Graig Nettles and Goose Gossage (54) celebrate playoff win over Red Sox in 1978 at Fenway.
I’ve been watching Yankee baseball since I was a kid. My earliest memories go back to the 1957 World Series, when the Yankees lost to the Milwaukee Braves in seven games.
I always wanted to pull together a 25-man team of my favorite Yankees. Not necessarily the best, but the Yankees I liked the most.
You’ll note Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio are missing; that’s because I never saw them play. And there are no current Yankees on this team, they’re for future consideration.
Here are the starters and reserve, including seven starting pitchers and three relievers.
C – Yogi Berra – Got rings? Yogi has 10, most of any player in history.
1B – Don Mattingly – Hit a record 6 grand slams in 1987, the only grand slams of his career.
2B – Willie Randolph – Quiet leader, member of the 1977 and 1978 World Champions.
3B – Graig Nettles – His play at the hot corner was a turning point in the 1978 World Series.
SS – Derek Jeter – The Captain is #6 on the all-time hit list with 3465.
OF – Mickey Mantle – The switch-hitter, #7, hit some of the longest HRs in MLB history.
OF – Bernie Williams – Another in a long line of great Yankee center fielders.
OF – Bobby Murcer – He wasn’t the next Mantle, but he was damn good.
P – Whitey Ford – All-time Yankee leader with 236 wins and a .690 wining percentage.
P – Mel Stottlemyre – Arrived at the end of a dynasty, had 40 career shutouts.
P – Ron Guidry – Enjoyed one of the great seasons ever in 1978, 25-3 with a 1.78 ERA.
P – David Cone – Helped put the Yankees over the top in 1996, was perfect in 1999.
P – Andy Pettitte – Clutch lefty, his 19 post-season wins are the most by any pitcher.
RP – Mariano Rivera – Simply the greatest closer in history with 652 saves.
RP – Goose Gossage – Fearsome bullpen presence, saw his Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
C – Thurman Munson – Hit safely in 28 of 30 post-season games, died in a plane crash in 1979.
1B – Bill Skowron – The Moose hit a home run in my first game at Yankee Stadium
IF – Bobby Richardson – Only World Series MVP on a losing team, 1960 vs. Pittsburgh.
IF – Gil McDougald – Utility man, Rookie of the Year in 1951, later coached baseball at Fordham.
OF – Roger Maris – Still holds the American League single season HR record with 61 in 1961.
OF – Reggie Jackson – Mr. October, hit three HRs vs Dodgers in 1977 World Series clincher.
OF – Paul O’Neill – The Warrior, a mainstay of Yankee championship teams in 1996, 199-2000.
P – Jim “Catfish” Hunter – George’s first big free agent signing, won 23 games in 1975.
P – David Wells – Saw him pitch a perfect game in 1998 against the Twins.
RP – Sparky Lyle – Stolen from the Red Sox, provided pomp and circumstance out of the bullpen.
1B Chris Chambliss; 3B Clete Boyer; OF Lou Piniella; OF Roy White; P Orlando Hernandez; P Jim Bouton
OK, I wasn’t there for the flip play, or Mr. November, or the time he dove into the stands that night at the Stadium against Boston. But I’ve had my moments up close and personal with Derek Jeter. Here are my 10 all-time favorites from games that I attended….and other, shall we say, close encounters or experiences.
1. 2009 – The Catch: This one is easy. In May of 2009, my first game at the new Yankee Stadium, I caught a Jeter home run in the left field stands. Granted it was batting practice, but who’s counting. I’ve attended hundreds of major league baseball games, but this was the only time in my life I ever caught a ball. Later that night, Jeter hit a home run during the “real” game, and the Yankees rallied with three runs in the ninth inning to beat the Twins 5-4. Here’s my story.
2. 2000 – Jenna in the News: Next week my daughter Jenna will make headlines. She’s getting married. But Jenna made headlines back in 2000 at the Yankees victory parade down Broadway. She was quoted in the Daily News, talking about her favorite Yankee. “I blew him a kiss, he blew a kiss at me, I blew it right back at him,” gushed Jenna Bause, 19, a freshman at Dutchess Community College. “It’s in my heart forever.” No, she’s not marrying DJ, but Sam, her husband to be, is a Yankee fan. And that counts for a lot.
3. 1999 – World Champions: Jeter singles to key a three-run fourth inning as the Yankees sweep the Atlanta Braves to win their 25h World Series in the final game of the 20th Century.
4. 1996 – The Rookie: The Yankees then 22-year-old shortstop lines a single up the middle with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th for a wild 12-11 win against the Red Sox.
5. 2003 – Curses: Jeter’s leadoff double in the eighth sparks a three-run, game-tying rally by the Yankees against Boston ace Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the ALCS. The Yanks would go on to win the pennant in the 11th on a home run by Aaron Boone.
6. 1998 – Perfect: David Wells pitches a perfect game and DJ is perfect too, singling and catching a pop-up in his only chance in the field.
7. 2001 – Mets Killer I: The captain has two hits, including an RBI single in first, and the Yankees beat the Mets at Shea Stadium in the first meeting of Gotham’s rivals since the Subway Series.
8. 2003 – Mets Killer II: In the nightcap of a day-night, two-ballpark doubleheader, Alfonso Soriano and Jeter lead off the game with back-to-back home runs and the Yanks go on to beat the Mets 9-8.
9. 2013 – Captain to Captain: Friends of mine have met Derek Jeter, bought him a Crown Royal and Coke, gotten an autograph. My closest Yankee captain experience was meeting Don Mattingly, his predecessor, for a photo opportunity near my Hopewell Junction home last year. Guess what, we talked about Jeter. Donnie Baseball is a big Jeter fab.
10. 2013 – Mr. Consistency: Coming off a broken ankle suffered in a playoff game the previous October, Jeter plays in just 17 games in 2013. I went to two Yankee games in 2013, and the captain played in both. I’ve seen dozens and dozens of Yankee games in the past 20 years….and Derek Jeter played in every one.
To say the Yankees are offensively challenged is a gross understatement. Going into action today, the Bronx formerly known as Bombers were next to last in runs scored in the American League (ahead of only the Red Sox.)
The pitching is not the problem. Despite losing 80 percent of their starting rotation for all or most of the season, the Yankee pitching has been consistent. The bullpen, led by David Robertson and Dellin Betances, has, in fact ,been outstanding.
It’s the Yankee offense that bears scrutiny. Only Brett Gardner, who has been their best player in 2014, is hitting above his lifetime average. It’s easy to point the finger at a starting lineup which is hitting a collective .491 points below their lifetime batting averages. Here’s the ugly truth:
Pos. Player 2014 Career Difference
LF Brett Gardner .276 .269 +7
SS Derek Jeter .273 .311 -38
CF Jacoby Ellsbury .273 .294 -21
IB Mark Teixeira .232 .275 -43
DH Carlos Beltran .240 .281 -41
C Brian McCann .238 .274 -36
3B Chase Headley .250 .265 -15
2B Stephen Drew .170 .259 – 89
RF Martin Prado .163 .289 -126
RF Ichiro Suzuki .277 .317 -40
RF Alfonso Soriano .221 .270 -49
Some random thoughts, rants and muses on the hitless wonders:
- Texeira’s batting average has dipped each year since he joined the Yankees in 2009.
- Free agent acquisitions Ellsbury, Beltran and McCann (or is that McCan’t?, pictured above in case you were wondering) have hit a cumulative 98 points behind their lifetime averages.
- Amazingly, Drew is hitting lower with the Yankees (.170) than the Red Sox (.176).
- Discount relative newcomers Headley, Prado and Drew, the cumulative mark is still .261 under the lifetime mean.
- And we haven’t included utility men Brian Roberts (.237, .276, -39) and Kelly Johnson (.219, .251, -32). That brings the cumulative total below lifetime batting average to -.562
- Don’t forget these are current lifetime averages.If you counted those averages coming into the season, the dropoff would be even more precipitous.
- Jeter gets a pass. He’s played exactly one game in his career when the Yankees were mathematically eliminated. Plus he’s a 40-year-old shortstop.
- Yankees haven’t finished below .500 since 76-86 in 1992, 20 games behind the world champion Blue Jays. Since then they’ve captured five World Series and seven AL pennants while winning 14 divisional titles.
In Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63, Jake Epping travels back in time in an effort to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Imagine if you could take instant replay back 100 years or more and influence baseball history.
Think of the possibilities: Steve Bartman is absolved and the Cubs win the World Series. Armando Galarraga gets his perfect game. The Curse of the Bambino never happens.
Here’s 10 ways:
1908 – In a bizarre finish, New York Giants’ baserunner Fred Merkle is initially ruled out on a ninth-inning force at second base when he fails to run out a play where the winning run scored. But since the baseball, which is thrown into the stands, cannot be located, and Merkle returns to the field to touch second base before it can be recovered, replay overrules the call. The Giants, not the Cubs go on to win the National League pennant and the World Series.
RESULT: The history of baseball’s most star-crossed franchise goes from bad to worse, as the Cubs are denied their 1908 championship. Merkle’s Boner never happens.
1926 – Tony Lazzeri’s bid for a grand slam home run in the seventh game of the World Series against Grover Cleveland Alexander is originally ruled foul. However replay shows the drive into the left field stands at Yankee Stadium is fair.
RESULT: “Poosh em Up” Tony becomes a hero, old Pete Alexander’s heroics are forgotten, and the Yankees, not the Cardinals, win the Series.
1969 – When Baltimore relief pitcher Pete Richert’s throw on a bunt attempt hits J.C. Martin in the 10th inning, the ball bounds away and Rod Gaspar scores the winning run for to give the Mets a 2-1 win in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. The umpires go to the replay, which shows Martin was running inside the baseline when he was hit. He’s out, and the runners return to their bases.
RESULT: There’s no Miracle with these Mets, as the Orioles rally and go on to win the World Series.
1975 – The Reds score the winning run in Game 4 of the World Series, as Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, bumped by Reds’ batter Ed Armbrister, left, on a bunt attempt, throws the ball away and Cincinnati goes on to win. Instead the play is reviewed, interference is called, and the Red Sox rally for a big win.
RESULT: Boston wins the World Series, ending a 57-year title drought. Curse of the Bambino – never heard of it. Umpire Larry Barnett is reviled in Cincy instead of Beantown.
1985 – Don Denkinger calls Royals baserunner Jorge Orta safe at first, sparking a ninth inning comeback win by Kansas City in Game 6. Replay is conclusive, Orta is out
RESULT: The Cardinals retire the Royals and hold on to win the World Series. Kansas City is still searching for its first World Championship.
1996: Derek Jeter’s home run to right field in the eighth inning ties the score in Game 1 of the ALCS, and the Yankees go on to beat the Orioles in extra innings. However replay clearly indicates that umpire Richie Garcia has missed fan interference by a 12-year-old kid named Jeffrey Maier who reached over the wall to touch the ball, and Jeter is ruled out.
RESULT: The Orioles hold on to win, then take the ALCS and World Series, denying the Yankees their first World Series win in 18 years.
2001: That man Jeter again. His signature flip play, right, catches Jeremy Giambi at the plate, and the Yankees survive to win Game 3 of the divisional playoffs. But replay shows that catcher Jorge Posada has missed the tag.
RESULT: The A’s win, ending New York’s three-year championship run. Oakland goes on to beat Arizona in the World Series.
2003: The life of Cubs fan Steve Bartman, top right, is about to change. From his seat on the left-field foul line, Bartman reaches out for a foul ball, preventing Chicago left-fielder Moises Alou from making the catch. Alou protests, the umpiring crew goes to replay, fan interference is called, and the batter is ruled out.
RESULT: The Cubs go on to beat the Marlins for their first National League pennant since 1945, then defeat the Yankees for their first World Series win in nearly 100 years. Bartman is absolved.
2010: Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga is one out away from a perfect game and baseball immortality. But umpire Jim Joyce rules Cleveland baserunner Jason Donald safe at first, and Gallarraga loses both the no-hitter and a perfect game. However, replay shows the runner is out.
RESULT: Galarraga gets his perfect game, and Joyce is off the hook.
2012 – Mets pitcher Johan Santana is working on a no-hitter when Cardinals’ outfielder Carlos Beltran hits a hard line drive down the left field line. It is initially ruled foul, but the camera shows the ball kicked up chalk when it hit the line. Fair ball.
RESULT: No no-no. Santana loses his no-hitter, which would have been the first in Met history.
Yanks in the tank: Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain feel the heat.
The Yankees are on the verge of an epic collapse, the worst regular season meltdown in the storied 110-year history of the franchise.
At the end of play on July 18, the Yankees found themselves 10 games in front of the Orioles and 10 1/2 in front of the Rays in the AL East. They were cranking up the presses to print playoff tickets. Instead, they seem to be cracking under the pressure.
Since that high-water mark, the Bronx Bombers have played more like the Bronx Bumblers, squandering nearly all of that 10-game advantage. Their homer-happy lineup has failed to hit in the clutch, and the pitching staff has coughed up leads on a regular basis. To put in kindly, they’ve been playing a listless brand of ball for two months.
The Yankees have never blown a double digit lead and failed to finish in first place. According to STATS LLC, their biggest cushion in a season in which they failed to finish first was six games in 1933. That year the Yankees led the Washington Senators by six games on June 6, but eventually slipped to second while Washington won the AL flag. Incidentally, that was Washington’s last playoff appearance.
Since divisional play began in 1969, New York has advanced to the postseason each of the last 15 times it has been in first place on September 1. In fact, only five times in their history have the Yankees been in first place anytime in the month of September and failed to make the playoffs.
The Highlanders, as they were known back then, found themselves in first place after beating the Boston Americans (now the Red Sox) 3-2 on October 7. The next day, Boston swept a doubleheader from the Highlanders to capture the lead with two games left in the season. After an off-day Sunday (Sunday baseball was not permitted in New York at that time) Jack Chesbro’s wild pitch gave the American’s a 3-2 win and the American League pennant. Chesbro won 41 games for the Highlanders that year, still a major league record, but will forever be remembered for that fateful wild pitch.
The Yanks were tied with Cleveland with 12 games to play, but lost to the White Sox next day while Cleveland beat Washington. The Indians went on to their first World Championship, beating the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1920 World Series
Tied for first as late in mid-September with eight games remaining, the Yankees lost to Detroit the next day. Washington won its first and only title, beating the New York Giants in seven games in a dramatic World Series.
With seven games left in the season, the Yankees found themselves in a three-way tie with Cleveland and Boston. The Indians eventually beat the Red Sox in the American League’s first playoff, and then knocked off the Boston Braves for their second — and last — World Championship.
Playing their home games at Shea Stadium while Yankee Stadium was being refurbished, the Yankees were in first place with eight games remaining. However the red-hot Baltimore Orioles overtook the Yankees to win the AL East.
In 2010, the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays battled down the stretch for the AL East crown. The two clubs were tied going into the final day of the season. That day the Yanks lost to Boston 8-4 while Tampa beat Kansas City 3-2 in 12 innings. However both teams were already assured playoff spots. So even though they failed to win the division, the Yankees still earned the wild card.
Look on the bright side Yankee fans. Nothing could be worse than 2004, when the arch-rival Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the ALCS — the only time in baseball history that’s ever happened . Yep, Boston snapped the Curse of the Bambino and their 86-year championship drought, while the Yankees were left to ponder their fate.
Derek Jeter is the greatest shortstop we’ve ever seen.
Sure, Honus Wagner is the greatest shortstop in baseball history. But who alive saw old Hans play. After all, Wagner last played 95 years ago, when Woodrow Wilson was President, World War I was being waged and Babe Ruth was still pitching.
Wagner won eight National League batting titles, all with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and swiped 722 bases before retiring. In 1917. His career numbers are awesome.
But moving on to shortstops who actually played after the Teapot Dome scandal, the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age, Jeter is the best.
With apologies to Joe Cronin, Luke Appling, Arky Vaughn, Ozzie Smith, Pee Wee and the Scooter, Jeter beats out Cal Ripken for the title of best shortstop we’ve ever seen.
Let’s compare Jeter and Ripken:
Batting — Jeter has a .313 lifetime batting average, well ahead of Ripken’s .276. Advantage Jeter
Power — Ripken 431 hit career home runs, nearly 200 more than Jeter’s 246. Advantage Ripken
Run Production — Ripken’s 1,695 RBIs beat out Jeter’s 1,216. Advantage Ripken
Speed — No contest. Jeter has 344 stolen bases, Ripken 36. And Jeter has scored 1,799 runs, well ahead of Ripken’s 1,647. Advantage Jeter
Awards — Both Ripken and Jeter won Rookie of the Year honors. However Ripken was voted AL MVP in both 1983 and 1991. Advantage Ripken
Fielding — Jeter won five Gold Gloves at shortstop, Ripken two, and his .972 lifetime fielding average bests Ripken’s .969. Advantage Jeter
Championships — Jeter was a member of five Yankee World Series winners. Ripken won one World Series with the Orioles. Advantage Jeter
Durability — Jeter has been amazingly durable through his career. But Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record and played in 2,632 consecutive games. He’s the Iron Man. Advantage Ripken
Hits — The tiebreaker. Ripken is 13th on the all-time list with 3,184 hits. Jeter trails him by less than 20, and stands to challenge some of the all-time leaders. Moreover, Jeter is already the all-time hit leader as a shortstop. Wagner is fifth all-time with 3,415 hits, but played a lot in the outfield and at first base and third base. And Ripken was a third baseman in his final six season. Advantage Jeter
So that’s it. Of these nine key categories, Jeter wins five and Ripken four. That makes Jeter the best shortstop of the modern era.
With his next hit, Derek Jeter will pass Al Kaline for 26th place on the all-time hit list.
DJ will be passing plenty more signposts in the 3,000 hit club over the course of this season and the ensuring years. Wade Boggs is next on the list with 3,010.
In fact, if DJ stays healthy and plays out his current contract with the Yankees (two years left after this season with a player option for a third year), there’s a good chance he’ll wind up with 3,500 hits.
That’s rarefied air. Only five players — Pete Rose (4,256), Ty Cobb (4,189), Hank Aaron (3,771), Stan Musial (3,630), and Tris Speaker (3,514) — have more.
Do the math. With 3,007 hits and 90 games remaining, Jeter should compile the 50 plus hits it would need to pass Craig Biggio, currently 20th on the hit list with 3,060, by the end of the year.
And if Jeter averages 150 hits a season for the next three years, that would put him past 3,500.
Jeter has averaged nearly 195 hits for his 15 full seasons in the majors. He’s slowing down, but 150 hits a year is a reasonable assumption.
Heck, just two years ago Jeter had 212 hits, the second highest total of his career.
He’s had 200 hits in a season seven times, one of only nine players to accomplish that feat. (Rose and Ichiro Suzuki share the record with 10 apiece.)
Even last year, admittedly an off season by Jeterian standards, he still managed 179 hits.