Goodman: Using Any Yankees in Franchise History, What's Your Lineup in One Must-Win Game?

Max Goodman

If you're managing a team that has to win one single game – with each and every player in Yankees franchise history at your disposal – who makes your starting lineup?

We all have our favorites, but this is easier said than done! Each position has several iconic players. Hall of Famers, record holders and some of the most clutch players in baseball history.

So, in wake the COVID-19 pandemic keeping so many people indoors looking for something to do, I presented that very question on Twitter as a mechanism for fans to come together and debate some Yankees history.

Pretty self explanatory, right? Again, it doesn't have to be the best at each position. You're the skipper so it's up to you to pick a starting nine and pitcher that you trust can get the job done. 

Before jumping into any results here, I'll preface this with the fact that there's no right answer. In fact, the lack of restrictions on this exercise alone is chiefly why it's so much fun. 

If you legitimately think Brendan Ryan should be at shortstop or you'd rather have Greg Bird at first base over anyone else in Yankees history – as one user did – then that technically satisfies the parameters of this activity! 

Not sure if you would win this hypothetical contest, but hey, you're in charge. 

Unfortunately, I fell a bit short of receiving the same number of replies to this as Marc Carig of The Athletic did on his similar Twitter exercise last week  providing fans with an opportunity to try and come up with a better all-time starting lineup than his. To be honest, however, I was pleased with the amount of responses I got back! 

It's easily enough to break this down and odds are, you'll agree with these final results. 

SP Andy Pettitte

C Yogi Berra

1B Lou Gehrig

2B Robinson Cano

3B Alex Rodriguez

SS Derek Jeter

LF Joe DiMaggio

CF Mickey Mantle

RF Babe Ruth

Designated hitter ended up presenting a wonky and unrealistic situation here – as one player can't be in two places at once – so I'll get to that later on.

What do you think? Can the battery of Andy Pettitte and Yogi Berra keep opposing hitters at bay? Will that offense put some runs on the board? 

By the way, didn't think there was a need to even include a slot for one relief pitcher or closer. I'm sure you can understand why...

Let's quickly run through each position and take a peek into the voting and who, if anyone, was close to sneaking into this historic lineup.

Starting Pitcher: Andy Pettitte

Hard not to pick the pitcher with the most postseason starts (44) and wins (19) in baseball history to get the ball in a single must-win game...

Andy Pettitte was going to get the most votes at starting pitcher from the very beginning – pulling out in front instantaneously. Whitey Ford ended up with the second-most representation among the replies but finished with just above half the votes Pettitte received. 

Others to get at least one vote: CC Sabathia, Mike Mussina, David Cone, Ron Guidry (who had the third-most votes) and Vic Raschi.

Not sure who Vic Raschi is? Allow @stevo2321 on Twitter to explain his decision.

Catcher: Yogi Berra

Jorge Posada and Thurman Munson both drew enough votes to make sure this wasn't too much of a landslide, but Berra ran away with it. 10 rings, three Most Valuable Player Awards and 18 All-Star Game appearances will do that for ya.

When asked by an anonymous user why he elected to go with Bill Dickey behind the plate (who got just three votes overall) rather than Yogi, @DonZemmer explained he wanted to teach the next generation a history lesson.

Well, it got me to spend 20 minutes admiring Dickey's stats on baseball reference, so consider that a mission accomplished.

First Base: Lou Gehrig

At first base, it was a race for third place.

Lou Gehrig – who leads all Yankees in franchise history with 1,995 runs batted in, 163 triples and 1,190 extra base hits – had the second most votes at any individual position.

The Iron Horse also registered one single vote at another spot in the infield. @30Charliezzz chose to give the nod to Don Mattingly at first and slide Gehrig over to second base. 

To answer your question, no, he never played second base in his actual career.

READ: Don Mattingly and Mariano Rivera baseball cards re-imagined by renowned artists in Topps' latest collection, Project 2020.

Second Base: Robinson Cano

Here's where we return to the most recent Yankees in this lineup. Granted, not quite as recent as the present day as Gleyber Torres needed to double his final tally of votes to tie Robinson Cano for first place.

In Cano's nine years with the Yankees, the sweet-swinging lefty hit .309. He finished in the top-six of MVP voting in five consecutive seasons (2010-2014) and made the All-Star Game in each of those campaigns.

Where would he rank in franchise history if he stuck around rather than heading cross-country to Seattle in 2014. Speaking of which, can you believe Cano's departure was six years ago already? 

Yup, me neither.

Third Base: Alex Rodriguez

Graig Nettles and Scott Brosius each have more rings than Alex Rodriguez, but A-Rod had no trouble winning the popular vote at third base. A couple old-time fans fought for Nettles and Brosius but even a combination of both their tallies wouldn't have beaten No. 13.

At one point, there was a debate as to whether or not Rodriguez was eligible for shortstop here. If you want to get technical, he did appear at shortstop in five games across his Yankees career. Even still, there's no way he would've received more votes than this next legend.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter

Only one lineup didn't feature The Captain. Seems like one vote away from being unanimous is becoming a trend for Derek Jeter at this point.

The lone lineup that didn't have Jeter on it belongs to @statfreak28. Jeter's successor in real life – Didi Gregorius – earned the role for a couple clutch postseason performances. 

All in all, that's an infield of A-Rod, Jeter, Cano and Gehrig. Not too shabby.

Outfield: Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth

In the outfield, it's far easier to mix and match your favorites in different spots. There were eight different names that appeared at more than one outfield position – from Brett Gardner, to Reggie Jackson and Bernie Williams.

Mickey Mantle actually received the most votes in both left field and center field. Since he was only two votes ahead of Joe DiMaggio in left – while DiMaggio also received a significant amount of votes in center – I took the liberty of slotting Joltin' Joe in as a starter. As fleet-footed as Mantle was in his prime, he can't play two positions at once!

Then again, if you ask @Keith_McPherson, one player can hold it down at all three outfield positions at once – no matter how many years they've played...

Same goes for Babe Ruth. He was far and away the leading vote getter in both right field and designated hitter. I chose to keep him locked in right field as it was where he received more votes.

If DH were to be included here, Hideki Matsui deserves some recognition. He came in second in that position's ballot. That said, using the same logic as DiMaggio in left, Aaron Judge was closer to catching Ruth in right field than Matsui was at tying The Babe's final tally at DH. 

Therefore, if it were up to me, I'd put Ruth at designated hitter and keep Judge – the lone active Yankees player in this lineup – at his natural position.

Either way, keeping DiMaggio, Mantle and Ruth all in the lineup is imperative. After all – alongside Gehrig – you can argue they're the representatives of the Yankees' Mount Rushmore.

Would your hypothetical lineup be different than this? Comment below with any changes you'd make! 

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