Wednesday, February 24, 2016

All-Time Teams #19: New York Yankees

This is part of an ongoing series where I'm naming an all-time team for each of the current 30 MLB franchises. In an effort to revive this series after a long period of inactivity, I'm placing a little less emphasis on the discussion of the greatest eligible player who is not in the Hall of Fame.

Here's an update of the Hall of Famer per all-time team tally I listed in the Cubs post:

Cubs - 15
Braves - 14
White Sox - 13
Indians - 12
Yankees - 12
Red Sox - 12
Dodgers - 11
Reds - 10
Orioles - 9
Tigers - 9

These numbers include all Hall of Famers, regardless of whether they're inducted as a player, a manager, or in the case of Clark Griffith, an executive. 

A couple teams (Cubs and Indians) have the same Hall of Famer as a player and manager. Of course, I only counted those guys once.

Perhaps it's surprising to some that the Yankees aren't really close to the top of the list. The simple explanation is quite a few Yankees Hall of Famers didn't even make this team, with some even losing out to non-Hall of Famers, although that hardly makes the Yankees unique.

Franchise History
New York Yankees (1913 - 2014)
New York Highlanders (1903 - 1912)
Baltimore Orioles (1901 - 1902)

An asterisk (*) denotes a Hall of Famer.

C - Yogi Berra* (1946-1963)
1B - Lou Gehrig* (1923-1939)
2B - Robinson Cano (2005-2013)
SS - Derek Jeter (1995-2014)
3B - Alex Rodriguez (2004-2013, 2015- )
LF - Babe Ruth* (1920-1934)
CF - Joe DiMaggio* (1936-1942, 1946-1951)
RF - Mickey Mantle* (1951-1968)

Ruth played a few hundred more games in right, but he's second in franchise history in games played in left field, and was essentially the Yankees' regular left fielder for four seasons. 

Mantle played right in his rookie season before eventually taking over the center field job when DiMaggio retired. This one's more of a stretch, but it's the best way to account for the fact that two of this team's four best players played the same position. 

Cano as the starting second baseman is probably my most controversial selection, and one that certainly would've been different five years ago. His cumulative WAR of 45.1 ranks third at the position, behind Willie Randolph (53.7) and Tony Lazzeri (48.3). But WAR/650 PA tells a different story: Cano - 5.6, Randolph - 5.2, Lazzeri - 4.9. 

While 0.4 WAR per year might not seem like a biggest enough difference to base such a decision on, especially since Joe Gordon's shorter Yankees career rates at 5.8 WAR/650 PA, but I'm skeptical enough of how much of Randolph's value comes from his defense to opt for Cano's offense instead. 

Whitey Ford* (1950, 1953-1967)
Ron Guidry (1975-1988)
Red Ruffing* (1930-1942, 1945-1946)
Andy Pettitte (1995-2003, 2007-2010, 2012-2013)
Lefty Gomez* (1930-1942)

You could probably quibble with the order, but otherwise I doubt there's much controversy here. 

Mariano Rivera (1995-2013)

C - Bill Dickey* (1928-1943, 1946)
C - Thurman Munson (1969-1979)
1B - Don Mattingly (1982-1995)
2B/3B/SS - Tony Lazzeri* (1926-1937)
3B - Graig Nettles (1973-1983)
LF/RF - Charlie Keller (1939-1943, 1945-1950)
OF - Bernie Williams (1991-2006)

Leaving Randolph off this team completely is tough -- I briefly considered expanding this team to accommodate him and a few other difficult omissions -- but I could probably put together a pretty great all-time team of players who didn't make my Yankees all-time team. That said, Lazzeri's flexibility to backup at SS as well was the deciding factor in his favor. 

Rich Gossage* (1978-1983, 1989)
Sparky Lyle (1972-1978)
Dave Righetti (1979, 1981-1990)
Mike Mussina (2001-2008)

I'm sure Gossage would choose himself as the team's closer, but everyone except him surely agrees Rivera is a no-brainer. Otherwise, it's a pretty short bullpen, but I've basically been going with 10 or 11 pitchers total depending on the worthiness of 25th man candidates. In this case, I felt Nettles and Munson were more worthy than any of the remaining hurlers. 

Casey Stengel* (1949-1960)

The Yankees really reinforce how difficult, and perhaps pointless, it is to decide who's the best manager in a franchise's history. Here are the choices:

Miller Huggins (1918-1929): 1067 wins, .597 W-L%, 6 pennants, 3 W-S titles. 

Joe McCarthy (1931-1946): 1460 wins, .627 W-L%, 8 pennants, 7 W-S titles. 

Casey Stengel (1949-1960): 1169 wins, .623 W-L%, 10 pennants, 7 W-S titles.

Joe Torre (1996-2007): 1173 wins, .605 W-L%, 6 pennants, 4 W-S titles.

Of course, it's not just comparing the level of success that makes choosing between these guys difficult, it's the age-old question -- which is especially pertinent to the Yankees -- of whether the manager makes the players great or the players make the manager great.

Obviously, it's probably a combination of those factors, but in the case of the Yankees, it's definitely more the latter than the former. In fact, the Yankees have won six World Series in the 61 seasons they were not managed by these four guys. By comparison, the second most successful franchise in baseball history (Cardinals) have won less than twice that many (11) in more than twice as many years (132), and the Dodgers have won six World Series in 130 years.

That said, Stengel gets the nod because of 10 pennants and seven World Championships in 12 years.

Greatest Eligible non-Hall of Famer

More interesting (to me) than the aforementioned potential second team is a potential all-time team of Yankees eligible for, but not in, the Hall of Fame. 

Thurman Munson is the only career Yankee who's in my personal Hall, but not the real Hall of Fame, so he's my choice here. 

Somewhat surprisingly, Munson's Hall case didn't get the special consideration players with similar circumstances typically get. I suppose he has the double whammy of being a catcher and having an abbreviated career, two factors that, to differing degrees, adversely affect the counting stats voters love. 

Obviously, Roy Campanella had the same potential problem but was unaffected. The guy did win three MVPs. So, perhaps Campanella is the Rickey Henderson to Munson's Tim Raines when it comes to catchers with careers shortened by non-baseball factors. Perhaps that's a stretch, but I'll go with it. 

Next Up: Oakland Athletics

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Best Music of 2015: #1 Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

It's happened in a number of prior years. Going into December, I basically have my mind made up regarding my #1 album, then I give some late consideration to #2 only to eventually realize I had it right in the first place.

One such year that comes to mind is 2005 when I briefly considered Sufjan Stevens' Illinois over Okkervil River's Black Sheep Boy

Stevens was in my top spot most of this year, but in the later months it looked like Kacey Musgraves would end up #1. So, it looked like Sufjan was going to be a bridesmaid once again, but upon giving several final listens to both Carrie & Lowell and Pageant Material, I realized the former was clearly my favorite of 2015.

This being the darkest album on my year-end list, it pairs well with the darkest beer among my 2015 favorites, Bell's Expedition Stout.

Thanks to those of you who tuned into my little best-of-2015 countdown, despite an 11-month absence here. I'm not sure what 2016 has in store for this blog, but I wish you all the best in the new year. Cheers.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Best Music of 2015: #2 Kacey Musgraves - Pageant Material

Every Christmas I buy my dad a CD of one of the year's best country albums, in my opinion. It's not always my favorite, but rather something I really like that I think he will too.

This is the highest-ranking album I've given him as a gift, at least partly because it's so damn difficult to buy CDs anymore. I was initially a little concerned about the frequency of (mostly) subtle marijuana references on this one, but I couldn't find Willie and Merle's Django & Jimmie, so I went with it. 

Pageant Material is chock full of clever lyrics about simple living, being yourself and generally just not being an asshole. It seems like the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon of drinking Lagunitas Born Yesterday. Oh, and there may actually be another connection.

Best Music of 2015:
#3 CHVRCHES - Every Open Eye

CHVRCHES are the first of two female-fronted acts in my top three. While, in this case, we're talking about a female lead vocalist backed by two male members, the remaining female artist is a solo act.

The Scottish electro-pop band made my top 20 with their 2013 debut album, but really elevated their game this year with Every Open Eye, a record with barely a weak moment.

It's also the most unique album on my year-end list of mostly rootsy stuff, kind of like a Pipeworks Yuzu Saison on a beer list dominated by IPAs. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Best Music of 2015:
#4 Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free

Jason Isbell is the third artist in this year's top tenRyan Adams and Tame Impala are the othersto score their second top ten this decade. The fourth such act to hold this distinction is Isbell's former band, the Drive-By Truckers, but they did it in the decade's first two years and had their run of five consecutive top ten albums end last year.

It's safe to say Isbell has overtaken his former band, in popularity for sure, and now in my eyes as well. So, I'm raising a toast to him in the form of a Brewmaster Jack The Little Brother.