Official announcement of Derek Jeter’s induction to the Hall of Fame will occur later today. It’ll be the second straight year featuring a Yankee, with Mariano Rivera entering Cooperstown last summer. But after these two prominent Yankees, who’s next?
Returning to the ballot for 2021
There are a number of ex-Yankees already on the ballot that will return for the next round of voting. Some are more notable than others.
On numbers alone, Roger Clemens belongs in the Hall. The Rocket spent six of his 24 seasons with the Yankees, though his best seasons were elsewhere. But more important than performance, his case is marred by allegations of statutory rape of a minor and PED usage.
Andy Pettitte will return to the ballot for a third time, but will likely fall short again. He received a respectable 9.9 percent of the votes last year; we’ll see how that shifts this season. Pettitte was a great Yankee, but falls short of Hall-worthiness statistically speaking. His link to PEDs won’t help his case anyway.
Gary Sheffield spent three seasons in pinstripes but absolutely raked while doing so (135 OPS+). He hasn’t received any higher than 13.6 percent of the vote and next year will be his seventh try. Again, PED allegations hinder his electability in spite of 509 career homer runs.
As long as they get 5 percent of the vote, Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu will return to the ballot for a second time next year. Giambi won’t make it, but he was fun to watch hit in the Bronx from 2002 through 2008. Similarly, Abreu is going to fall short.
Here are some notable names coming to the ballot in future years:
AJ Burnett, Nick Swisher
Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira
This is a pretty interesting group upcoming. Burnett, Swisher, and Teixeira all fall short by the numbers, though of that trio, Teix seemed to be on the track at one point. The switch-hitting first baseman really fell off after 2011, his age-31 season. Through that point, he had 314 homers, a 132 OPS+, and 44.1 bWAR. But he only rebounded for one more big season — 2015 — before he retired after his age-36 season a year later. Teixeira finished with 409 homers and just under 52 WAR. A very good career, no doubt, but he just didn’t have the longevity.
Things get much more intriguing when you consider A-Rod and Beltrán. The former’s lifetime numbers are historically great: he swatted 696 homers, recorded 3,115 hits, and accumulated 117.8 WAR. However, and this is a big one: he served a season-long PED suspension in 2014. And that wasn’t the first time he used PEDs, either. In 2009, he admitted to using back when he was with the Rangers. So, even though the numbers would make him a slam dunk, the drug usage almost assuredly will keep him out of Cooperstown.
Then there’s Beltrán. Before the recent news that has dominated the baseball world, I figured Beltrán would enter the Hall eventually. He’s got the sabermetric case with just under 70 WAR, though I’m not certain people thought of him as a shoe-in. Anyway, the decision to elect him may not be so difficult after all. His transgressions in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal will undoubtedly adversely affect his candidacy. He was explicitly called out in the Commissioner’s report which will do quite a bit of damage.
The next inductee: CC Sabathia
Bobby already wrote about why Sabathia belongs in Cooperstown, so no need to rehash here. We just have to play the waiting game now. Sabathia will be eligible in five years and hopefully will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. After Jeter, he’s clearly the next individual in line to don a Yankees cap in the Hall of Fame.
Down the road
Looking forward to being 50 years-old in 2040 when Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and Gerrit Cole (among others) go into the Hall as Yankees, you guys. Anyway, for fun, allow me to power rank the top five current Yankees most likely to get a plaque:
Time for some rapid-fire thoughts on this. I feel like picking Gleyber is bold given some of the accomplishments others on this list have, but I’ll do it no less. Stanton already has 309 homers and is just 31 years-old. Cole has a chance to cement himself as the best pitcher of his generation. Judge has Hall of Fame talent but will need a strong late career considering he didn’t start until he was 25 and has missed time because of injuries. Lastly, Chapman could end his career with the highest strikeout rate of all-time and very high up on the all-time saves list. That said, his domestic violence suspension should give voters pause.
In the last decade, the Yankees did not have an AL MVP. They didn’t have a Cy Young winner. They earned one Rookie of the Year, one Comeback Player of the Year and two Relievers of the Year.
For the team that produced the most regular season wins in the 2010s, that’s surprising. The Bombers still had an impressive collection of talent that rivals previous decades of the organization.
We decided to put together the Yankees’ best team of the last decade in two parts. First, in this edition, we’ve assembled a 25-man roster of the best players the team had in the 2010s, taking into account the whole of their accomplishments. In Part II, we’ll take a look at the individual seasons that stood out and merited inclusion here.
Let’s get to positions.
Catcher: Gary Sánchez
The Yankees have had good production from catcher in the 2010s, but it has come from a variety of players. Jorge Posada, Russell Martin, Chris Stewart, Brian McCann and Sánchez have all held down the job, with a healthy dose of Francisco Cervelli in-between. On the whole, pinstriped backstops have a 98 wRC+ and 40.8 fWAR, good for third and fourth-best in all of baseball in the span.
Of the aforementioned catchers, Sánchez has been the best of them this decade (2000s Jorge Posada would be a different question). In 3 1/2 full seasons, he’s bashed 105 home runs, more than any catcher in baseball since 2016. It’s four more than Yasmani Grandal, and 29 more than the next hitter. For his defensive warts, the Kraken is still a tremendous force.
First Base: Mark Teixeira
Teixeira’s best season in pinstripes was his debut in 2009, when he produced 5.3 WAR, finished second in MVP voting and won both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. His 2010s, particularly after 2011, were injury-filled as his steady switch-hitting bat was taken out of the lineup far too often.
For the first half of the decade, the Yankees went as Teixeira went. He was still productive from 2010-12, producing 11.3 bWAR and winning two Gold Gloves. When a wrist injury derailed both his 2013 and ’14 seasons, the Yankees’ offense lacked the necessary juice to reach the postseason. Then, when Tex regained All-Star form in 2015, he became the driving force to an unlikely wild card bid.
Second Base: Robinson Canó
Starlin Castro proved a fine stopgap and Gleyber Torres is going to man the middle of the Yankees’ infield for at least the next five years at least. However, Canó was the best Yankees second baseman in recent memory and his breakout season coincided with the turn of the decade.
From 2010 to 2013, Canó batted .312/.373/.533 (142 wRC+) and finished no worse than sixth in MVP voting every season while playing no fewer than 159 games. He slugged 117 homers and 176 doubles in that span and made up for his lack of walks (#KabakHat) by putting the ball in play with his line-drive swing. While Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter defined the 2009 World Series run on offense, Canó was the catalyst for the last gasps of that title window.
Shortstop: Didi Gregorius
This is the first one with two legitimate candidates, though Gregorius ultimately runs away with the honor. Jeter held down shortstop longer than he likely should have, yet he made four All-Star teams, somehow won a Gold Glove and was 2012 hit king, all 2010 or later.
Gregorius, meanwhile, had to come from underneath Jeter’s shadow, but he learned to excel in the Bronx and became a fan favorite in his own right. His defense kept him steady, yet it was his shockingly powerful bat that won the Bronx faithful over. He now owns the record for most home runs in a season by a Yankee shortstop (Gleyber nearly qualified to break it in 2019) and has more than a few memorable playoff homers to his ledger.
Third Base: Alex Rodriguez
By the end of the decade, A-Rod was in the broadcast booth. Before that, he was a DH. Before that, he was suspended for a year. And before that, injuries and age had sapped his production and turned him from MVP to mere All-Star.
Still, Rodriguez had back-to-back-to-back 4.0 WAR seasons from 2010-12 and launched 113 homers, including two 30-dinger years. I’m including his bounceback at DH under here, even though his 2015-16 seasons included all of 18 innings at the hot corner.
A-Rod had an eclectic group of successors. They include Chase Headley, the brief rise of Yangervis Solarte, Todd Frazier’s three months and Miguel Andújar, as well as the out-of-nowhere Gio Urshela in 2019. The last two are contenders for best season at third in NY this decade, but they don’t have the longevity of Rodriguez.
Left Field: Brett Gardner
The de facto Yankees captain of the last five years, Gardner is the longest-tenured Yankee for a reason. He started in center field for brief, non-congruous periods, but he became a Gold Glover in left field. It’s insane to think back to 2009 Gardner, who hit only three dongs, and then realize he hit 121 dingers over the following decade.
In addition to that, Gardner led the Bombers with 228 stolen bases in the 2010s and was successful on 80.5 percent of his steals. He’s not quite the spritely slap hitter of yesteryear, but he’s adjusted to the game and stayed in pinstripes all the while.
Center Field: Curtis Granderson
Aaron Hicks has an argument after usurping Jacoby Ellsbury in 2017 and playing well in center for the last three years. However, this is Granderson’s job, even with a move to left field by the end of his time in the Bronx.
Granderson hit 84 homers between the 2011 and ’12 seasons, leading baseball in runs scored and RBI in 2011. His weak arm made him a liability at times in the outfield, but he was a wrecking ball at the plate. His 2011 season, which was his second in New York, was a career year and the best from a Yankee center fielder since prime Bernie Williams.
Right Field: Aaron Judge
Judge transformed the Yankees in 2017. When he became an MVP-type player, the Bombers became contenders with him as their leader. If he were a one-hit (or 52-homer) wonder after 2017, dayenu. Yet he’s improved in some ways, becoming a more selective hitter and having his overall numbers only hampered by injury.
Nick Swisher deserves mention here as an All-Star and fan favorite in his own right. Funny enough, the compensation pick for letting Swisher go was the one the Yankees used to pick Judge. It all comes full circle.
Designated Hitter: Giancarlo Stanton
With A-Rod at third base, there’s no clear cut DH like a David Ortiz or Hideki Matsui to put here. Posada, Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Marcus Thames and Matt Holliday each had one good year with a host of a DH ABs, but Stanton gets the crown both with how he carried the team to the postseason in 2018 and how he stuck around for a second year.
Stanton will likely be one of the few players on this list that could repeat at his position in the 2020s, alongside Judge and Sanchez. Ideally, he’d play enough left field to earn recognition there, but his injury history makes that a debatable assumption.
If you’re putting these nine players into a lineup, weighing the player they were this decade, it’d go something like this:
Actual bench players: Cervelli, Andruw Jones, Chris Young, Ronald Torreyes
Next best to form bench: Martin, Gleyber, Swisher, Hicks or Jeter
You can go at building the bench in two ways: You can either use the actual bench players from the previous 10 years, or you can take the next best players that missed the list and try to back up each position. I give you both.
In the first one, Cervelli is listed as the starter in 2010 on Baseball Reference, but he was the primary backup for a few seasons. Jones and Young each had a great season as a platoon bat, while Torreyes was a steady utility man, never hitting all that well, but doing just enough to stay rostered.
In the second scenario, Martin or McCann could get the spot while Swisher is an easy choice as an outfielder and backup first baseman. Torres can backup the middle infield and third base in a pinch, which leaves it down to Hicks or Jeter. Either will do, I’ll take Hicks for an actual bench spot.
You can quibble with the order of the rotation as long as you put Sabathia at the top. There isn’t much you need to say about him. He was the heart and soul of the Yankees for 11 years and both served as an ace and a steady back-end starter.
Kuroda is one of the most underappreciated Yankees of the 21st century. He was only in the Bronx for three years, yet he outpaced his four seasons in Los Angeles in that time. It’s a shame he only got to pitch on one playoff team in New York.
Tanaka and Severino have been the Opening Day starters since Sabathia ceded the role in recent seasons and they’re both worthy of the honor. Tanaka looked like an ace before his Tommy John scare and has been a steadying presence with a knack for the big game since. Severino, meanwhile, is closer to actual ace-hood when healthy and his stretch from the start of 2017 to mid-2018 is about as good as any Yankee pitcher in the last couple decades.
The last spot was tough, choosing between Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda and Pettitte. The Bombers haven’t had tremendous starting pitching depth this decade and it shows in this. Pettitte got the spot because he was truly excellent, albeit in just 121 innings, in 2010, and was solid again in his final two seasons after his first retirement. An added bonus is how he helped Sabathia turn into a crafty lefty in his own mold.
Closer: Mariano Rivera Middle Relief: Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Andrew Miller, Chad Green Long Man: Adam Warren
There’s a legitimate case for Chapman or Robertson as the closer, but how could you not go with Rivera? He was still at the top of his game in 2010 and was excellent still over his final two full seasons. Over 193 2/3 innings after turning 40 just before the 2010 season, he had a 1.95 ERA (216 ERA+) with 167 strikeouts to 30 walks and a 0.929 WHIP.
The middle relief is a murderer’s row of potential or actual closers. Betances was the best reliever in baseball from 2014 to 2018. Chapman probably has the title since Rivera retired. Robertson and Miller were lights out and helped lead superbullpens that made the post-Mo years tolerable. Green, meanwhile, is a multi-inning stud and his 2017 season is up there with 1996 Mo and 2014 Betances for best New York reliever seasons of the last 30 years.
I figured, if we’re putting together an actual roster, we might as well put in a long man, a role that Warren fit like a glove. He was a great swingman in the Bronx and even did OK as a middle reliever. If you’re going with the next best reliever of the decade, Tommy Kahnle or Rafael Soriano are each worthy of inclusion.