 536 (1st)
- Triples: 66 (13th)
- Home Runs: 258 (9th)
- Strike-outs: 1,812 (1st)
- Stolen Bases: 356 (1st)
- Caught Stealing: 96 (5th)
- Batting Average: .311 (7th)
- On-Base Percentage: .380 (17th)
- Slugging Percentage: .442 (37th)
A lot of people will look at those numbers and will be surprised at how many categories in which Jeter is the all-time Yankee leader. The numbers that surprised me were the fact that Jeter is in the Yankees’ top ten in home runs considering all the sluggers that have worn pinstripes. Lou Gehrig was a doubles-hitting machine, but Derek Jeter passed him. But on the other side of the coin, I was surprised that Jeter’s on-base percentage wasn’t higher than it is.
Now, for the fun part. When it comes to the non-statistical arguments, in my mind the battle for the title of Greatest Yankee Ever is a two-horse race; Jeter or Ruth.
Had Lou Gehrig’s career not been cut short, this is a different conversation. Two more seasons and Gehrig would have been in the 500-home run, 3,000-hit club. Having reached that plateau may very well have made him the subject of this discussion.
Two years ago, I had DiMaggio at #2 on this list. But I honestly believe Jeter sailed past the Yankee Clipper on the following points. DiMaggio’s biggest claim to fame was being the best hitter in the game not named Ted Williams. While Jeter was not the batsman DiMaggio was, Jeter is arguably the biggest clutch performer baseball has seen since Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson. Jeter also did this while playing more games than anybody else in the history of baseball at the toughest position on the diamond that doesn’t have to wear a mask. Jeter also passed DiMaggio in terms of notches on the bedpost as well. The Yankee Clipper got to call Marilyn Monroe a “home port,” but Derek Jeter has a list of conquests of legendary proportions.
But no matter how you slice it, I simply cannot put anybody ahead of Babe Ruth. If I were to make a list of the greatest sports figures of the 20th Century, Babe Ruth tops it all for three massively important reasons.
First of all, Babe Ruth changed baseball. Before “The Sultan of Swat,” the home run was an anomaly in an era when the ball was made out of lettuce and it was legal to put an entire quart of Pennzoil on the ball. Before Ruth, baseball’s home run leader was a guy named Frank “Home run” Baker, who was tearing up that salad-ball to the tune of eight taters a year. Without the “Bambino,” we would never have had our century-long fascination with the long ball.
That fact led to two other reasons. The old Yankee Stadium was called “The House That Ruth Built” because people would fill a 20,000-seat ballpark to watch Ruth do his thing. Not only did other baseball owners realize that people would pay to see their product, it’s no accident that the other major sports leagues started after Ruth built baseball.
To top it all off, let’s not forget that Babe Ruth comes along at a time when baseball sorely needed a star. In 1919, baseball was on the verge of being destroyed by the “Black Sox Scandal,” and it was the combination of Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis restoration of the integrity of the game and Ruth mesmerizing blasts that saved it.
Apologies in advance for the “Mothership“- style lead, but this question came up in a conversation and I really think it has some probative value.
At first it sounds ridiculous, but if you stop to think about it, no matter what you think of Derek Jeter and the Yankees, there’s really no question that the current Yankee captain is headed for the Hall of Fame and the Yankee’s Monument Park. Having said that, it seems logical to wonder where does Jeter rank amongst those Yankees of yore?
First of all, this is about everyday players, not pitchers. Let ESPN try to convince you that Andy Pettitte is the greatest Yankee pitcher ever because he won the most post-season games.
Secondly, this list only considers players who spent at minimum something at least close to half their careers in pinstripes. That’s why there’s no Reggie Jackson on this list. To make the list of ten finalists, both myself and Dick Marple, the Chairman of the Dubsism Advisory Board compiled a list of who we thought could be considered as the greatest Yankees ever.
Third, and most importantly, don’t forget that both J-Dub and Marple are avowed haters of all things Yanqui. But the question has been asked on several other outlets, and so we felt it necessary to settle it.
- Babe Ruth
- Lou Gehrig
- Mickey Mantle
- Joe DiMaggio
- Yogi Berra
- Derek Jeter *
- Robinson Cano**
- Bill Dickey
- Don Mattingly
- Tie – Earle Combs, Tommy Henrich, Bob Meusel, Tony Lazzeri, Phil Rizzuto
* Shoot me now. I really do want to see him die on the field after being struck by lightning.
** Could end up as high as 6 or even 5-if he stays healthy, stays in NY and doesn’t turn into a total asshole.
*** Can’t vote for anyone who became a Y because of their economic advantage over other teams who discovered talent. Therefore no A-Rod, Dave Winfield, or Reggie Jackson.
****Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but I liked Bernie Williams as a player and fantasy league guy, but I just don’t think he was a big impact player.
Editor’s note: It should be noted that less than 48 hours after we posed this question to Mr. Marple, Jeter shattered his ankle.
- Babe Ruth
- Lou Gehrig
- Mickey Mantle
- Derek Jeter
- Joe DiMaggio
- Tie -Alex Rodriguez, Bill Dickey
- Yogi Berra
- Dave Winfield
- Don Mattingly
- Bernie Williams
From those lists, a list of ten finalists was assembled. Here’s the synopsis on those finalists, presented in alphabetical order:
1) Yogi Berra:
No single player in baseball history has more World Series rings than Yogi Berra. Having played 18 seasons as a Yankee, Yogi played in 14 World Series and won 10 of them, making him the winning champion in Major League Baseball history.
Berra was a fan favorite; he was one of the most beloved players in all of New York sports history. To this day he is an icon to Yankee fans everywhere, largely because he was one of the greatest catchers of all time. Berra hit 358 home runs and knocked in 1,430 RBIs. He won three MVP titles, including back-to-back awards in 1954 and 1955. He also played in 15 consecutive All-Star games.
2) Joe DiMaggio:
DiMaggio is obviously one of the greatest hitters of all time; his greatest achievement being his legendary 56-game hitting streak, which is believed by many to be an unbreakable record. A three-time MVP, DiMaggio hit .325 with 361 home runs and 1,537 RBI. Unfortunately, his career was interrupted by WWII, his military service took three years out of his baseball career.
In 13 seasons as a Yankee, DiMaggio won nine World Series championships, and he was an All-Star in every season of his career. However,
3) Lou Gehrig:
Lou Gehrig was often over-shadowed by the monstrous numbers of Babe Ruth, but make no mistake…Gehrig was one of the all-time greats in all of baseball all on his own. Gehrig hit 493 home runs and drove in 1,995 runs while scoring 1,888 runs himself. He had a .340 career average with 2,721 hits over his 17 seasons as a Yankee. He won two MVP awards and played in only seven All-Star games, but you have to remember the All-Star game wasn’t around until Gehrig’s last seven seasons.
4) Derek Jeter:
Before his ankle injury the other night, Derek Jeter was considered by many to be the next player to be able to reach 4,000 hits. Regardless of what happens regarding the rest of his career, Jeter has become as much of a Yankee icon as any other on this list.
Of all the accomplished players on this list, Jeter is the only member of the 3,000 hit club. He was named the 11th captain of the Yankees in 2003, making him the first since Don Mattingly retired in 1995.
Jeter also holds several Yankee franchise record, including most hits and plate appearances, most games played, and stolen bases.
5) Don Mattingly:
The 1985 MVP, Mattingly played his entire career with the Yankees and was the captain of the team from 1991 through the end of his career in 1995. Unlike the other players on this list, Mattingly played in a down for the Bronx Bombers. Despite his individual success, the team did not endure the same success. The 1980s were the only decade so far in which the Yankees did not win a World Series title.
6) Mickey Mantle:
“The Mick” was the end of a line of legendary Yankee heroes, from Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, through Joe DiMaggio, and to the end of his career. No one was there to pick up where Mantle left off in the late ’60s and the Yankees went into a World Series drought, not winning one from 1962 till 1977. Mantle belted 536 home runs with 1,509 RBI, while scoring 1,677 runs, and was arguable the greatest switch-hitter of all time.
7) Alex Rodriguez:
Forget about the steroid thing for a minute…of you are a regular reader of this blog, you know what I think of the whole steroid issue. Alex Rodriguez is one of the greatest players of all-time, regardless of how the writers and the other self-appointed steroid moralists care to view him. To date, he has 2,901 hits, 647 home runs and 1.950 RBIs.
8) Babe Ruth:
It’s pretty hard to argue that Babe Ruth is not the greatest player to ever wear the pinstripes. Before he became a Yankee, Ruth was a pitcher for the Red Sox who had a record of 89-46 with a 2.19 ERA.
Then the Yankees figured out he might be able to hit. Over his 15 seasons in the Bronx, Babe Ruth hit 659 home runs, had 1,971 RBI, scored 1,959 runs, walked 1,852 times, and hit .349. That pretty much says it all.
9) Bernie Williams:
Bernie Williams played his entire 16-season career in pinstripes and was a key member to the recent dynasty years, winning four World Series titles with the Yankees. Williams hit .297 with 287 home runs and 1,257 RBI. He also scored 1,366 runs and had 2,336 hits. His 449 doubles ranks third on the Yankees all-time list. He appeared in five straight All-Star games and won four Gold Gloves.
10) Dave Winfield:
At 6’6″ Winfield was a giant of a man, but he was also a true “five-tool” player athlete who never spent a day in the Minor Leagues. While Winfield played for six major league teams in 22 seasons, the prime years of his career were spent in New York. Like Mattingly, Winfield earned six All-Star appearances with some pretty bad Yankee teams of the 1980’s.
If you are more of a numbers guys, compare the career stats of the ten finalists.
To remove the skew for guys like Winfield and Rodriguez who didn’t play there entire careers in New York, compare what the average single-season numbers for these players are.
Note that Jeter compares favorably with DiMaggio in hits and doubles, and leads in stolen bases.
So, having considered all that, where does Derek Jeter fit in terms of all-time Yankee greats?
Being that we are at the end of what has proven to be a tumultuous twelve months, why not take a look back at the biggest sports stories of such a year? After all, I’m pretty sure nobody else does these sort of retrospectives…
15) The Establishment of Two All-Time Winningest College Coaches: Paterno and Krzyzewski
Will there again ever be a year in which we see the crowning of two all-time winningest coaches? We may not see either of those records (Paterno, 409 wins; Krzyzewski, 903 and counting) fall in the next half-century, let alone having them both occur in the same year.
14) Kevin Love’s Double-Double Streak
For nearly 30 years, Moses Malone’s record stood at 51 consecutive games, until Kevin Love scored 16 points and grabbed 21 rebounds against the Indiana Pacers for his 52nd straight double-double. Love’s streak ended at 53 three days later at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.
13) Two More Yankees Make The Record Books
Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter…Get ready for two more monuments behind the center field fence in Yankee Stadium. Rivera notched his record-setting 602nd career save, eclipsing Trevor Hoffman’s previous mark. And in the same season, Yank captain Derek Jeter smoked a long ball to reach the 3,000-hit milestone, becoming only the the 28th member of the exclusive club and the first 3K Yankee.
12) The End of The Peyton Manning Era
The Colts spent two decades as an NFL afterthought before the arrival of the wunderkind Manning in 1998, and now neck surgery may spell the end of the Manning era in Indianapolis. Manning’s surgically rebuilt neck, his back-loaded contract, and the Colts prime real-estate in the upcoming NFL Draft form a perfect storm scenario in which if Manning does ever take an NFL snap again, it may be in a uniform not of Colt blue.
11) The Improbable Run to the Championship
When is the next time you will see such a harmonic convergence of “underdog” champions?
- NFL: The Green Bay Packers make the playoffs as the bottom 6th Seed.
- MLB: The St. Louis Cardinals literally make the playoffs as a wild-card on the last night of the season, then they win what may be the greatest baseball game in a generation, Game 6 of the World Series.
- NHL: Granted, The Boston Bruins were a #3 seed in the East, which isn’t a prohibitive underdog, but nobody gave them a chance in the Stanley Cup Finals against the President’s Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks
- NBA: Like the Bruins, the Dallas Mavericks entered the playoff tournament as #3 seed, but it was their complete domination of the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers which set the tone for the next two series, both of which saw Dallas facing teams which seemingly should easily over-match them in terms of talent on the floor. That was until Dirk Nowitzki decided to become unstoppable.
- NCAA Men’s Basketball: Again, the #3 seed proved magical, as the Connecticut Huskies rode that to the top of the field of 64. The fact they played their way to that seed was only slightly short of a miracle, considering they entered their conference tournament as a #9 and had to play AND win four games in four days to ensure getting into the NCAA tournament. Honestly, the ten-game streak in the Big East and NCAA tournaments pulled off by the Huskies may be one of the great playoff runs of all time.
- NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey: Another #3 seed…are you sensing a theme here? The University of Minnesota-Duluth (which is really the UCLA of hockey) had an improbable run to the championship of the Frozen Four.
- NCAA Women’s Basketball: I know that it is hard to call a #2 seed an underdog, but let’s not forget the womens’ basketball world was dominated by a single goliath at Baylor which Texas A&M had to slay, but there was the ever-present team dragons in Tennessee, Stanford, and Connecticut.
10) The NBA Lockout
In what may prove to be a Quixotic exercise in abject futility, the NBA owners locked out the players on July 1st for reasons I still really can’t understand given what has happened since the lockout ended. Star players getting big money has been the rule in professional sports for decades; Babe Ruth was the first jock to pocket more than the President of the United States. But when the Samuel Dalemberts of the world world are getting $13 million a year in a league that can’t pull in big-time national TV money, the problem is much larger than a simple collective bargaining agreement.
9) The Death of the Man Who Made the NFL What It Is Today
There’s a certain amount of irony in the fact the world lost Al Davis and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il in the same year. Much like the regime of Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il, the end of the Al Davis Era marks both the end of an era that once made the Raiders a serious factor in the world of the NFL, but now leaves them as an isolated dictatorship viewed as a pariah in contemporary circles.
Kim Il-Sung shaped at least a half-century of world history when he ordered the North Korean army into South Korea in 1950, starting a war that is still technically unresolved to this day. Al Davis forever changed the face of the NFL when he sued the league for the right to move his franchise as he pleased.
Much like Kim Il-Sung left his eternal mark on North Korea beyond the war, the legendary Raiders owner had six decades’ worth of unique impact on pro football. I would be lying if I said that I never criticized Davis. Just a few months ago, I included him on my list of the 15 Worst Owners in Sports. However, as I said in that piece, that criticism was reserved for the Al Davis of the past 20 years or so.
For those of you under 30, you may not believe there was a time when Al Davis wasn’t a batshit crazy Cryptkeeper look-alike and the Raiders were not the laughing stock of the NFL. In an 18-year span during the 70′s and 80′s, the Raiders won 13 division championships, made 15 playoff appearances, and took home three Lombardi trophies. This is the era when the Raiders were the winningest team in all of professional sports, and love him or hate him, Davis was a respected and visionary leader who helped build the AFL into a league so successful the NFL couldn’t beat it so they joined with it.
That paragraph only scratches the surface as to what Al Davis meant to the world of professional football. Davis literally climbed the football ladder, going from college assistant coach to an NFL assistant coach, to head coach, to owner to AFL commissioner, to Super Bowl champion, and ultimately to the Hall of Fame.
Perhaps his single greatest honor is having made a record nine presentations of inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Al Davis made presentation speeches for Lance Alworth, Jim Otto, George Blanda, Willie Brown, Gene Upshaw, Fred Biletnikoff, Art Shell, Ted Hendricks, and John Madden. Davis himself was enshrined in Canton in 1992.
Davis changed the game of football through sheer personality; a personality which was a collection of contradictions. At once, he was was loyal and rebellious; cantankerous and vindictive, yet sentimental. Yet through all that, Davis’ name must be included amongst the founding fathers of the NFL; a name that must be mentioned with same reverence in NFL circles as that of George Halas.
His contributions to the league as a whole notwithstanding, there the matter of his success with the Raiders. His trademark slogans weren’t just some words on a banner, it was a philosophy that propelled the three-time World Champion Raiders to the very top of the professional sports world. In the 48 year marriage between Davis and the Raiders, they had 28 winning seasons, including 16 in a row from 1965 through the 1980 World Championship season.
Davis died earlier this year died at age 82 and it’s hard to dispute the Hall of Famer’s place among the most influential of the sport’s history-makers. Davis was controversial. He was a contrarian. But he was also a gift to the game.
8 ) The Ever-Deepening Cesspool That Is The NCAA
This is only layer one of what is wrong with the NCAA. The truly disgusting stuff comes later down this list. This entry is all about the corruption and the hypocrisy of the organization which is supposed to keep these factors out of college sports.
It all starts back in January when the NCAA first found violations at Ohio State, but let the players who committed the violations play in their bowl game. The theme here is the NCAA clearly values money over integrity. Keep this in mind as you read.
In August, the Miami situation broke, when it was reported that Nevin Shapiro was pumping thousands of dollars in illegal benefits to past and present Hurricanes players over the past decade. The tale told by Shapiro from his prison cell (he’s currently parking his ass in a federal cell for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme) includes prostitutes, cars, cash, and paid vacations, much of which he alleges were known of by Miami staff and coaches. Shaprio dimed out the names of 73 current and former players.
Go back to the Ohio State situation. At first, this was just about tattoos. Then it mushroomed into costing head football coach Jim Tressel and starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor their jobs. In this case, it wasn’t so much the crime, but it was the cover-up which killed everybody. But the fact the NCAA dicked around for months only underscores the fact they are not really than interested in enforcement.
Then there’s the completely laughable finding that Auburn “committed no infractions” in the Cam Newton affair when there were admissions about cash payments totaling $180,000.
The best part is this isn’t just teams who are mired in unethical activity. The Fiesta Bowl committee was exposed in a 276-page report which detailed allegations of Fiesta Bowl employees being reimbursed for donations to state and local politicians (which happens to be a felony), $1,241 spent at a Phoenix strip club was illegally charged to an expense account, and the misappropriation of $33,188 bill for Fiesta Bowl’s president and CEO Junker’s 50th birthday party. Junker has since been fired, but more stories like this will emerge until the swamp that is the NCAA is drained.
7) The Conviction of Barry Bonds
Another story indicative of what a depressing year in sports this really has been. Again, instead of talking about accomplishments on the field, we are dealing with matters decided in a courtroom.
In April, Bonds became the first player from a “major” sport to be convicted for an issue stemming from the latest round of scandal about performance-enhancing drugs. While he was acquitted of the more serious charges, just this past Friday U.S. District Judge Susan Illston issued a 20-page order refusing to overturn the obstruction of justice conviction handed down by the the jury in her courtroom nearly eight months ago.
6) The Continuing Tectonic Shift in College football
Texas A&M is headed to the SEC. So is Missouri. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are bolting from the Big East to join the ACC. West Virginia is trying to ditch the Big East for the supposedly greener pastures of the Big 12; the same greener pastures TCU left the Big East at the altar for. In return, the Big East extended invitations to at least six teams, and the madness isn’t over yet.
5) The Phenomenon Known as Tim Tebow
I’ve been watching football for nearly 40 years, and I’ve never…repeat NEVER…seen anything like the Tim Tebow story. He’s either loved or hated; he’s either the future of the Denver Broncos or an impostor. Everybody has a strong opinion, and everybody is convinced they are right.
Frankly, I have no idea what to make of the guy, so I’m going to stick with the facts.
- Whether or not the Broncos complete this miraculous run to the playoffs, there is no denying this team was on life-support when they handed Tebow the keys, and that team responded to him.
- The Tebow story is one of the few uplifting stories in a year in sports filled with so many negatives.
- Like it or not, Tebow is the biggest star in the NFL right now. Doubt that? Tell me another NFL player that had an hour-long special dedicated to him exclusively.
4) The Night of the Dueling Collapses
In the last story, I said I have been watching football for nearly 40 years. I can say the same for baseball, and again, I can say I never saw anything like the last night of the regular season. In what was inarguably the wildest night in baseball I’ve ever seen, the Red Sox and the Rays, and the Braves and the Cardinals entered the last game competing for the American League and National League wild-card berths respectively.
This set the stage for six hours of baseball that will be talked about for at least as many decades.
In the National League, the Braves blew a ninth inning lead, eventually losing in the 13th inning 4-3 to the Phillies. This loss opened the door for the Cardinals to capture the wild card by cruising past the Astros 8-0 to complete their amazing late season run; one that found them trailing Atlanta by 10.5 games on August 25th but prevaiiling in the end by winning 23 of their final 31 games.
Believe it or not, the collapse in the American League was even more epic. The Boston Red Sox led Tampa Bay Rays by nine games on September 4th, which seemed to be an insurmountable lead. It wasn’t, as the Sox found themselves in need of a win on the last night of the season to keep their playoff hopes alive. The stars seems to be aligning Boston’s way; they seemed on the verge of staving off a historic choke-job, taking an early 3-2 lead over the Orioles while the Rays fell behind the Yankees 7-0. But then somebody messed with the lenses of the Sox telescope; Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon surrendered consecutive hits to Chris Davis, Nolan Reimold, and Robert Andino to earn a season-ending 4-3 loss. Meanwhile, the Rays regrouped and mounted a comeback on the shoulders of a pair of dramatic homers from Evan Longoria, including a 12th-inning walkoff game winner.
3) The Fiasco of the Los Angeles Dodgers
We may never know how sordid the details of Frank McCourt’s mismanagement of the Los Angeles Dodgers really are; what we do know is that after the Dodgers began showing signs of financial trouble in 2010, Commissioner Bud Selig made the decision to give the league control over the club’s day-to-day operations starting in April 2011.
Since then, we’ve been treated to McCourt attempting to overturn Selig’s take-over via the courts, then threatening to engage in more legal maneuvering over a proposed television deal with Fox Sports was rejected by Selig. Then since the Dodgers struggled to meet payroll deadlines, the club filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, all during which McCourt was embroiled in what may have been the nastiest divorce in the history of the state of California.
Thankfully, Major League Baseball and McCourt reached an agreement in October under which he will sell the team and the media rights by April 30, 2012.
2) The NFL Lockout
Really, all this lockout proved is that the NFL owners and players really don’t understand the problems they have. They think this new collective bargaining agreement solves all the acrimony we all lived through, but that’s an illusion made of money. Realistically, the NFL and the NBA share some common problems, namely that they have franchises in places they shouldn’t, and those franchises are draining the league’s resources. The difference is the NFL is the country’s most popular sports league, it is literally floating on money, so it can pave over it’s issues with revenue-sharing. When the NFL finally hits the point where it has priced itself out of the market (wait until you see what the new TV deal is going to do to your cable bill), all of a sudden the illusion made of money will disappear. Mark my words, the next NFL lockout (and there will be one) will look and sound just like the NBA lockout we just lived through.
1) The Penn State and Syracuse Sex Abuse Scandals
This is the one story here that transcends sports. We have all heard the allegations, we have all read ad nauseum about all the sickening details; there’s really no need to rehash them here. What matters most is that these stories should serve as a wake-up call to all of us. We all must take a stand in stopping this sort of abuse of our children, and we must do it now. There is no excuse for any other course of action.
To that end, this should serve as the moment of truth for the NCAA. It’s time to find out how many more Jerry Sanduskys and Bernie Fines there are out there, and it’s time to ensure they are stopped. If the NCAA can’t do that, then the NCAA needs to be dismantled.
35) Jack Clark
If there was a player today most like Clark, it would be Adrian Beltre, meaning he really knew how to turn it on during his contract years, not that he knew how to get hit in the junk.
Clark started out with the Giants, before moving on to the Cardinals. then he inked a big deal with the Yankees. The year before he signed with the Cardinals, he posted a .320 batting average with the Giants in only 57 games. If his season was not cut short, he would have done some serious damage. Before cashing in with the Yankees, he had a fantastic season, hitting .286 with 35 HR and 106 RBI. However, it was all downhill from there; Clark hit .242 with the Yankees and never could recreate his glory days.
34) Wally Joyner
While there isn’t really a stat for this, I always referred to Joyner as “Mr. Meaningless.” Of his 204 career home runs, It seemed like about 150 them came when it totally didn’t matter. Looking for a big Wally Joyner home run? Tune in for the 8th inning of a 9-1 ball game. Joyner is also the classic example of a guy who first seasons were the best, and he lived on reputation after that. In his rookie year, Joyner hits 21 homers and drives in 100 runs; his second season is his biggest, he smacks 34 taters and knocks in 117. But in the remaining 14 years of his career, he only ever hits 20 home runs once and never again drives in 100.
33) Steve Sax
Three words summate his career – “Steve Sax Syndrome.” When you get a syndrome with your name on it, you have reached a select rung of baseball infamy. Sax inexplicably became incapable of making routine throws to first base in 1983, committing 30 errors that season. This is when the term was coined, it being a the fielder’s variant of “Steve Blass disease,” named after the Pirates pitcher who suffered a similar breakdown of basic mechanics. As his accuracy suffered, fans sitting behind the first base dugout began wearing batting helmets. Even before his syndrome days, and after for that matter, he was never a premier defensive 2nd baseman.
32) Barry Zito
Zito is the poster child for inflated salaries for deflated performance. Since he signed the seven-year, $126 million deal with the Giants in 2007, he has never won more than 11 games in a season, he’s never had a winning percentage above .500, he’s never pitched 200 innings, never had an ERA under4.00, and never had a WHIP under 1.3. In fact since his Cy Young season in 2002 (23-5, 2.75 ERA), Zito has a higher ERA than Carl Pavano, a worse strikeout to walk ratio than Paul Maholm, and a higher WHIP than Ted Lilly.
31) Carlos Lee
Speaking of overpaid based on performance, Lee’s numbers from last year: .246 BA, 24 HR, 89 RBI, 67 R, 3 SB. Would you pay this guy $17 million per year? If you would, then you should work for the Houston Astros.
30) Graig Nettles
Graig Nettles was a sure-handed third baseman. If a ball was hit within 20 feet of him, Yankee fans knew that Nettles would be able to make the play. He will always be remembered for his ability to charge balls and make off-balance throws and for his post-season heroics. Other than that, Graig Nettles was average at best. Nettles had a knack for hitting when the games mattered the most. That is what made him a fan favorite in New York.
29) Carl Crawford
Now that he wear a Red Sox uniform, Crawford’s luster is onmly going to become more over-stated. The “All-Star” leadoff man has a career on-base percentage of only .331 and he’s only topped 100 runs twice. those numbers are a bit light for a supposed “table setter.” Some idiots like to compare Crawford to Rickey Henderson, which is ludicrous considering Henderson had a .401 career OBP and topped 100 runs five times in his first six full seasons.
28) Lou Boudreau
If you think Orlando Cabrera is a Hall-of-Famer, you must be a Lou Boudreau fan. Statisically, Boudreau and Cabrera are indistinguishable, and Cabrera doesn’t belong in any Hall of Fame.
27) Bruce Sutter
I have a problem with relievers; I honestly think closer may be the single position in all of sports whose value has been so grossly inflated that it has almost no meaning. Nothing proves this more than Willie Hernandez winning both the Cy Young and the MVP in 1984, and Dennis Eckersley winning both those awards in 1992 and neither Hernandez or Eckersley pitched more than 95 innings in those seasons.
It is that inflation in value that allowed the floodgates of relievers into the Hall of Fame. After the floodgates opened on letting relievers in, Sutter was inducted. I’m even willing to let you have the “great closers,” like Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, and from this generation, Mariano Rivera and maybe Trevor Hoffman. Of course, this means you have to define great ones, which means I have to point out Lee Smith has 178 more career saves than Sutter and isn’t in Cooperstown.
26) Jose Canseco
We’re not even going to mention the word “steroids.” I always knew Canseco was overrated; the majority of his thump as a “great” player comes from his being the first 40 HR/40 Stolen Base player. While in a 17-year career he drives in more than 90 runs 8 times, for a power/speed combo platter he only scores more than 90 runs 3 times. This is largely due to his mediocre career batting average of .266, with an also blase on .353. Then there’s that whole “home run that bounced off his freaking head” issue.
25) Jorge Posada
Posada has been overrated both offensively and defensively. For someone who is allegedly a “great hitting catcher,” his career average for a season is a scant 15 HR and 60 RBI career average is middle of the road. He has only ever hit 30 HR or 100 RBI once in his 17 year career. Defensively, in 2006, he threw out 37 percent of potential runners, which was a career high. Over the course of his career, he has only had a 27 percent success rate in throwing players out.
24) Kirk Gibson
Kirk Gibson has been immortalized due to his World Series heroics for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988. That one-legged homer in Game 1 against the A’s has defined his mediocre career, a career in which Gibson:
- Never hit 30 Home Runs in season.
- Never drove in more than 100 runs.
- Scored in 100 runs in a season only once.
- Stole more than 30 bases only once.
23) Bernie Williams
The meaningful part of Williams’ career happened in October; his 80 RBI and 51 extra-base hits both stand as postseason records. However, he may have been one of the weakest-armed outfielders in the modern history of the game. He needed a cut-off man to play catch.
22) Alfonso Soriano
“Mr. Clutch,” Soriano struck out 11 times in 30 at-bats during the 2003 ALCS. Once he signed the huge contract in 2004, he has been a massive financial black hole. His batting average, RBI, and stolen base totals have continued to slide throughout the years. He may personify the usual terrible Cubs-type personnel decision.
21) Chuck Finley
Chuck Finley was once known as a Yankee killer…and then Tawny Kitaen beat the shit out of him. That’s right, the model/actress/basket case did one thing the Yankees couldn’t; hit Chuck Finley. A look at his stats is all you need. In 1996, he went 4-0 with a 0.57 ERA in 31.1 innings. In 1998, in 20 innings, he posted an ERA of 1.80. From 1999-2000, in 27.2 innings, Finley had an ERA of 1.31 against the Bronx Bombers. Otherwise, Finley only had three seasons that were worth noting. From 1989-1991, he went 48-27 with a 2.92 ERA. In comparison during his Yankee-killing years, he only went 54-47.
20) Derek Jeter
Jeter has been far and away the most overrated player in the Major Leagues during his career. You know why? Because he plays in New York. Jeter always gets hyped because of his defense, but that is usually because he makes one highlight-reel play for every twenty balls he boots.
19) Denny McClain
In 1968 and 1969, McLain went 31-6 and 24-9, respectively. He won the Cy Young and MVP during his incredible 1968 season. Other than those two years, McLain was far from stellar. If you remove those two years from his career, he finishes with a career record of 76-76, and his ERA balloons to over 4.00.
18) Dave Stewart
Dave Stewart was dominant for only a short stint. Stewart won 20-plus games in four straight years from 1987-1990. He was average at best throughout the rest of his career. After 1990, he didn’t win more than 12 games, and his ERA was under 4.00 only once over the next five seasons.
17) Don Drysdale
While his earned run average was 2.95, Drysdale’s numbers are far from dominant. He only had two years where he won more than 20 games. He also only had two full seasons where he lost fewer than 10 games. His win percentage was .526, but he played for a team which hadthe best win-percentage in the National League during his tenure.
16) Nomar Garciaparra
From 1997-2000, Nomar Garciaparra held the title as the best shortstop in the majors, based largely on his .357 and .372 seasons in 1999 and 2000. But his career went downhill after that. Garciaparra was never the same.; the rest of his career was ravaged by injuries.
15) Rabbit Maranville
We’ve all heard it…“Why can’t (insert player here) get in the Hall of Fame, if Rabbit Maranville can?” Maranville seems to be the standard-bearer for this cause as he is arguably the weakest Hall-of-Famer who wasn’t a Yankee (see Phil Rizzuto). Granted, he was a solid defensive shortstop, but baseball has been full of those, and a lot who hit better than .258 lifetime.
14) Rube Waddell
Today, Waddell would either be “eccentric” or tested for metal retardation. He had the metal acuity of a child; he could be distracted by puppies and by the sound of firetrucks. Imagine what airplanes would do to him? The reality is Waddell only won 197 games and drank himself out of the league.
13) Pete Rose
He’s got the most hits in baseball history, but that doesn’t make him the greatest hitter in baseball history. His hits record is greatly overplayed; he couldn’t carry Ty Cobb’s jock when it came to hitting:
- Rose: batting average .303; on-base percentage .375; slugging percentage .409, career high of 82 RBI, 198 career stolen bases
- Cobb: batting average .366; on-base percentage .433; slugging percentage .512, seven seasons of 100 or more RBI, 892 career stolen bases
12) Sandy Koufax
In my mind, Sandy Koufax’s career stacks up comparably to Dave Stewart. He is largely terrible at the beginning of his 12-year career; he only has an ERA under three in 5 of those seasons, wins 20 games in only three of those seasons, which is as many seasons as he loses more than 10 games.
11) Reggie Jackson
For a guy who was supposed to crush the baseball, he was only a .262 career hitter with .490 slugging percentage. He only ever scored over 100 runs once, and only struck out less than 100 times twice. Oh, but wait…I forgot it all gets magnified if you do it in October as a Yankee.
10) Phil Rizzuto
Let’s be honest; the only reason Rizzuto is in the Hall of Fame is because he was a Yankee. This is why Rizzuto is the worst player in the Hall of Fame.
Another solid defender with no bat, Rizzuto was a .273 hitter with 38 career home runs, a .351 on-base percentage, and never a stolen base threat. Other than he was a Yankee, what about that screams Cooperstown?
9) Don Mattingly
Its no accident this list is heavy on Yankees. “Donnie Baseball” was the one of the premier American League first basemen for the back big chunk of the 1980’s. From 1984-1989 he hit for average and hit for power. He was the cornerstone of a the Yankee team. After 1989, Mattingly didn’t hit over .300 again until 1994, but his season was limited to 97 games.
8 ) Steve Garvey
I won’t even get into his “Mr. Clean” image which dissappeared when he got caught impregnating half the female population of Southern California. Rather, lets’ talk about a guy who was converted from a third basemen who couldn’t throw into a first baseman who was a “great clutch hitter.” Granted, he did retire with National League Championship Series NLCS career records for home runs (8) and RBI (24) and was named LCS MVP in both 1978 and 1984. Of course, this fails to mention his anemic World Series performances, where in 28 career WS games he drove in a paltry six runs.
7) Don Sutton
Sutton owes all of his career number to one factor: longevity. The only reason he racked up 324-256 record and over 3500 strikeouts was the fact he pitched 23 seasons in the major leagues.
In all that time, Sutton only won 20 games only once and “Garvey-ed” come World Series time, where he went 2-3 with a 5.26 ERA.
6) Dizzy Dean
See Rube Waddell and Sandy Koufax – in the Waddell piece, replace the phrase “197 wins” with “150 wins;” in the Koufax bit, replace the word “begininng” with “end” and you basically have all you need to know about Dean.
5) Brooks Robinson
If Reggie Jackson was tagged as being a one-dimensional player as a slugger, Robinson needed to wear such a tag as a fielder. The only skill Brooks Robinson had was as a fielder. Robinson was a career .267 hitter, bolstered by the anomaly of 1964 in which he hit .317.
4) Tony Gwynn
Gwynn was often considered the best pure hitter of his era. He is tied with Honus Wagner with eight batting titles. But unlike Gwynn, Wagner was never a fat guy who hit a lot of useless singles so he could be the front end of a lot of double plays.
3) Wade Boggs
Boggs could be just like Tony Gwynn with three major differences. Boggs could field at third base, Boggs actually hit 20 homers in a season once, and Boggs was just slow, not fat and slow.
2) Lou Brock
Other than the fact Brock could steal bases at a blistering rate, his career is largely unremarkable. Yeah, I get that he passed 3,000 hits, but clearly the longevity in his 19-year career aided that (it only takes 158 hits per year to do it over 19 years). Otherwise, Brock was an average outfielder who lacked power.
Check back for our next post, in which we will reveal the most overrated player in baseball history. You will be surprised at the selection; the case for our selection is a “must-read” if you are a baseball fan.