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Franchise Four – New York Yankees

May 6, 2015

I have to say the New York Yankees were probably the team I was looking forward to the least – it’s simply an impossible task to narrow down the list of great players to a mere four. Babe Ruth makes one of the choices really easy – and so does Lou Gehrig – but it gets extremely difficult after that. Was Derek Jeter a better player than Mickey Mantle or Joe DiMaggio? Was Yogi Berra better than any of them? Can we possibly exclude the greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera?

Babe Ruth

The Argument: This is an easy one. We’re talking about the most dominant hitter in the history of the game. Before Babe Ruth came along with his 714 career homeruns, if you could hit double digit homers you were a monster. His presence completely changed the game – no one has ever stood so far above their peers than Babe Ruth did. The Babe is the Yankees all-time leader in runs scored, homeruns, walks, batting average, slugging, and on-base percentage. His 1.164 career OPS is the highest mark in history. The Great Bambino is also arguably responsible for making the Yankees the marquee franchise they have become today, helping them to their first of 28 World Series titles back in 1923. The Yanks went on to win four World Series with Ruth and perhaps his presence in New York helped attract many of the franchise’s future stars. For all his game-changing accomplishments, Ruth was part of the first ever Hall Of Fame class.

Lou Gehrig

The Argument: Gehrig ranks in the top 3 of virtually every offensive category in Yankees history. The Iron Horse was the first legendary Yankee to spend his entire career with the club, finishing with a .340 batting average, 493 homeruns, 1995 RBI, and a 1.080 OPS. Gehrig played his entire career at his peak and basically never took a day off before the disease that would eventually be named after him slowed him down one year before retiring at age 36. Another Hall Of Famer, Gehrig won two MVP awards and six World Series with the Yanks.

Joe DiMaggio

The Argument: DiMaggio is another Hall Of Fame Yankee lifer, albeit over a smaller career size than most legendary players at just 13 seasons. To be fair, like Ted Williams, DiMaggio missed three full seasons in the middle of his prime due to military service. The Yankee Clipper’s career numbers are impressive: 2214 hits, 1390 runs, 361 homers, 1537 RBI – numbers that all rank within the top 6 on the Yankees all-time lists – but it’s his 162-game averages that astound: .325/.398/.579, 130 runs, 207 hits, 34 homeruns, 143 RBI; his average season would easily win the MVP most seasons these days. DiMaggio did win the AL MVP in 1939, 1941, and 1947 and the 56-game hitting streak he put together in 1941 may never be matched (actually, this is a record that probably will be). Joltin’ Joe’s Yankees reached the World Series 10 times in his 13 year career and walked away with 9 titles during that time. He was also an All-Star every year of his career.

Derek Jeter

The Argument: Mickey Mantle had enough talent to be the best baseball player of all-time. Unfortunately, he likely tore his ACL during the World Series of his rookie year and never had his knee surgically repaired, playing the rest of his career with an injury that would sideline most players indefinitely. Alas, The Mick did suffer that injury – and battled alcoholism – and was never able to play to his full potential, and since this is a list of what players did accomplish, Derek Jeter becomes the somewhat difficult choice. Jeter may not have the gaudy power numbers of Mantle or the ten World Series rings of Yogi Berra, but no player better represents the face of the Yankees franchise than Derek Jeter. For starters, no one played more games (2747) or had more hits (3465), doubles (544), or stolen bases (358) for the most storied franchise in baseball. Jeter batted a remarkable .310 for his career and, considering he played 20 seasons, posted a very respectable .817 OPS. The 1996 Rookie Of The Year was a 14-time All-Star, 5-time Gold Glover, and finished in the top 3 of the AL MVP voting three times. After being a perennial World Series winner from the 1920s to the early 1960s, the Yanks managed just two titles from 1963 to 1995 before winning four times in Jeter’s first five seasons (he would add a fifth in 2009). Perhaps the most important reason Jeter is so revered and why he belongs on this list before some Yankees that were arguably better players, is the amount of class he displayed both on and off the field. Few players carried themselves with more grounded charisma than Derek Jeter.

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