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The All-Time Yankee All-Star Team

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Recently on ESPN.com, columnist Rob Neyer created his "All Time All Stars" for both the NL and the AL. It was an interesting undertaking in which he followed most of the real life parameters of the modern All Star selection process including the choosing of a 33-man roster for each league and also picking one player from each team. Because baseball is a game so entrenched in its history, looking back is always entertaining, and this applies even more so when considering the rich past of the New York Yankees.

So, borrowing from Mr. Neyer's genesis, I've built my own all-time Yankees All-Star team. But at the Pinstripe Report there is far less discipline than with the boys at ESPN. Selecting 33 players from the Yankees would eliminate the challenge of choosing between various Hall of Famers with multiple seasons that could arguably be their best; a large part of the fun with a list like this. While the Yankees arguably have employed a larger number of historically great players than any other franchise in baseball, a full 33-man roster still heavily dilutes the challenge assembling this "team." Finally, only players who have made an All-Star game are eligible and only their All-Star seasons will be considered. A player also cannot be duplicated and there will be no DH selected. In one final rule, I've also made this a "no-A-Rod zone". Fair or not, it's my list, so there are my rules.

Other then that, the idea is pretty straightforward. A starting lineup, full five-man pitching rotation, and three bullpen pieces comprised of the greatest Yankee All Stars of all time. A great idea by Neyer, done here with a Yankee twist.

First Base: Lou Gehrig —1934

Gehrig was an easy selection as he is not only the greatest Yankees first basemen of all time but he is arguably the greatest first basemen period. The difficulty with Lou is picking his best season. Gehrig had some ridiculous years, was a seven-time All Star, and a two time MVP (having played 12 years alongside Babe Ruth), so depending on which statistics one chooses to emphasize, there are at least three solid arguments that can be made for his "best" season.

But 1934 was the year Gehrig won his only Triple Crown. That season Lou obviously led the league in home runs, RBIs, and batting average — going .363/49/165 — but also was tops in the AL in OBP (.465), slugging (.706), OPS (1.172), OPS+ (208), total bases (409), and runs created (189). Unfortunately, in the All-Star Game that season he went 0-5 but given his utter domination of the AL that season, the 1934 version of Lou Gehrig will start for the All Time Yankees All Star Team.

Second Base: Alfonso Soriano — 2002

Soriano left the Yankees via trade to Texas after the 2003 season — due largely to his constant futility at the plate in the postseason—but his 2002 season beats out Hall of Famer Tony Lazzeri's 1933, Bobby Richardson's 1962 and Willie Randolph's 1980 campaigns, for the best All Star season by a Yankees' second baseman.

In that 2002 season Soriano displayed a rare combination of power and speed, jacking 39 home runs while stealing an AL-leading 41 bases. His .332 OBP is lower than one would like (illustrating a continuing problem in Soriano's game as a lead-off hitter) but his .302 batting average is very good for a power hitter and his .880 OPS is outstanding when compared to the traditional profile for a second baseman. Soriano also led the AL in hits that season with 209, runs with 128 and collected a career best 381 total bases. Alfonso never truly fit the mold of a leadoff hitter but in 2002 he was an absolute offensive force. Soriano even flashed his power in the All Star game that season, going 1 for 2 with a home run in the mid-summer classic.

Third Base: Red Rolfe — 1939

One of many selections from the dominant Joe McCarthy Yankee teams of the 30s that won an astonishing five championships in six years, Rolfe was a four-time All-Star but his 1939 season was easily his best.

This was a very hard selection. Graig Nettles had five great All-Star seasons in his time with the Yankees and Wade Boggs was a four-time selection in during his run in the Bronx. By many measures Boggs' 1994 season could easily have
given him this spot on the team but the strike-shortened season limited his totals enough to give Rolfe the edge.

In 1939 Red Rolfe had a career year, leading the league in runs (139), hits (213), and doubles (46). His .329 batting average was a career best for Red, and his very good .404 OBP marked the only time Rolfe would break the .400 plateau in his career. And while Red was never the power source in a lineup anchored by Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Keller, and Tommy Henrich, he did contribute 14 home runs and 80 RBIs to help push his OPS to another career best .899, helping the Yankees to their fourth consecutive World Series title.

SS: Derek Jeter — 1999

Derek Jeter has been a player of All Star-caliber since the day he took over the shortstop position from Tony Fernandez in 1996. That season Jeter was both a rookie of the year and a World Series champion. By his second season he was playing in the first of 10 (and counting) All-Star Games. And by his third season Jeter — at only 25 years of age in 1999 and in the midst of the reign of the Torre-led Yankees dynasty of the 90s — was at his absolute finest.

That season Jeter displayed his customary inside-out hitting expertise and penchant for getting on base, batting .349 with a lead leading 219 hits and an outstanding .438 OBP. But in 1999 Jeter also flashed some rare power, blasting out a career best 24 home runs and notching 102 RBIs, surpassing 100 for the first and only time in his career. These increased power numbers led to additional career highs in OPS (.989), total bases (346), and runs created (158), also leading the league in the last category.

Derek is an incredibly offensively proficient shortstop from a historical perspective who will undoubtedly set numerous records and one day be honored with enshrinement in Cooperstown. He has had and will have many special seasons, but at the peak of his youth in a lineup at the apex of its potency, Jeter was excellent in '99, even by his own standards. Therefore that version of "the Captain" will start for the All-Time Yankee All Stars.

Catcher: Bill Dickey — 1936

The debate over who is the greatest Yankees catcher comes down to the teacher and the protege, the two number 8s, Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. Yogi was a 15-time All-Star, elected to the game every season from 1948 to 1962 and winning 3 MVPs along the way. Obviously over that span Berra had some very prolific seasons as a main power source in the Casey Stengel Yankees teams of the 1950s. 

Dickey was also historically offensively-inclined for the catcher position, and posted at least one season that Berra simply can't match. Dickey — an 11-time All-Star — terrorized American League pitching in 1936, as the Yankees stormed to a 102-52 record and a 4 games to 2 drubbing of the rival New York Giants in the World Series. While the sample size of his season is not ideal (112 games with 428 at bats) Dickey's numbers simply can't be ignored.

His base statistics tell enough of the story to see the justification for his selection — .362/22/107 — but when combined with his .428 OPS and 1.045 OPS, Bill's true impact is illustrated. While some may argue Dickey's 1937 version is the proper selection, consider that he posted only 33 less hits and 41 less total bases in 136 less at bats. He also struck out only 16 times in those 472 at bats in 1936. Bill was a major offensive cog on a team that scored 1,065 runs, and his 1936 version will serve as the catcher for the All-Time All-Star Yanks.

Leftfield: Charlie Keller — 1941

"King Kong" Charlie Keller is one of baseball's greatest examples of an extremely talented player who was robbed of their place in the pantheon of legends by either inures, war time service, or in Keller's case, both. Due to his lack of notoriety — especially among casual fans — Keller's peripherals can seem astonishing. Consider the comparison to the man generally regarded as the greatest Yankee leftfielder, Bob Meusel:

Keller: .410/.518/.928, 152 OPS+
Meusel: .356/.497/.852, 118 OPS+

Unfortunately for Keller and his historical significance he was only to play five relatively full seasons. But in 1941, the man named after one of the most famously destructive monsters in cinematic history displayed the devastating potential his abilities allotted him. In 1941 season Keller hit .298/33/122 and .416/.580/.996.

In addition, he walked 106 times while striking out 65. In other seasons strikeouts would prove to be more of an issue for Keller but his ability to draw walks, even in the loaded Yankee lineups of the era, made him an invaluable asset to manager Joe McCarthy through his championship run with the team. Keller would play in five All-Star Games in his 13-year career but his 1941 season was the best total illustration of what might have been. He was the prototype for players like Adam Dunn today.

Right Field: Paul O'Neill — 1994

The first All-Star game was played in 1933. Babe Ruth was 38 years old, in his second to last season with the team he had put on the map, and his skills had eroded considerably. But even with his degenerating condition Ruth posted one last great season, garnering him selection to the first ever official All Star Game, the first of two such selections (the second in 1934 was largely ceremonial although his season was still good by mortal standards).

In the 1961 season Roger Maris — manning right field for New York — broke Babe Ruth's single season home run record by blasting 61 dingers. This alone would seem to warrant the distinction of a starting nod on this fictitious team. But when comparing Ruth, Maris, and O'Neill's best All Star season head-to-head, the results speak for themselves:

Babe Ruth (1933): .301/34/103, .442/.582/1.023
Roger Maris (1961): .269/61/142, .372/.620/.993
Paul O'Neill (1994): .359/21/83, .460/.603/1.064

While O'Neill's season was cut short by the strike, his 368 at bats were enough to qualify him for the batting title (which he won) therefore qualify him for this team. With a higher OBP and batting average than both men, and a higher slugging percentage and OPS than Ruth, it is clear that, while O'Neil is obviously not the greatest Yankee right fielder of all-time, in 1994 he had the greatest season of any All-Star to play that position for the Yankees

Centerfielder: Mickey Mantle — 1957

The most prestigious position in all of sports, Mantle is arguably the greatest Yankee to play that position for the most successful franchise in all of sports. Many will argue that Joe DiMaggio and one of his 13 All-Star seasons should garner him for a position on this team (he was elected to the All Star team every season he played) and others will assert that Mantle's 1956 Triple Crown season should be the version that gains him selection. But once again using a basic head-to-head comparison, Mantle's 1957 season shapes up to be arguably his best. Consider DiMaggio's two best season along side Mantle's 1956 and 57 seasons.

DiMaggio – 1941: .357/30/125, .440/.643/1.083
DiMaggio – 1839: .381/30/126, .448/.671/1.119
Mantle – 1956: .353/52/130, .464/.705/1.169

Mantle – 1957: .365/34/94, .512/.665/1.177

While Mantle's power numbers were down in 1957, he was far more valuable to his team, recording 1.3 more runs per game, and a .909 offensive winning percentage compared to an .879 mark the previous season. Mantle even had six more steals, 32 more walks, six more doubles and one more triple in 1957 than in his Triple Crown Season. While Mickey's 1956 power totals are far more striking to eye, his complete offensive contributions in 1957 give this version of the Mick the selection for the All-Star Team over the previous year's version of himself as well as the two seasons by DiMaggio.

SP: Ron Guidry —1978

Possibly of the greatest seasons by a pitcher post-lowering of the mound. Guidry was 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA, 248 Ks, and a 0.946 WHIP. Enough said.

SP: Lefty Gomez—1934

One of the great Yankee pitchers of all time, a Hall of Famer, and an eight-time All-Star, Gomez was at his best in 1934. While his 1937 season was also brilliant, especially considering the offensive inclinations of the era, Gomez was more effective in the totality of his pitching in 1934. Consider the two All Star Seasons against each other:

1934: 281.2 innings, 26-5, 2.33, 223 hits, 158 Ks, 1.13 WHIP
1937: 278.1 innings, 21-11, 2.33, 233 hits, 194 Ks, 1.17 WHIP

These two seasons by Gomez are close in quality, with both having their various strengths. While the power displayed in 1937 by the increase in strikeouts is valuable Gomez's lower hit count and better WHIP directly impacted his much better winning percentage (.839 to .656) in '34. In this care, you really can't go wrong with either season but since I'm the sole individual responsible for this selection process, the final call is Gomez in 1934.

SP: Spud Chandler — 1943

Okay, these stats are admittedly inflated by the absence of the many players serving in the armed forces during WWII, but even still, Chandler was an All-Star and was absolutely dominant in 1943. Going 20-4, Chandler posted a 1.64 ERA, a 0.992 WHIP and a league leading 2.48 SO/BB ration in a season where he also garnered the MVP award.

SP: Allie Reynolds —1952

Part of the Yankees' "Big Three," Allie was outstanding in 1952, in the midst of a five-year championship run by Casey Stengel's Yankees. That season, Allie went 20-8 and led the AL in ERA with a 2.06 mark. His 1.191 WHIP and AL leading 160 strikeouts solidify the argument that Reynolds belongs on this squad.

SP: Whitey Ford —1958

Last but not least is Whitey Ford's stellar 1958 season. The greatest Yankee pitcher ever, Ford — an eight-time All-Star and Hall of Famer — actually won his only Cy Young awarded in 1961
but I'm going with his stellar 1958 season as his most worthy for the All-Time Yankee All-Stars.

In '58 Ford was nearly unhittable, posting a league best 2.01 ERA in 219.1 innings, giving up 174 hits while walking only 62 and striking out 145. That alone is enough to warrant selection but he also managed to lead the league in both WHIP (1.076) and ERA+ (176), leaving only his 14-7 record the explain how he lost out on the Cy Young award to teammate Bob Turley (21-7) that season (even though Turley led the league in walks with 128!).

Bullpen: Mariano Rivera — 2008

With Rivera, any of his 10 All-Star seasons would suffice to make this team. Oddly, the one season in his playing career when the Yankees did not make the playoff may have been his best. At 38 years old, Mariano hurled his way to 39 saves, a 1.40 ERA, a career best 0.665 WHIP, a 317 ERA+, and 77 SO to only six walks for an unreal 12.83 K/BB ratio. In 2009 Rivera is posting another season (with an All Star selection) that in its conclusion might make an argument for inclusion on this list, but for now I'm going with 2008.

Bullpen: Rich "Goose" Gossage — 1981

One of the best seasons by any reliever in the history of the game. A 0.77 ERA, 20 hits, 48 ks, and a 0.771 WHIP.

Bullpen: Dave Righetti — 1986

Converted to a closer as a replacement for Goose Gossage after three successful seasons starting (throwing a 1983 July 4th no-hitter against the Red Sox) Righetti instantly became one of the league's best closers. 1986 was his pinnacle in the role, leading the AL with 46 saves, posting a 2.45 ERA and 1.153 WHIP. Righetti was honored with his first of two All Star selections that season and also with the AL Cy Young Award.

And so the starting lineup for the All-Time All-Star New York Yankees team is:

C:   Bill Dickey (1936)

1B: Lou Gehrig (1934)
2B: Alfonso Soriano (2002)
3B: Red Rolfe (1939)
SS: Derek Jeter (1999)

LF: Charlie Keller (1941)
CF: Mickey Mantle (1957)
RF: Paul O'Neill (1994)

SP: Ron Guidry (1978)
SP: Lefty Gomez (1934)
SP: Spud Chandler (1943)
SP: Allie Reyonlds (1952)
SP: White Ford (1958)

RP: Mariano Rivera (2008)
RP: Rich Gossage (1981)
RP: Dave Righetti (1986)

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About Anthony Tobis

  • http://www.myspace.com/tinkie101 tink

    While I’m not up on the older guys, the stats made your choices clear.

    Great line-up. Dug that you included Mariano Rivera, he definitely rates up there.

    Thank god for your no a-rod zone, although in our house we call him a-something else!!

    Reading this took a bit of the sting away from not catching them while they were playing 10 miles from here this past weekend.

    Thanks for a great piece on the best baseball team ever!!

  • Tony

    Thanks Tink. It was a lot of fun digging back through the history of the team.

  • http://whizball.blogspot.com Aaron Whitehead

    Nice piece. The one guy I’m surprised you didn’t mention was Joe Gordon. He was great in his MVP year of ’42, and he gets a clear edge over Soriano in defense.
    A lot of tough choices here; I really like Graig Nettles, but was surprised to see that he wasn’t an All-Star in ’76.
    I love that you mention Charlie Keller; he was on the fast track to Cooperstown before he turned 30. But Rickey Henderson was pretty darn good in ’85. I think he should have won the MVP, and that was a good Yankee team in the midst of some poor ones.

  • Tony

    Gordon was very good in 42 but can’t match Sorianos power or speed production. Also, the only thing he did lead the league in that year was strikeouts.

    Henderson definately makes a case with his ’85 season for sure.

  • fred

    arod third base what about dh murcer 71 ops 182

  • sTEVE wALDMAN

    MANTLE OVER jOE d NEVER. fIELDING GOES TO dImAG. lESS STRIKEOUTS, BETTER GOING FROM iST TO tHIRD EVEN WITH mANTLE’S GREATER SPEED. lOSS MANY HRS IN LEFT CENTER…LONG OUTS TO BE SURE. mORE CONSISTENT. sTATISTICS TELL NOTHING…BETTER CLUTCH HITTER. aFTER HEINRICH’S STRIKEOUT IN 41 SERIES dImAG GOT SINGLE TO START REAL RALLY. nO REAL COMPARISON.