Jonah Keri recently providing his ranking of the top-10 all-time Yankee hitters. The list (with OPS+ added by me):
1 Babe Ruth (210 OPS+)
2 Mickey Mantle (172 OPS+)
3 Lou Gehrig (179 OPS+)
4 Joe DiMaggio (155 OPS+)
5 Yogi Berra (125 OPS+)
6 Derek Jeter (121 OPS+)
7 Bill Dickey (127 OPS+)
8 Jorge Posada (124 OPS+)
9 Bernie Williams (125 OPS+)
10 Earle Combs (126 OPS+)
Babe Ruth is the no-doubt #1 pick. Beyond that, there seems to be two clusters of potential candidates. Tier 2 contains Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Lou Gehrig. They have a 30 point gap in OPS+ versus the rest of the crew. Of the three, only Mantle played the majority of his career in the post-Robinson age, and faced a much tougher level of competition. He has significantly more playing time than either, and played a premium defensive position. I think that he is a sensible #2. Deference then goes to Gehrig’s Pujols-like hitting performance, even though DiMaggio was no slacker himself.
I think that the discussion gets more interesting in Tier 3. Yogi Berra, Derek Jeter, Billy Dickey, Tony Lazzeri (left off the list, OPS+ 121) all are or will be in the Hall of Fame, and all played premium defensive positions. Tony Lazzeri is probabyl the easy worst of all three, and Billy Dickey comes after him. But what about Jeter versus Berra? Berra helped win all those championships, but Jeter has had to play in the most challenging of basebal eras. I think that we have to defer to Berra’s three MVPs and four near-MVP awards in a seven-year span, which represents a string of dominance that just happened to coincide with 6 World Series appearances and 4 victories.
The fourth tier is pretty big. Keri’s list includes Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Earle Combs, and I’d like to add Don Mattingly (OPS+ 127), Bobby Murcer (OPS+ 129), Paul O’Neill (OPS+ 125) and Roy White (OPS+ 121) to the list. All had short careers with the Yankees and other teams, but defined themselves both as leaders and hitters.
So, my list:
1. Babe Ruth
2. Mickey Mantle
3. Lou Gehrig
4. Joe DiMaggio
5. Yogi Berra
6. Derek Jeter
7. Billy Dickey
8. Bernie Williams
9. Jorge Posada
10. Don Mattingly
11. Earle Combs
12. Bobby Murcer
13. Roy White
14. Paul O’Neill
Alex Rodriguez’s place in Yankee history will be the next major question to address on this list. Will A-Rod go down with the Mantle, Gehrig, and DiMaggio group? His OPS+ currently stands at 151, so we’ll have to see how gracefully he ages. At present, I’d project him to be between DiMaggio and Berra.
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