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Sunday, July 21, 2013

All Time All Stars - NY Yankees

Before the days of Nintendo, kids (and adults) had to find ways to entertain themselves during the rainy days of summer and the cold days of winter. In the 1970's my dad and uncle gravitated to two specific games.  Sports Illustrated created a board game for college football and for Major League Baseball.  The MLB version had two formats: the single season and the All Time All Stars.  The single season games were nice but playing as the All Time All Stars could be really fun.  Imagine how cool it was to play as the Yankees.  Try building a lineup where you get to include Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Mickey Mantle. Joe DiMaggio too. Yogi Berra! Well, a lot of time has passed since SI put out this game and I've begun doing a little exercise where I update the rosters for each team and maybe even add the expansion teams.
I started with the Yankees and for roster spots that I'm having trouble with I'll put a poll up asking for input.  The guidelines for roster construction are:

  • Each team must be composed of fifteen (15) position players and ten (10) pitchers.
  • At least one pitcher must be a relief pitcher
  • Each position must have at least two players on the roster who can capably fill it.  Think of this as having a starter and a backup. 
  • At least one player chosen to represent a position must have played that position as their primary defensive position.  For instance, Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth cannot be chosen as the only two representatives at first base since neither played there for the majority of their career.
  • Players must have been active no earlier than 1901.  I chose 1901 since that was the first year of the American League.  We need a cutoff at some point and this seemed logical to me. If a player accumulated stats prior to 1901 (Cy Young for instance) these stats will be disregarded.
  • To be eligible for a position a player must have played one full season as a starter there or 10% of his career games.  The same goes for starting and relieving.
  • The team a player represents should be the one that makes the most sense for that player. For instance, Alex Rodriguez has played for three teams but he's played 300 more games as a Yankee than a Mariner. He won an MVP as a Yankee and has more career WAR as a Yankee.  Therefore, he's going to be on the Yankee roster.
  • Batter handedness should not impact the players chosen.
With those guidelines set, let's get started.

Original Catchers: Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey
Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey are two of the ten greatest catchers of all time. 
Potential newcomers: Thurman Munson, Jorge Posada
Though Munson and Posada were among the great catchers of their respective generations they are not going to displace two Hall of Famers.  Maybe there will be a spot at the end of the bench.

Original First Basemen: Lou Gehrig, Hal Chase, Mickey Mantle
As the greatest first baseman of all time, Lou Gehrig isn't going anywhere. We'll exclude Mantle from this section since first isn't his primary position.  Hal Chase, on the other hand, was a good first baseman but really wasn't all that special.  Bill James ranked him as the 78th greatest first baseman of all time. Surely the Yankees can do better than that.
Potential newcomers: Wally Pipp, Chris Chambliss, Don Mattingly
I just wanted to re-examine Pipp to make sure he's not getting a raw deal here. Though he's possibly a better choice than Chase, he does not stack up to Mattingly.  Same thing with Chambliss.  He was a nice player in the 1970's and early 80's but Mattingly is clearly the better option here.  Mattingly is probably one of the 25 greatest first basemen in history and could have been a HOFer if not for a bad back. I think we all agree he's the choice here.

Original Second basemen: Tony Lazzeri, Joe Gordon, Gil McDougald
Lazzeri and Gordon are both in the HOF.  
Potential newcomers: Willie Randolph, Robinson Cano
I don't think Gordon and Lazzeri are in danger here, at least not yet. I like Randolph but he never had the peak the other two did though his career WAR exceeds Gordon's.  Cano is an interesting case and has a good shot at making this team in a few years.  It's sickening that the Yankees have of 5 the 20 or so greatest second basemen of all time whereas a team like the Braves would probably be forced to start someone like Felix Millan.

Original Shortstops: Frankie Crosetti, Gil McDougald, Phil Rizzuto, Tony Lazzeri
Rizzuto is a Hall of Famer though he's probably one of the worst players ever selected.  Crosetti was a light version of Rizzuto in that he wasn't a great hitter, had no power, but could really field. McDougald was similar.
Potential newcomers: Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez 
Wow, talk about improving your options.  I think we can all agree Jeter starts for this team. ARod is here too but might get bumped to third base.  Rizzuto's on watch.

Original Third Basemen: Gil McDougald, Red Rolfe, Frankie Crosetti, Tony Lazzeri, Bob Meusel
We've already discussed Crosetti, Lazzeri, and McDougald. Meusel was not primarily a third baseman and frankly I'm a little surprised to see him eligible here.  Red Rolfe was a very nice player who averaged 130 runs scored a season for his career.  His career was short, however, and he was no longer an effective major leaguer after he turned 30.
Potential newcomers: Alex Rodriguez, Graig Nettles
Alex Rodriguez is one of the 25 greatest players of all time. He's on this team and since Jeter's here now, ARod is probably going to start at the hot corner. Graig Nettles was the team's greatest third baseman prior to ARod so he's here too. The addition of these two guys probably makes it difficult for Rolfe.

Original Center Fielders: Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Earle Combs, Roger Maris, Bob Meusel
How nice it must be to have two of the five greatest center fielders of all time plus another Hall of Famer to choose from.  Maris and Meusel weren't primarily center fielders but gained eligibility here. So we'll pass judgement until later.
Potential newcomers: Bobby Murcer, Bernie Williams, Mickey Rivers
As much as I like Murcer he was not as good as Bernie Williams.  Bernie may never make the Hall of Fame but he's sixth all time in Offensive WAR in a Yankee uniform and top six in several other categories including hits, doubles, and runs scored.  Rivers was a nice player who might find himself on another team since it's not clear who he fits best with and because the Yankees are so stacked.

Original Corner Outfielders: Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Bob Meusel, Earle Combs, Hal Chase
Let's do this quickly. Ruth is in. Chase is out.  Mantle, DiMaggio, and Berra all are in at another position. That leaves Maris, Meusel, and possibly Earl Combs to fight for a roster spot.
Potential newcomers: Charlie Keller, Tommy Henrich
I feel each of these players deserves another look though neither made the original version.  Keller was a great slugger but his career was short and he lost time to World War II. His career OPS is .928.  Henrich was similar in that he too lost three valuable years to WWII though I don't believe he was as good as Keller.  They'd probably make 25 other teams but not the Yankees.

OK, now that we've gone through all the positions it's time to take a look and summarize what we've got.

Original Team New Team
Pos Player Alt Pos. Pos Player Alt Pos.
C Yogi Berra OF C Yogi Berra OF
Bill Dickey Bill Dickey
1B Lou Gehrig 1B Lou Gehrig
1B Hal Chase 1B Don Mattingly
2B Joe Gordon 2B Joe Gordon
2B Tony Lazzeri SS/3B 2B Tony Lazzeri 3B
2B Gil McDougald SS/3B 3B Alex Rodriguez SS
3B Red Rolfe 3B Graig Nettles
SS Phil Rizzuto SS Derek Jeter
SS Franke Crosetti 3B OF Babe Ruth
OF Babe Ruth CF Mickey Mantle OF/1B
OF Bob Meusel CF CF Joe DiMaggio
OF Roger Maris CF
CF Mickey Mantle OF/1B
CF Joe DiMaggio OF
CF Earle Combs

First, I updated some of the positions for the players.  I think SI did a little bit of reaching in the original version to help the flexibility of lineups.  Second, since I've decided to go with a ten man pitching staff, that means there will be one fewer positional player than the original version.  So the question is which three players should grab the last spots? Vote in the poll on the right for who you believe are the three best of the remaining candidates.

  • Robinson Cano 2B - Working on a Hall of Fame career. Five time all star and three straight gold gloves make him the best in baseball at his position right now.
  • Earle Combs CF - Hall of Fame outfielder was on the original game. Is overrated historically due to the era he played in but was the perfect leadoff hitter on the Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig teams.
  • Charlie Keller OF - Excellent offensive player and compliment to Joe DiMaggio. Due to short career is often forgotten by fans.
  • Roger Maris OF/CF - Didn't have a lengthy career but is famous for hitting 61 home runs in 1961. Won back to back MVPs as a Yankee.  Was also an outstanding defensive player.
  • Thurman Munson C - Career was cut short due to a fatal airplane accident. Won the 1976 AL MVP award and was a 7-time all star in 11 seasons. Likely would have been a top 10 catcher.
  • Jorge Posada C - Overshadowed by Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez but was one of the great catchers of his era.  Not quite a Hall of Famer.
  • Willie Randolph 2B - The always good never great Yankee made six all star teams and compiled 1731 hits in 13 seasons in pinstripes.  Also was a very good fielder and base runner.
  • Phil Rizzuto SS - HOFer and 1950 AL MVP.  Very good fielder but only had one or two really good years as a hitter.
  • Bernie Williams CF - A career Yankee.  If not for Jeter when people look back in 25 years on the 1990's Yankees they'd think of Bernie. Ranks in the top six in nearly every offensive category in Yankee history.
Updated Poll Results: Roger Maris and Robinson Cano were the top two vote getters. Bernie Williams, Earle Combs, and Thurman Munson all tied for third. A tie-breaker poll will go up at the end of the American Leauge series along with any other tie-breaker polls that may be necessary.
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