New York Yankees Top 10’s: A history of great 3rd baseman, who were your favorites?

New York Yankees, Alex Rodriguez

The New York Yankees, in their glorious history, have many of the best players ever to play at their positions in the history of MLB.  In this installment of Yankee top 10’s, I give my picks for the best Yankee 3rd baseman throughout the Yankees years.  In the very near future, this list may change, as Yankee third baseman Gio Urshela is making his mark at the hot corner with his Gold Glove-like play.

10. Aaron Boone

Aaron Boone was an average player and didn’t play but part of one season with the New York Yankees.  His claim to fame includes playing injury-free for two years of his career while racking up 322 games within the two years, but they weren’t with the Yankees.  The only reason he makes this list at all is that as a 3rd baseman for the Yankees, he had one of the most iconic moments in baseball history.  In 2003 his home run to left field at Fenway Park brought the Yankees to the 2003 World Series.  The walk-off home run in the eleventh inning is generally considered the ninth-best home run in baseball history by Baseball Tonight.

9. Joe Sewell

Sewell played 3rd base for the Yankees from 1931 to 1933.  He would likely be placed higher on the list if he had played longer with the Yankees.  Coming from the Cleveland Indians after the 1930 season, Sewell played excellent defense at third and hit .282 over the span.  The other factor is that the Hall of Famer played most of his career with the Indians at shortstop. He played his Yankee career at third and was an MVP candidate in 1932.

8. Frank “Homerun” Baker

Baker was a well known Yankee getting his nickname from his timely home runs as Phillie.  He got 96 home runs in his career, which is not a lot by today’s standards, but in his period of play from 1908 on, it was a lot.  More specifically, his home runs won a lot of games, including postseason games.  With the Yankees, he was an excellent .942 defender of the hot corner.  He also had a .288 average with the Yankees.

7. Clete Boyer

Clete Boyer as a Yankee fan-favorite between 1959-1966.  Boyer would have been a national star at third except that he played at the same time as Brooks Robinson on of MLB’s greatest third baseman.  He wasn’t as good a hitter as Boggs or Brosius, but his defense was second only to Robinson. He had 25 home runs as a Yankee and batted .243

6. Gil McDougald

Gil would be rated considerably higher in this list if it wasn’t for manager Casey Stengel penchant for platooning players.  McDougald played much of his time at second base while with the Yankees and is in the top 10 in that position as well.  He won an All-Star nod in 1952 at third.  The reason he places lower than Scott Brosius is because of his World Series stats.  McDougald hit .237 in World Series play, and Brosius hit .314.

5. Scott Brosius

Scott Brosius was another New York Yankee fan favorite.  He played during the dynasty years from 1998 to 2001. During his four years with the Yankees, he hit 65 home runs and batted .267.  The Yankees reached the World Series all four years during his stint with the Yankees.  He was stellar at third, but his claim to fame is his postseason stats.  In the 1998 ALDS and ALCS, he hit .350.  But in the World Series that year, he hit .417 and was named most valuable player.  All tolled in postseason play, he hit eight home runs and drove in 30.

4. Red Rolfe

Red Rolfe was a product of the Ivy League Dartmouth College.  He was an All-Star four of his ten years with the New York Yankees. In 1939 he had 213 hits, 46 doubles while scoring 139 runs.  1939 was his best year with the Yankees when he batted .329, one of four seasons above .300.  He ended his career, all ten of which with the Yankees.  His career batting average was .289, with almost 1,000 runs scored.

3. Wade Boggs

Boggs might be at the top of this list, but he is known mostly as a Boston Red Sox.  He played only five of his 18 seasons with the Yankees.  Those five years were impactful not only for his defense at 3rd but for a .313 batting average as a Yankee. In his first four years with the Yankees, he hit over .300 and was an All-Star each of those years.  He also won two Gold Glove awards while he was a Yankee.

In most of his years with the Yankees, he led off due to his hitting and walking abilities. Like the present DJ LeMahieu, he found a way to get on base. To set the stage for the 1996 World Series, the Yankees had lost the first two games at Yankee Stadium, then won three in a row in Atlanta. Back at Yankee Stadium, the Yankee had two chances to win the World Series. They didn’t need it as they won game six against the Braves. Boggs walked in the three-run third inning, and that was all the Yankees needed. During the Championship celebration, Boggs left the dogpile in one of the most iconic moments in Yankee history, jumped on the back of one of the police horses, and rounded the warning track in celebration of the victory.

2. Graig Nettles

Graig Nettles won of the finest defenders at the hot corner. He won two Gold Gloves at the position but was another player overshadowed by Brooks Robinson, often considered the best 3rd baseman in all of baseball history.  Graig played an incredible 22 years, 11 with the New York Yankees.  Although not the best hitter on the club, he did hit 250 home runs as a Yankee.  Nettles’ Game Three defensive performance in the 1978 World Series was as good a post-season game as any fielder ever had.

Nettles sizzled in the 1981 American League Championship Series, going 6-for-12 with 9 RBI in just three games and being named MVP.  His defensive and offensive leadership brought the Yankees two world championships, two more A.L. championships, and a fifth division title from 1976 to 1981.  He is a frequent participant in the Yankee Old Timers Day celebrations.

My number one pick for the best New York Yankee 3rd baseman will be somewhat controversial, but I can deal with that.  Many would exclude Alex Rodriguez as the top player or even exclude him from the list due to his involvement in performance-enhancing drugs.  I am not considering that and only looking at his performance at the hot corner while with the Yankees.

1. Alex Rodriguez

This writer had no trouble having Alex Rodriguez top the list of the best Yankees third baseman.  He is one of the top 20 baseball players to ever play the game of baseball and is number one or two as the best shortstop to play the game.  Rodriguez came from the Texas Rangers, where he had his best three years stat-wise.  They are also the years that he was accused of doping.  In this writer’s opinion, if he had not doped, he still would have had superstar status throughout his career.

Graig Nettles had far more appearances at 3rd than Rodriguez, but he had over 1000 games on 3rd and was by far more productive.  After being an eight-year All-Star at short for the Mariners, and the Rangers, A-Rod came to the Yankees and accepted a switch to 3rd base, as the Yankees already had a star shortstop in Derek Jeter.  To show what a universal talent Alex was, he then became a seven-year All-Star at 3rd while becoming a Yankee MVP twice and a Silver Slugger three times. At the close of his career, he was four runs short of 700 home runs 4th all-time behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), and Babe Ruth (714).

Many think that the Yankees got back at A-Rod for his suspension and somewhat bad relations by not letting him finish his 2016 season allowing him to reach 700 home runs.  The other punishment he will endure, probably for the rest of his life, is that his involvement in enhancing drugs will prevent one of the best players ever, from having a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Nearing the end of his 22-year career and after his suspension in 2014, he came back to the Yankees and made every effort to regain his reputation by becoming a mentor to younger players and being a leader in the clubhouse.  He finished his career with the Yankees with a .283 batting average and 351 home runs.

During the recent coronavirus, Rodriguez has been giving online baseball classes for children via his Instagram account.  He and Jennifer Lopez has partnered with their new meal-delivery company, Tiller & Hatch, and have donated an entire year’s food to the students of Jacksboro Elementary school and to stock their food pantry.

In selecting my top ten, I valued time with the club, performance as per Baseball-Reference.com.  Peak career performance and performance in postseason play was also a factor. Cheating by both A-Rod and Nettles was weighed.  Special situations like changing career positions were also a consideration.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam

 

 

New York Yankees: Could Gio Urshela be the Yankees next Graig Nettles? Find out here

New York Yankees, Gio Urshela

The New York Yankees were faced with a dilemma during the 2019 season when star slugger and third baseman Miguel Andujar went on the IL.  Andujar went down with a year-ending labrum injury at the beginning of the 2019 campaign; the fledgling season appeared to hang in the balance. Andujar was having trouble throwing from third, but the Yankees thought they could still keep his big bat in the lineup.  That turned out not to be the case as he elected to have labrum shoulder surgery.

The New York Yankees had no one to replace him.  Temporarily they used DJ LeMahieu, but they needed to find a permanent replacement.  They searched about to find someone that would be adequate.  The ended up bringing up a minor leaguer from their Scranton Wilkes/Barre Triple-A affiliate Rail Riders.  That player was Giovanny Urshela with a reputation of being a good defender at 3rd but with little pop to his bat.  What the Yankees got was a diamond in the rough.

Twenty-eight-year-old Giovanny Urshela is a Columbian baseball player. He has previously played the Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians. Urshela signed with the Cleveland Indians as an international free agent in July 2008. He made his professional debut in 2009, playing for the Dominican Summer League Indians and the Arizona League Indians. He spent 2010-2013 in single-A.

He started the 2014 season with Akron and was promoted to the Columbus Clippers of the Class AAA International League during the season. After the 2014 season, the Indians added Urshela to their 40-man roster. He was named the Indians’ fourth-best prospect by MLB.com in 2015. He batted .227 for the Indians before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. Urshela batted .233 with one home run and three RBIs in 19 games for Toronto before he was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays on June 26. During his time with the Jays, he was noted for his timely hitting and very capable play at 3rd. Base.

On August 4, 2018, the Blue Jays traded Urshela to the New York Yankees
in exchange for cash considerations. The Yankees assigned him to the
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Urshela was called up by the Yankees
to the bigs on April 6, 2019, as a fill-in for Miguel Andujar at third
base. Urshela has been an out-making specialist in the big leagues and
has indeed shown his worth at the hot corner.

Gio is well-liked in the clubhouse and fits in quite well. Some of this may be his not so young age and experience.  Known as an average player with excellent defense at third, upon the advice of pitching coaches, Urshela made a few changes to his hitting stance. He opened his hitting stance while holding his hands slightly lower and also focused on transferring strength from his legs more effectively. The adjustments paid immediate dividends. Among full-time third basemen, Urshela ranked ninth in the league in OPS (.889).

He ended up with a wRC+ (132) (weighed runs above average), which means he had 32% more runs created than the average MLB hitter.  That figure puts him ahead of Colorado super-star Nolan Arenado. It means the New York Yankee have themselves an All-Star player like Arenado, but only have to pay him 2% of Arenado’s salary.  A super win for the Yankees.

He played so well for the Yankees that he even got a call from Iván Duque Márquez, the President of Columbia, to congratulate him on his excellent play. Urshela is the second most timely hitter behind DJ LeMahieu, at one point last season he drove in the winning run in three games in just eight days. He ended his 132 game season, hitting .314, 12 points higher than DJ LeMahieu.  He hit 21 home runs with 34 doubles and 139 hits.

When Gio showed up on the scene, the New York Yankee fans first took notice of him when he started making Graig Nettles-like plays at 3rd.  He made one after the other Gold Glove like catches and throws.  Plays that often headlined Yankee wins.  When his hitting matched his play at third Yankee manager Aaron Boone started throwing paise on their new third baseman. He ended the 2019 season with a fielding percentage of .954 compared to Andujar’s .700. During the season, he also had a fielding percentage at first base and in the outfield of 1.000.

Previous to Urshela’s arrival, they thought that had their future 3rd baseman in Andujar, but with Urshela now at third, Andujar has lost that designation.  The New York Yankees made it clear in spring training 1.0 that Gio Urshela would be the starting 3rd baseman and that it was his job to lose.  Boone and the coaches feel Gio will replicate his 2019 performance as the underlying metrics, suggest sustainability to his growth as a hitter.

Meanwhile, the Yankees will still want to have Miguel Andujar’s bat at the plate even though he has lost his job at 3rd. In 2018 he hit 27 home runs with a batting average of .297. The Yankees will most likely have him platoon with Giancarlo Stanton in the left field.  He will also be a DH for the Yankees when not playing on the field.  In the shortened season, he likely will not see play at 3rd in relief of Urshela.

Have the Yankees found their next Graig Nettles? It appears that they have, and his play this season may cement his play at 3rd for the foreseeable future.  Nettles was the Yankee third baseman for eleven years between 1973 and 1983. It’s also worth mentioning that Gio Urshela also has experience playing at short. With Gleyber Torres’s questionable play as the starting shortstop, this could end up being a 2019 storyline.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.  Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.

New York Yankees Legends: Mickey Rivers and Graig Nettles

Mick the Quick the Yankees base stealer

Micky Rivers had a fifteen-year baseball career for three teams, the California Angels, the New York Yankees, and the Texas Rangers. Known to Yankees fans as “Mick the Quick” because of his baserunning speed, he had his best years with the Yankees. While with the Yankees, he was an All-Star and three-time Yankee MVP.

Mickey was born in Miami, Florida, and attended Miami Dade Community College, where he played baseball. He emerged as one of the team stars for his fast base running, ability to steal bases, and his high hitting contact. Being a team star, his teammates were surprised on the day when he didn’t come to base when called. He was found under a nearby tree fast asleep. Mickey was a fun guy and always appreciated by his fellow players.

He was selected by the Braves but started his major league career with the Angels, where he played center field and at times handled the hot corner. As a center fielder, he was praised with this speed and ability to cover a great range. Also, this wasn’t the best. In 1974 and 1975, He led the American League in triples both years and stole a career-high 70 bases in 1975, tops in the American League. In the offseason of 1975-6, he was traded to the Yankees for Bobby Bonds. Rivers had a career year in 1975. Rivers was named to the All-Star team, batted .312, stole 43 bases and posted then-career highs in home runs.

Rivers contributed to two World Series teams for the Yankees in 1977 and 1978. In 1977 he hit to a batting average of .326. Just before the trade deadline in 1979 he was traded to the Texas Rangers. In 1980 he set a single-season hitting a record for the Rangers with 210 hits. Rivers had amazing strike zone recognition and was a great contact leadoff hitter while with the Yankees. Because of his buoyant personality, he was a real Yankee fan favorite during his time with the team. He still attends the Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium.

New York Yankees #1 Third baseman Graig Nettles

For eleven New York Yankee seasons, Graig Nettles graced the hot corner at 3rd base. With unequaled range, cat-like reflexes, and an accurate throwing arm, he was one of the best third basemen in the business for an unbelievable twenty-three years.

Graig Nettles was born on August 20, 1944, in San Diego, His father, who worked as a San Diego police officer for ten years, then became a high-school teacher, was away on active duty in World War II when he was born. He was the second of three sons. His mother, who did not like the names Craig or Greg, combined them to form Graig. He attended San Diego High School, where he played baseball and basketball, excelling in the latter sport and earning a scholarship to San Diego State University. He continued to play both basketball and baseball for the Aztecs, but as he grew and his body filled out, baseball took over as he found power in baseball.

Nettles blossomed into a power hitter while playing semipro ball for the Alaska Goldpanners in Fairbanks in the summer. On the advice of a bird-dog scout, Pete Coscarart, the Minnesota Twins selected Nettles in the fourth round of the June 1965 amateur draft. The following Thanksgiving, he would marry the love of his life, Virginia Mechling, whom he had met while in college at San Diego State. They would eventually have four children, three sons, and a daughter.

A twenty-year love, hate relationship would start between Graig and Billy Martin when he played for the Denver Bears 7-22. Billy Martin was the new manager of the Bears and would frequently yell and scream at Nettles, and it didn’t matter if it was in private, on the field or in the dugout in front of other players. He called Nettles a dummy, among other things.

Nettles had never experienced that type of behavior from a Manager. He outright hated Martin for the first couple of months. But slowly, all that changed when Martin, with his rough treatment of players, turned the Bears into a winning team. Martin was aggressive and had players bunt, steal bases, and perform squeeze plays. Nettle soon saw Martin as a great team leader.

Nettles played solidly all year and was named the Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year and played on the All-Star team. In his three years in the minors, Nettles had hit 69 home runs and had 169 RBIs. Billy Martin also played Nettles in the outfield, insisting that a player should be able to handle two positions to make it in the majors. Nettles earned a call-up to the Twins in September 1968, and never returned to the minors. He hit a hit in each of his first seven games, five of them for home runs. Nettles was a fastball hitter, but soon learned he would have to learn to hit curves too to be successful. There were only 22 games left in the season, and Nettles ended up hitting a .224 average.

Before the beginning of the 1969 season began, Billy Martin was named manager of the Twins, and Graig and Billy were back together again. 1969 under Martin would see the Twins win the American League West Championship. Nettles played mostly in the outfield, and on occasion, backed up Harmon Killebrew at third base. At the end of the season, the Twins decided that Killebrew was their man and traded Nettles and three other players to the Indians for pitcher Luis Tiant and Stan Williams. Nettles would again be traded this time, to the New York Yankees in 1973.

Manger RalphHouk was pleased with the move and made Nettles the Yankees’ third baseman. Soon after the trade, George Steinbrenner’s group bought the Yankees. Nettles was to become a star in New York. Nettles made his presence felt early in the 1973 season. He clubbed four home runs and drove in seven runs in an Easter Sunday doubleheader at Cleveland. He finished the season with a team-leading 22 home runs. In the first three years of Steinbrenner’s ownership, while the team improved, they didn’t reach the World Series. During the time they picked up the likes of Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, and others.

In 1977 the New York Yankees repeated, defeating the Royals again in the ALCS and this time winning the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games. Nettles was selected to play in the All-Star Game, was named the top third baseman in the American League, and won a Gold Glove. (He won all three honors again in 1978.) In 1977 and ’78, Nettles had a total of 64 homers, drove in 200 runs, and scored 180 runs. During the 78 season Billy Martin was fired.

The players went on strike over free-agency issues on June 12, 1981, and 713 games across MLB were canceled. Play resumed in August, and a split-season format was adopted, with the first-half division winners playing the second-half victors. The Yankees dispatched Milwaukee in the first round and swept Oakland, managed by Billy Martin, in the League Championship Series. Nettles was named MVP of the LCS after batting .500 with one homer and nine RBIs.

In the World Series, the Yankees won the first two games at home. But Nettles broke his thumb diving for a ball in Game Two and did not play when the series shifted to Los Angeles. The Yankees lost three straight at Dodger Stadium, in LA, all by one run. Nettles came back in Game Six, but the Dodgers thrashed the Yankees and won the Series. The Yankees didn’t get back into the World Series until 1996.

Before the 1982 season, George Steinbrenner named Nettles Captain of the Yankees. The title would be short-lived because Nettles had co-authored a book criticizing the New York Yankee owner for recent losses. Nettles was traded to the Padres. Nettles said after the move that he loved that team and would always be a Yankee.

William Parlee is a member of The Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam

The accompanying photo is of Mickey Rivers, my Nephew Charles Parlee, and Graig Nettles at Yankee Stadium.

New York Yankees: All-Time Starting Lineup/Bench

New York Yankees, Babe Ruth

Most of these players contributed to the 27 World Series rings that the New York Yankees franchise has won. From World Series MVPs to record-breaking statistics, these players have done it all in the sport of baseball.

All-Time Starting Lineup/Bench

1. SS Derek Jeter

Jeter played all 20 seasons of his career for the Yankees and was one of 15 captains in New York Yankees history. He deserved to be the second unanimous hall of fame player but fell one vote short.

He had 650 1st-pitch hits, indicating he was aggressive at the plate, which makes a perfect leadoff hitter for this team.

2. LF Joe DiMaggio

A 56-game hitting streak is Dimaggio’s most popular call to fame, however, he did make the all-star team all 13 years of his career.

He hit over .300 in 11 out of 13 years at the highest stage, which is almost never seen in today’s baseball.

To top it all off, he served his country in WWII for three years.

3. RF Babe Ruth

“The Bambino” was the greatest display of power in the early 20th century and no one will forget when he “called his shot.”

His 714 home runs have kept him among the top three home run hitters for almost a century. He has the best slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+ of all-time as well.

He is arguably the best all-around hitter ever and needs to be in the middle of this lineup.

4. 1B Lou Gehrig

He and Ruth were the best one-two punch of their era, if Ruth did not drive in the runs one game, Gehrig would put the “cleanup” in “cleanup hitter” and drive in the runs himself.

In 1931, Gehrig drove in 185 runs, which is the second-most for a single season in history, behind Hack Wilson, who drove in 191 runs a year prior.

Gehrig also won the triple crown in 1934, meaning he led the American League in home runs, RBIs, and batting average, a feat that only a few players have achieved in their careers.

5. CF Mickey Mantle

Following in DiMaggio’s footsteps, Mantle, led the New York Yankees to seven World Series titles. He won the triple crown in 1956, paving the way for his first MVP award.

Mantle was arguably one of the first five-tool players in baseball, as he led the American League in many batting categories, in a single season, at some point in his career and even won a gold glove award.

Behind Babe Ruth, Mantle is second on the all-time Yankees home run list.

6. 3B Alex Rodriguez

Although his best years were for the Texas Rangers, A-Rod won two MVPs as the Yankees’ third baseman.

Yes, he did admit to using steroids, but he was still one of the most feared hitters in baseball for almost two decades.

7. C Yogi Berra

Berra, won three MVPs, 10 World Series rings, meaning he has one for each finger, not even Tom Brady has reached that level of success.

Between his “Yogisms” and serving in WWII, he did all you can ask for of a man and a baseball player. He is the textbook definition of a legend in the game of baseball.

8. 2B Tony Lazzeri

There is an argument to have Robinson Cano in this lineup, however, Lazzeri’s Yankees tenure was longer and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He also helped the historic teams of the 1920s and 30s win five World Series titles.

9. P Whitey Ford

This is just to fill a hole in the lineup without a DH, if there had to be a DH, a case could be made for Don Mattingly, Graig Nettles, or Dave Winfield, cannot go wrong with any of these players.

Ford was arguably the best pitcher in Yankees history and would be the opening day starter for this team.

Bench:

C Bill Dickey

He was Yogi Berra’s predecessor and helped the Yankees win seven World Series rings. An 11-time all-star and a hall of fame inductee earn his spot on this team.

1B/OF Don Mattingly

His best season was 1986 when he hit 53 doubles. Mattingly is a great pinch-hit option off the bench.

2B Robinson Cano

Cano got the assist on the final out of 2009 World Series game 6, which one the Yankees first World Series since 2000. He played all but one game that season and became a big part of the New York Yankees team in the early 2010s.

He is the only active player on this team, but his spot is well deserved.

3B Graig Nettles

Nettles led the American League in home runs in 1976, with 32. He is a fan favorite of the ’70s Yankees teams and needs to be on this team.

OF Dave Winfield

Last, but not least, Winfield had one of the best arms of any right-fielder ever. He would rack up double-digit outfield assist seasons a bunch of times in his career.

He also had middle-of-the-lineup production at the plate during his career, making him the perfect player to round out this team.