New York Yankee Top 10s: The top 10 Yankee first baseman throughout history

This is another New York Yankees Top 10’s. This one looks back through history to reveal my top 10 Yankee first baseman. This is, of course, subjective. 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 were also a factor. Special situations like changing career positions were also a consideration. In the next days and weeks, I will be examining all the position players, including the pitchers and catchers.

#10: Nick Etten (1943-1946)

Anchoring this list of best first basemen is Nick Etten. There are several similar players, but I choose Etten. The rest of the Yankee’s first basemen of the period are relatively unremarkable. I picked Etten even though he only played 4 years for the Yankees because he had a huge impact in his first year with the Yankees. He was a champion in the 1943 World Series; although he didn’t hit well, he was a formidable hitter for the Yankees during the mid-’40s. He had a .275 batting average and was an MVP candidate for three of his four years with the Yankees.

#9: Joe Pepitone (1962-1969)

Joe Pepitone was a bit of a character but was an excellent defender at first base for the Yankees for seven years. The Yankees signed him in 1958 at age 17. In four years, he was called up to the majors. He was the three-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glover. During 1963 he hit 27 homers with 89 RBIs. The following year he hit 28 homers with 100 RBIs. Pepitone was very aware of his appearance and was a bit of a lady’s man. He was the first every Yankee to bring a hairdryer into the clubhouse.

#8: Wally Pipp (1915-1925)

For almost a decade, Wally Pipp manned first base for the New York Yankees; the famous Lou Gehrig replaced him. When he started on first base, he was just 22 years old. Back during a time when the game was not known for home runs, he led the league in home runs with 12 in 1916 and nine in 1917. But the best was yet to come. Pipp amassed 833 RBI and 1,577 hits in 11 seasons in the Bronx. He was an important part of the Yankee’s first World Championship in 1923.

#7: Chris Chambliss (1974-1979) (1988)

In his time with the Yankees, Chambliss had an All-star and Gold Glove Award to his name. From 1975-to 1979, Chambliss turned into an important part of two Yankee World Series championship teams. In 1975, he hit .304 with 38 doubles. The following three years, he had a cumulative AVG of .285 and averaged 15 HR and 92 RBI per season, earning an All-Star selection in 1976 and a Gold Glove award in 1978. Chambliss is most known for his walk-off homer in the 1976 ALCS, causing the Yankees to win the pennant. In a famous video, the Yankees fans poured onto the field.

#6: Jason Giambi (2002-2008)

Jason Giambi could have been higher on this list if he had stayed longer with the Yankees. He had a .404 on-base percentage with the Yankees, fourth all-time. He had 209 homers over six years with 604 RBIs. In his first season as a Yankee, he won a Silver Slugger Award, batting .314 with 41 homers and 122 RBIs. Giambi could have been an even better player for the Yankees, but he had several injuries from a tumor to parasites. In game 7 of the Boston 2003 ALCS, he set up Aaron Boone’s pennant-winning homer.

#5: Mark Teixeira (2009-2019)

During his time with the Yankees, he hit 206 home runs over the nine-year span. Yankees fans were amazed at some of the plays he made at first base. His best years with the Yankees were his first three years. He won World Championship in 2009. In 2009 he was also an MVP candidate, an All-Star, Gold Glover, and Silver Slugger. In 2010 and 2011, he was again a Gold Glove and MVP candidate. After 2012 his production was sapped with several injuries, but his defense at first remained first class.

#4: Tino Martinez (1996-2001) (2205)

Tino Martinez could easily be number 3 on this list if he played longer for the Yankees. He is fourth all-time in RBIs (739) among Yankee first basemen. He appeared in four Yankees World Series. During his Yankee career, he had 192 home runs batting .276. His most productive season was 1997 when he batted .296 with 44 home runs and 141 RBIs, better stats than he had with his other four teams. That year he also was a Silver Slugger and won the home run derby.

#3: Bill “Moose” Skowron (1954-1962)

The “Moose” was a seven-time All-Star and a four-time World Champion while with the New York Yankees. His World Series performances during his career resulted in seven home and 26 RBIs. Skowron became the starting first baseman in 1958 and remained there for the next four years. Besides being an excellent defender, his muscular physique appearance at the plate made opposing pitchers tremble.

#2: Don Mattingly (1982-1995)

You can argue with any of my placements, but my number 2 and number 1 first baseman leave little room for argument. “Donnie Baseball” is one of the all-time great baseball players in any position. He manned first base for the New York Yankees for 14 years. To this day, he remains one of the most popular Yankees of the modern era. He won nine Gold Gloves and would be in the Hall of Fame if it wasn’t for his back injury at age 29 that held back his power at the plate.

#1: Lou Gehrig (1923-1939)

Lou Gehrig is undeniably the best New York Yankee first baseman of all time, possibly the best first baseman to ever play the game. From 1925 to 1939, he played in 2,130 consecutive games, a Yankee record. Lou Gehrig may have been the Yankee’s most durable player ever. The great defensive first baseman drove in at least 100 runs a season for 13 straight seasons.

In 1931 he recorded an American League record of 185 RBIs. His lifetime batting average of .340. He had two MVPs and the Triple Crown in 1934. The power hitters’ career was cut short in 1939 when he came down with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which later became known as Lou Gehrig disease. In a matter of just months, Gehrig could play no more. On July 4, 1939, he made one of the most famous speeches in baseball history, telling the jam-packed Yankee Stadium fan that he was “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” It would be the last time Yankee fans would see their favorite first baseman.

The “Iron Horse’ as he was known, died just eighteen days before his 38th birthday on June 2, 1941. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. The hall set aside the waiting rules to immediately induct him. Derek Jeter in 2009 passed his record hits of 2,721, but Gehrig still holds the record for most consecutive games played and the most triples in franchise history with 163 over his career.

 

New York Yankee Top 10s: The Yankees unsung players, what do you think?

The New York Yankees have had loads of star players throughout the years like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford, Thurmon Munson, and Derek Jeter, among dozens upon dozens more. But for as many stars the Yankees have had, there are even more that contributed in many ways and became unsung. The reasons for this are many, including being on a team so great that some players slip through the cracks. Others may have had average careers but contributed in an illustrious moment.

In another top 10, we examine some New York Yankee players who never really became headliners but did make their mark somehow. I could have picked 50 but arbitrarily narrowed it down to just 10.

10. Cecil Fielder 1996-1997

Cecil Fielder was never a big star with the Yankees, but in his two years, he hit .260. The All-Star and MVP candidate with the Detroit Tigers was traded to the Yankees. In just 151 games, he managed 26 home runs. Overshadowed by the likes of Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams, he never really endeared himself to Yankee fans. He had the distinction of winning the Babe Ruth Award for outstanding performance in the 1996 postseason. The Yankees would go on to win the World Series against the Atlanta Braves.

9. Ronald Torreyes 2016-2018

Little Ronald Torreyes (5? 8,” 151 pound) was a fan favorite super-utility infielder for the New York Yankees for three seasons under manager Joe Girardi that frequently used Torreyes. He hit .281 for the Yankees, but 2017 was his breakout year when it seemed whenever Girardi would put him in for a hit, he seemed to not disappoint. In 2017 he led the team in batting average at .314. When Aaron Boone was named Yankee manager, Torreyes was traded to the Chicago Cubs.

8. Aaron Small 2005-2006

Aaron Small is an interesting story that I remember well. Aaron Small was a Journeyman pitcher. Aaron Small was about to call it quits. He spent most of his career in the minors, and he wasn’t pitching well enough to be a serious contender for a spot in the New York rotation in 2005. Then, an injury bug hit, and Small found himself with a spot start in July. He would pitch well and would get a win. Small would then go on a tear, he ended the year 10-0, with a 3.20 ERA. Small the 33-year-old, his 2005 season helped the Yankees to clinch the division title.

7. Ralph Terry 1956-1957 and 1959-1964

Ralph Terry was a Yankee pitcher for seven years in two different stints. In 1962 he had a 23 game winning season going 23-12 with a 3.19 ERA. He only had a no-decision in four games started. He also led all of baseball in wins in 1962. He was known as a “finisher.” In 1963 he completed a career-high 18 complete games.

6. Joe Dugan 1922-1928

Joe Dugan is a New York Yankee player that most fans have not only not seen him play but probably have never heard of. He batted in his seven Yankee years .286 and was an MVP candidate in 1925. Although he was never a home run hitter, he had five straight seasons hitting over 100 hits on the season. But what made Dugan a Yankee worth remembering is that he was an excellent defender at the hot corner, leading the American League as a third baseman in fielding percentage in four consecutive seasons.

5. George Selkirk 1934-1942

During his nine years of Major League Baseball service, all with the Yankees, Selkirk appeared in 846 games, batting .290 (.265 in 21 World Series games), with 108 regular-season home runs, 131 doubles, 41 triples, 810hits, and 576 RBIs. Selkirk earned the nickname “Twinkletoes” for his distinctive way of running on the balls of his feet. Selkirk twice in his career recorded 8 RBI in one game, both against the Philadelphia A’s at Yankee Stadium after World War II he managed at the A and triple A levels for the Yankees.

4. Chien-Ming Wang 2005-2009

Wang is an interesting story while being sad at the same time.  The New York Yankees got Wang from his homeland of Taiwan, where he was a huge pitching star.  He was projected as a possible ace for the Yankees. In his first rookie year, he pitched to a 4.02 ERA. In his second year, he was 19-3 with an ER of 3.63. In 2007 he would come in second in the Cy Young Award Voting. He pitched two consecutive 19 win seasons. Then his future was turned upside down when he was injured running the bases. He would never return to form and never become the next big Yankee pitching star.

3. Ron Blomberg 1969-1978

Ron Blomberg is one of the most unsung Yankee players. Blomberg is mostly known today as one of the old guys who shows up annually for the Old Timer’s Day Game. Few remember that Blomberg is usually recognized as the first designated hitter in baseball. In his ten years being a DH and outfielder for the Yankees, he hit .302. In his first plate appearance as a DH in 1973, he walked with the bases loaded against the Red Sox Luis Tiant. The bat he used is in the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum.

2. David Robertson 2008-2014, 2017 and 2018

It would be hard for David Robertson to become a huge star with the Yankees being constantly overshadowed by future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera.  But nevertheless, he made his mark in his two stints with the Yankees. He pitched for the better part of 9 seasons he would go 38-22 in 501 games. Even though he never started a game for the Yankees and often being called in in a rough situation, he managed a career of 2.75 ERA.

 

1. Eddie Lopat 1948-1955

Lopat just missed being a Yankee legend. He pitched eight years with the New York Yankees. During his time with the Yankees, he had an outstanding career going 113-59 with an ERA of 3.19. He was an All-Star and a three-time MVP candidate. Lopat had four years with 15 or more wins. In 1951 he would have 21 wins, and in 1953, he had a winning percentage of .800, going 16-4. In 1953 he led the American League in both earned run average and won/lost percentage. Feel free to comment on any Yankee you remember as an unsung Yankee hero.

Honorable mentions:

Other Yankee players should be recognized: Jorge Posada may never get the recognition Thurman Munson, Bill Dickey, or Yogi Berra, he may never even get into the Hall of Fame. Posada, however, is still one of the greatest New York Yankee catchers. His time with the Yankees was overshadowed by Derek Jeter and some of the Yankee pitching greats.

Roy White was stuck in Reggie Jackson’s shadow, so his overshadowed is a bit of an understatement. White was a quiet gentleman that didn’t demand the spotlight, and belonging to a team with more prominent stars led to him being primarily unrecognized. He played in three World Series teams and helped to win two of them.

White also played for some lousy teams before George Steinbrenner took over the team. He joined the team when CBS was spending nothing on the team or the Stadium. Even at the end of his career, he was overshadowed by the acquisition of Reggie Jackson.

Hank Bauer’s another name that is forgotten among names like Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Whitey Ford during Casey Stengel’s era.  Despite the lack of name recognition, Bauer helped Stengel’s teams win seven titles in 10 years.  Five of those championships were consecutive, a major league record.

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

 

New York Yankees News/Rumors: Matt Blake, Will there be baseball, Challenges yet to come and more

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Boone

Matt Blake’s new job not what he thought it would be:

New York Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake is in the second week of his new career getting ready for the home opener at Yankee Stadium, or that is supposed to be the scenario in a season that has gone south and quickly.  Instead, Matt Blake is at his home in Cleveland twiddling his thumbs.

The coronavirus has shut down all baseball operations for the New York Yankee and all of MLB.  Blake was hired in the offseason replacing longtime pitching coach Larry Rothschild was fired.  Blake was previously with the Cleveland Indians as a pitching coordinator.  During the offseason, he got the news that he was selected as the new pitching coach for the Yankees, a dream job, putting him at the top of his profession.  After a month of getting pitchers ready baseball and his dream came to a screeching halt.

Blake, now at home, is trying to keep pitchers ready remotely.  The situation is hardly acceptable as the halt and restart at some point is likely to cause more pitching injuries than if spring training and the start of the season was seamless.  Here’s what Blake had to say about the situation:

“I think there’s definitely a possibility of it,” he said Wednesday on a conference call. “Just like any [sudden] start and stop throughout the season.”  “We were building and felt like we were in a good rhythm in spring training and guys were performing at a high level and we were coming together and then you hit this hard stop. The momentum you were building kind of lapsed. We are doing our best trying to stay connected. Take it one day at a time. This is bigger than baseball. Hopefully we get back to the point where we are talking about mound visits and things of that nature.’’

Yankee pitchers are now spread around the country, trying to stay in pitching form while staying in contact with Matt Blake.  Acquired during the winter meetings, new New York Yankee pitching ace Gerrit Cole is probably in the best situation to keep in shape.  He is at his new home in Greenwich, CT.  He has a large plot of land and can pitch to his athlete wife Amy.

Will there be a baseball season?

With each passing day, a New York Yankee baseball season seems to be further in jeopardy.  The coronavirus has turned the country and the world upsidedown and, of course, all of MLB, the Olympics, and all of the sports.  The baseball 162 game season was supposed to start a week ago.  With each passing week and the spread of the virus, any baseball season keeps being pushed back.

The season was delayed by two weeks when MLB abruptly ended the postseason and announced the delay.  Since then, ever-increasing CDC restrictions have pushed that date further and further back.  First into May, then June, and now any start of the season is not likely before July 4th.  Just days ago, Toronto home of the Blue Jays had banned any city-led public gatherings to June 30th.   If health officials can not control the spread of the virus, the entire baseball season may, at some point, be canceled.

Challenges yet ahead:

In the best-case scenario, the virus will reach its apex in the next two or three weeks, and MLB can start to make some plans for a shortened season.  Once they know that the CDC will lift public gathering restrictions, MLB will have to decide on the length of a mini-spring training that New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone has suggested being three to four weeks.  He cited the need for that to prevent unnecessary injuries once the season starts.  This pushes a start date even further into the summer.

Originally MLB suggested and hoped for a 120 day season once baseball resumed.  With the continuing delay that is starting to look like an 80-100 game season.  The question is if it is shorter than that, will the season be considered legitimate?

If a baseball season resumes that are challenges that must be overcome.  It is expected that the minor league season will eventually start sooner than major league games and, most likely, without fans in the stands.  Whether major league teams can do that is in question.  As it stands now, MLB has said there would be no baseball operations until mid-May.   However, CDC restrictions may keep that from being a reality.

The question of whether MLB games can be played in front of empty stands is still an open one.  Player’s salaries are paid with ticket sales and concessions revenues, without fans there is no revenue.  Further, MLB and MBLPA negotiations are likely.  Playing in empty stadiums, at least at the outset, could provide MLB a way to avoid what could be the embarrassment of small crowds while meeting the obligation to play as many games as feasible.

Many options will have to be decided before the season starts.  One consideration that seems to becoming more necessary is doubleheaders on weekends to get as many games in as possible.  Players indicated that might cause more injuries, to that MLB is looking into having seven-inning doubleheaders to reduce that likelihood.

The biggest challenge ahead for both minor league and major league teams is that there will probably not be an “all clear” bell.  Public gathering restriction will likely be lifted at different times across the country.  The one thing that is for sure is that the coronavirus and the health of the public are bigger than baseball and will end up controlling what MLB does.

The Tampa Bay Yankees:

About a week ago, I suggested that the New York Yankees could become the Tampa Bay Yankees this year in an effort to get a baseball season in if Yankee Stadium becomes unavailable due to the coronavirus and restrictions of public gatherings.  This, of course, could be applied to all of baseball with games played at the Cactus and Grapefuild league locations.

With the aggressive spread of the coronavirus, that suggestion seems more remote as other areas that weren’t infected just a week ago seem to have more significant problems now.  The Miami/Dade and Broward Counties in Florida is quickly becoming a situation that is now prevalent in the NYC area.   Unfortunately, the area around Yankee Stadium has become the epicenter of the virus in the U.S.  The New York Yankees most likely will not be playing regular-season games in Florida.

New York Yankees: Boone shuts down rumors about moving Judge to first base

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge has a cracked rib and had a collapsed lung (undiagnosed in the first tests) that presumably dates back to a play in the outfield last September. There have been rumors about the New York Yankees wanting to move him to first base.

Apparently, that won’t be the case. Yankees manager Aaron Boone shut down the rumors and dismissed the notion of moving Judge from right field, where he proved to be one of the best in the Major Leagues last season.

Talking at the Michael Kay Show, the Yankees’ skipper said that “he has had a couple of unfortunate injuries the last couple of years, but moving him? Absolutely not… He is an elite defender and one of the game’s great players. Never a discussion to move him.’’

The 2017 Rookie of the Year is still recovering from his cracked rib. A recent CT scan showed slight improvement, and he will be re-evaluated in a couple of weeks. At the moment of suffering the injury, there were doubts regarding his opening day availability, but given that the season isn’t expected to start until June or July (if there is baseball at all) he could be ready from the beginning.

The Yankees have an elite outfielder in Judge

It would preposterous to move Judge from right field at this point while he still has his youth, range and athleticism. According to Fangraphs, he had a 7.6 defensive rating, a very good number that makes him an elite option.

In fact, judging by DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) Judge led not only the American League, but also MLB right fielders with 20, in a tie with Los Angeles Dodgers’ fellow slugger Cody Bellinger.

His phenomenal throwing arm would also be wasted in first base, not to mention that the New York Yankees have plenty of options there as well.

New York Yankees: What Pitcher will make the Biggest Impact in the Playoffs?

New York Yankees, Domingo German

The biggest concern for the Aaron Boone and the New York Yankees has to be deciding the three or four starters in the postseason.

Most of the Yankees’ starting pitching has been average at best. It will most certainly be tough building a playoff rotation against the top offenses in the league. The top candidate for getting the nod in game 1 of the American League Division Series is Domingo German. Unless, the former ace, Luis Severino, can come back strong from his injury, German has to be the favorite.

German is leading Major League Baseball with 16 wins. If he continues to get run support, he should continue to dominate in the postseason with his 3.96 earned-run average (MLB At Bat). Being only 27 years old, Yankee fans hope to see German become a superstar for a long time. He started most of his career in the bullpen and had a few spots starts the last couple of years.  No one saw this coming from German, but he has really helped stabilize the rotation this year.

What has been the key to German’s success this year?

German’s ability to expand the strike zone with his curveball has led to a lot of swings and misses this year. This league now demands an upper 90s fastball and a high spin rate on a breaking pitch. Severino is the only one in the rotation that fits those standards. However, German has a fastball ranging from 93 to 95 miles per hour and curveball with a lot of dive. An underrated stat for pitchers: spin rate. German has an average spin rate of 2,565 rotations per minute on his curveball. Masahiro Tanaka tries to accomplish the same with his splitter and slider with an average of 2,387 rotations per minute (MLB At Bat).

Chase rate has also appeared to become an advantage for “finesse” pitchers that do not throw in the upper 90s. Larry Rothschild, the pitching coach of the New York Yankees, has to receive a lot of credit teaching the pitchers to have their breaking pitches “drop off the table.” The Yankees’ pitchers have excelled at making their breaking pitches look like a strike then, with a high spin rate, dropping off the corners of the plate. This formula has seemed to be the key for pitchers with an average or below-average velocity on their fastball. Hopefully, German can continue to use this recipe to his advantage for his starts in the postseason.

New York Yankees’ Adam Ottavino Could Have Best Season Yet In 2019

The New York Yankees featured one of the more dominant bullpens in the MLB in 2018, but that didn’t stop them from improving it even further. The Bombers acquired reliever Adam Ottavino on a three-year, $27 million deal, replacing the departed David Robertson.

Last season, Ottavino finished with a 2.43 ERA and six wins (four losses).  With Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Zack Britton, and Ottavino making up the bullpen, every option seems to have “ace” reliever potential.

Can we trust Ottavino to be an elite option for the Yankees?

Now, it’s important to be cognizant of Ottavino’s past in regard to statistical success. The 33-year-old righty has only had one truly elite season, which was in 2018. Striking out 13 per nine innings, Ottavino raised his game to another level, and the Yankees are hoping he can continue to provide quality performances for the remainder of his contract. They will need him at the top of his game to make a run at a potential World Series.

My biggest concern is his inconsistency by year, as in 2017 he boasted an ERA over five. He averaged over six walks per nine innings and has only two winning seasons in eight years. While that doesn’t necessarily reflect his pitching, it’s certainly bothersome.

How did Ottavino fuel a stellar 2018?

The Yankees’ new reliever actually decreased his velocity and saw improvement after a troubling 2017. According to  Baseball Savant, the velocity on Ottavino’s sinker actually fell, from 94.2 mph in 2017 to 93.8 mph in 2018. His fastball dropped from 94.4 mph to 94.2 mph. While these are incremental drops, they tell a story.

Ottavino managed to improve his pitching by actually reducing his speed and focusing primarily on his slider. It was his No.1 pitch while his sinker was his No.2. With a bullpen stocked full of different skill-sets, I would expect head coach Aaron Boone to utilize his pitchers tactically against specific hitters and teams. Ottavino will likely be a stellar addition for the Yanks and make a significant impact on the season ahead.