The Yankees are well represented on the 2022 Hall of Fame ballot. Seven of the 30 eligible players spent some amount of time in The Bronx. Reaching the Hall is the greatest individual honor in baseball, reserved for the elite few who compiled an entire career of excellence…
…But who cares about that?!? We’re Yankees fans and we’re entitled to be self-centered from time to time. What Bobby Abreu did in Philadelphia matters to Hall of Fame voters, but not here. What follows is a ranking in reverse order of how each of those seven candidates performed only as a Yankee.
In Atlanta, Jones was not just a good center fielder— he was arguably the very best defensive outfielder in baseball history. He deserves significant HOF consideration for his sterling glove work and 434 home runs, but by the time he made it to New York in 2011, he could no longer play center at all. He actually hit better than one might recall in 2011 at age 34, compiling a 126 OPS+ as a fourth outfielder. In 2012 however, he was clearly washed, hitting .197 with a .294 OBP. This would be his final year in MLB (though he played two more years in Japan). He’s clearly the least memorable Yankee of the seven candidates on this year’s ballot. He also gets negative points for hitting two home runs in Game One of the 1996 World Series, knocking Andy Pettitte out early. That wasn’t cool.
On July 30, 2006, the Phillies shipped Abreu and Cory Lidle to the Yankees in exchange for four prospects, only one of whom (Matt Smith) had cameo for them in the Majors. It remains one of Brian Cashman’s best deadline deals. Abreu hit .330 down the stretch that season, finishing the year with an MLB-leading 124 walks. He spent the next two full seasons with the team as well, rarely missing a game and providing above-average offensive production. He may have been afraid to jump against the wall in right field, but there was nothing wrong with his .295/.378/.465 slash line and 57 SB as a Yankee. Altogether, he was worth 7.0 bWAR over two-and-a-half seasons.
Continuing our run of defensively limited outfielders in their mid 30s, Sheffield suited up for the Yankees from 2004-2006. Injuries limited him to 39 games that final year— necessitating the trade for Abreu— but he walloped 36 homers in 2004 and 34 in 2005. His 141 OPS+ in 2004 earned him a second-place finish in the AL MVP voting. He remains notorious for his ferocious bat waggle and vicious line drives that made everybody on the left side of the field stand a little further back, including third base coach Luis Sojo. With a pair of four-WAR seasons, he stands above the other two short-time Yankees on this list.
If the Yankees hadn’t signed Teixeira as a free agent in 2009, they would never have won the World Series that year. He was not only the best player on the team, he was among the very best in the league. He led the AL with 39 HR, 122 RBI, 344 TB, won a Gold Glove at first base, and was the MVP runner-up, finishing just ahead of third-place Derek Jeter. 2009 was a zenith he would never reach again, and for that matter, neither have the Yankees. He put together three more quality seasons until a wrist injury decimated his 2013 season and continued to hamper him in 2014. He regained all-star form in 2014 but was clearly through in 2015— the final year of his career. All told, he bashed 206 HR with the Yankees and in the unlikely event he gets elected to the Hall of Fame, would display the interlocking NY on his plaque.
Of all the players, listed here, none joined the Yankees at a later age than Clemens. He accumulated an astonishing 19.7 bWAR from 1999-2003 at the ages of 36-40 and tacked on a 0.5 bWAR coda at age 44. His late-career numbers are too good to be true, and of course, we now know they were artificially enhanced. He earned his sixth Cy Young in 2001 and averaged 31 GS, 201 IP, and 189 SO over his five-year stretch. In five World Series games for the Yanks, he allowed just six runs in 36 innings, though his most famous toss was sending Mike Piazza‘s broken bat back at him. He may not have been the most scrupulous individual, but his on-field contributions to Yankee lore are undeniable.
Pettitte is the only player on the Hall of Fame ballot with a retired number in Monument Park. He is one of the greatest pitchers in Yankees history and one of the most prolific postseason pitchers of all time. His 2,020 strikeouts remain a team record and his 51.3 bWAR trails only Mariano Rivera and Whitey Ford among pitchers. He was the first member of The Core Four to debut in 1995, stayed with the club through 2003, returned from 2007-2010, then unretired to rejoin them from 2012-2013. His consistency was perhaps the most remarkable aspect of his legacy, never falling below 2.1 bWAR in any of his 15 Yankee seasons— which doesn’t even capture his fearsome pickoff move. Additionally, he holds MLB postseason records of 44 GS, 276 2/3 IP, and 19 W. Connections to PEDs tarnish his body of work, but he remains a beloved Yankee.
There are a plethora of reasons to dislike ARod: two PED suspensions, inexplicably poor postseason performances, and his insufferable color commentary as a broadcaster. It’s easy to forget that his statistics are among the greatest in baseball history. Along with Joe DiMaggio and Derek Jeter, he is unquestionably one of the greatest right-handed hitters the franchise ever had and by far their best overall third baseman. In 12 years as a Yankee, he slashed .283/.378/.523 with 352 HR, 152 SB, and a pair of MVP awards. From 2004-2010, he averaged 38 HR, 18 SB, and a 147 OPS+. In other words, his career numbers just with the Yankees alone are good enough to reach the Hall of Fame, setting aside his body of work with Seattle and Texas and the glaring PED caveats. That might be more than most HOF voters are willing to overlook, but what he accomplished between the foul lines as a Yankee is more impressive than anyone else on this year’s ballot.