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Everyone gets to be a Yankee once: The best of the past their prime players

Yesterday, in my bored thought of the day, I started to compile the best Yankees lineup of guys you forgot ever played for the Yankees.

My thought process was to find great — in some cases Hall of Fame — players that had a short stint with the Yankees well past their prime. It was pretty easy to fill the lineup just by scrolling through a decade of rosters from the mid 2000s on, until I got to shortstop (thanks, Derek). I also tried to construct a good, well-rounded, lineup, and I think I achieved that.

This lineup has lefty-righty balance, a great lead-off man in Lofton, power in the middle with AJ and Canseco, and good contact guys like Olerud so we’re not an all-or-nothing team. It also has a starter you’re not terrified to give the ball to in a big game — everyone’s favorite fat guy, Bartolo Colon.

The tweet garnered some responses suggesting players like Troy Tulowitzki and Tony Fernandez at shortstop, or Johnny Mize at first base. An important aspect of this lineup is it’s players you probably forgot ever played for the team because one, it was for a brief period of time, two, they achieved stardom with another team, and three, they weren’t very good by the time they came to the Yanks.

Tulo fits those criteria but I think everyone remembers he was the opening day shortstop just a year ago. Fernandez, who played for the team in ’95, is just before I really start to remember baseball (I turned 7 in the middle of that baseball season). So yes, this list is going to be skewed towards the 1990s – 2000s, but guess what? Get over it.

Catcher – Ivan Rodriguez

Career WAR: 68.7

Best season: 1999 w/ TEX — .332 BA, .914 OPS, 125 OPS+, 35 HR (even though Jeter deserved the MVP over him)

Season(s) with the Yankees: 2008 — 33 games, .219 BA, .580 OPS, 51 OPS+, 2 HR

There’s nobody that embodies the “Everyone gets to be a Yankee once” mantra more than Pudge. The Yanks acquired him during the 2008 season after Jorge Posada went down with an injury and they were in desperate need for production at catcher. Pudge was not very good and honestly, it just made me sad watching such a famous name — and longtime nemesis of the Yankees — look so mediocre with the team.

First Base – John Olerud

Career WAR: 58.1

Best season: 1993 w/ TOR — .363 BA*, 1.072 OPS*, 186 OPS+*, 24 HR, 54 doubles* (* = led league)

Season(s) with the Yankees: 2004 — 49 games, .280 BA, .763 OPS, 101 OPS+, 4 HR

The Yankees picked up Olerud after he was released by the Mariners during the 2004 season. They needed depth at first base because Giambi was dealing with injuries due to his complications with steroids. A 101 OPS+ is league average! I knew I always loved that hard-hat wearing first baseman. But give me ’93 Olerud all day, errrr day.

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Second Base – Brian Roberts

Career WAR: 29.5 WAR

Best season: 2005 w/ BAL — .314 BA, .903 OPS, 139 OPS+, 70 X-base hits

Season(s) with the Yankees: 2014 — 91 games, .237 BA, .659 OPS, 87 OPS+

Roberts replaced Robbie Cano and was bad. Not Stephen Drew bad, but bad nonetheless.

Shortstop – Brendan Ryan

Career WAR: 15.1

Best season: 2009 w/ STL — .292 BA, 97 OPS+ (and elite defense which gave him 4.5 WAR that season)

Season(s) with the Yankees: 2013-15 — .201 BA, 44 OPS+ (and his defense was just league-average by this time)

Is Tony Fernandez a better option here? Yes. But he played for the team in ’95 so not only did I forget that fact, I never knew that fact. Shortstop was the hardest position to fill because Jeter had it on lock for 20 years. Also, of the filler shortstops you don’t remember, the defensive wizard Ryan was the best.

Third Base – Robin Ventura

Career WAR: 56.1

Best season: 1999 w/ NYM — .301 BA, .908 OPS, 130 OPS+, 32 HR

Season(s) with the Yankees: 2002-03 — 230 games, .249 BA, .792 OPS, 110 OPS+, 36 HR

(I’m not going to insert the video of Nolan Ryan beating up Robin Ventura.) 

The post-Brosius, pre-Boone third baseman in the Bronx was ex-Met Robin Ventura. You know what? A 110 OPS+ was better than I expected. Why do we all forget him? Because the Yankees third base position got so much more memorable after him with the acquisition and injury of Aaron Boone, which led to ARod.

Honorable mention: Eric Chavez, who played with the team from 2011-12.

(I’m gonna insert the video of Nolan Ryan beating up Robin Ventura.)

Left Field – Andruw Jones

Career WAR: 62.7

Best season: 2005 w/ ATL — .263 BA, .922 OPS, 136 OPS+, 51 HR* (* = led league)

Season(s) with the Yankees: 2011-12 — 154 games, .220 BA, .769 OPS, 105 OPS+, 27 HR

Jones was one of the best defensive center fielders during his prime, but in order to get Lofton on this team I shifted AJ to left. Andruw had a good 2011 as a 4th outfielder (126 OPS+) but by 2012 it was clear he was done.

Center Field – Kenny Lofton

Career WAR: 68.4

Best season: 1994 w/ CLE — .349 BA, .948 OPS, 145 OPS+, 160 hits*, 60 SB* (* = led league)

Season with the Yankees: 2004 — .275 BA, .741 OPS, 95 OPS+

Lofton’s list of teams played for his hilarious. His performance with the Yankees was not hilarious.

Right Field – Raul Mondesi

Career WAR: 29.5

Best season: 1997 w/ LAD — .310 BA, .901 OPS, 140 OPS+, 30 HR

Season(s) with the Yankees: 2002-03 — 169 games, .250 BA, .777 OPS, 104 OPS+, 27 HR

I hated Raul Mondesi. He replaced my favorite player Paul O’Neill, was kind of a d-bag in the clubhouse and was underwhelming on the field. The thing I found surprising was that he played 98 games for them in ’03. I was under the impression they moved on from him after ’02.

Designated Hitter – Jose Canseco

Career WAR: 42.4

Best season: 1988 w/ OAK — .307 BA, .959 OPS, 170 OPS+*, 42 HR*, 40 SB (* = led league)

Season(s) with the Yankees: 2000 — 37 games, .243 BA, .797 OPS, 103 OPS+, 6 HR

Canseso obviously gets crap for being a steroid guy, but what other roided-out freak was putting up 40/40 seasons? That’s still impressive in my opinion.

After thinking more about this lineup, I’d actually shift Canseco to RF and add Travis Hafner to the team as DH. In all honesty you could find a dozen over-the-hill hitters to stick at DH, but I need to have Canseco on the squad.

SP – Bartolo Colon

Career WAR: 45.8

Best season: 2002 w/ CLE & MON — 233.1 IP, 2.93 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 147 ERA+

Season(s) with the Yankees: 164.1 IP, 4.00 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 107 ERA+

When the Yankees picked up Colon after a season absence, I remember thinking “Of course the Yankees get the over-the-hill pitcher in his final season.” The big man went on to pitch 7 more seasons and, as someone pointed out to me yesterday, Colon finished 6th in Cy Young voting in 2013! Amazing.

 

What would your “Everyone gets to be a Yankee once” lineup be? Let me know @Andrew_Rotondi 1988