In eager anticipation for today's matinee game to start; I've decided to go ahead and write up a nice fanpost to get my mind busy. I decided that it would be cool to revisit the years 2000-2009 and pick the five most underrated Yankee players. What do I mean by "underrated"? I suppose what I mean is players that fly semi-low under the radar and don't get enough appreciation for their contributions to the Yankees. No big name players will be featured on this list because players like Rodriguez, Pettitte, Jeter, Giambi (yes, I went there), Williams, Posada, Rivera, Mussina etc. all experienced terrific success. This article took much longer than I expected, and I had to pick and choose amongst many fabulous options. The following players are some that should be appreciated.
Author's Note: Obviously, this list will not mesh perfectly with anyone else's list. This is just for fun! Feel free to leave comments on players you think are worthy of being recognized on this list!
Let's begin with the honorable mentions/ unforgettable names of the past ten years. I think we all know who is listed as a memorable name and who was a solid backup player/bullpen pitcher that didn't quite make the cut.
1) Dan Giese (SP) 2008
2) Colter Bean (RP) 2005-2007
3) Shelley Duncan (UT) 2007-2009
4) Tyler Clippard (SP) 2007 [We all know his claim to fame...]
5) Bubba Crosby (OF) 2004-2006
6) Sal Fasano (C) 2006 [Ridiculous mustache]
7) Andy Phillips (1B) 2004-2007
8) Josh Phelps (1B) 2007
9) Doug "Caveman" Mientkiewicz (1B) 2007
10) Shawn Chacon (SP) 2006-2007
11) Scott Proctor (RP) 2004-2007
12) Darrell Rasner (SP) 2006-2008
13) Brian Bruney (RP) 2006-2009
14) Mike Myers (RP) 2006-2007
15) Jerry Hairston Jr. (UT) 2009
16) Ramiro Mendoza (RP) 1996-2002, 2005 [A reliable reliever, but left for Boston]
17) Nick Johnson (1B/DH) 2001-2003, 2010 [Seriously, he was spectacular in 2003]
18) Alfredo Aceves (SP/RP) 2008-2010 [Injuries keep him off]
On to the top 10...
#10 Most Underrated/Beloved Yankee from 2000-2009: Karim Garcia (RF) 2002-2003
Yes, he was a backup RF that only had 166 plate appearances with the Yankees. His 799 OPS was decent and a .342 OBP was decent as well for a primarily 3rd tier type player. The reason he's on this list is the fact that he picked a fight with the Red Sox bullpen in Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS as well as the fans of Fenway Park. However classless it was, it was hysterical and a truly memorable game and series that he was in the middle of. Oh yeah, Pedro threw at his head that game as well.
#9 Most Underrated/Beloved Yankee from 2000-2009: Jose Molina (C) 2008-2009
Let's be honest with each other, Molina isn't exactly the best hitting catcher in baseball. However, he proved to be an excellent backup catcher and was a great fielder. He hit the last homerun at the old Yankee Stadium and will always be remembered for that. He'll also be remembered as a man that helped keep A.J.'s head straight during the playoffs (anyone remember his snap throw to 1st base in Game 2 of the WS to nab Werth?). For this alone, he is on the list.
#8 Most Underrated/Beloved Yankee from 2000-2009: Ruben Sierra (OF/DH) 2004-2005
The man could flat out rake. It seemed like whenever I turned on the radio in the car, Ruben Sierra was hitting a homerun. He wasn't exactly a great player, but just fun to watch.
#7 Most Underrated/Beloved Yankee from 2000-2009: Aaron Small (SP/RP) 2005-2006
Whether it was some sort of anomaly or just plain luck, Aaron Small went 10-0 in 2005 with a 3.20 ERA. He never had overpowering stuff but induced a good amount of groundballs and actually helped the Yankees to the playoffs in 2005.
#6 Most Underrated/Beloved Yankee from 2000-2009: Miguel Cairo (UT) 2004, 2006-2007
The famed journeyman himself. Believe it or not, Cairo played a tad-below average defense and found ways of getting on base even though it was not through hits very often. He was always a good option off the bench and an overall good man.#5 Most Underrated/Beloved Yankee from 2000-2009:
#5 Most Underrated/Beloved Yankee from 2000-2009: Mike Stanton (RP) 1997-2002
Stanton was always a reliable arm out of the bullpen and helped the Yankees to three world championships. Although his 2000, 2001 and 2002 were all arguably better than his earlier three years. He appeared in 224 games for the Yankees between 2000-2002 with an impressive 7.8 K/9, 3.18 ERA, 1.33 WHIP. His 18-8 record wasn't too shabby either. #29 was a great ballplayer for the Yankees and he deserves to be on the list.
#4 Most Underrated/Beloved Yankee from 2000-2009: Tom "Flash" Gordon (RP) 2004-2005
Gordon was a machine for the Yankees. In just two years, he pitched in 159 games for the Yankees (79.5 per year). His 2.38 ERA was spectacular and he served as a great set-up man for Rivera. 0.98 WHIP and a K/9 of 8.7 were unbelievable. The man could throw heat.
#3 Most Underrated/Beloved Yankee from 2000-2009: Robin Ventura (3B) 2002-2003
When Yankee fans think of 3rd basemen, they think of two players: Alex Rodriguez and Scott Brosius. Who was there inbetween these two giants? Robin Ventura. In 2002, Ventura as an All Star 3rd baseman for the Yankees that compiled a 3.9 WAR, .368 OBP while smashing 27 homers and knocking him 93 runs. Truly one of the most overlooked players in the past ten years.
#2 Most Underrated/Beloved Yankee from 2000-2009: Aaron Boone (3B) 2003
The other 3rd baseman was Aaron Boone. Why in the world is he so high up on this list? We all know he was a fairly awful 3rd baseman with the Yankees after being traded from Cincinnati to New York because he struggled to make contact with the baseball. Two reasons: 1) He hit a walkoff homer in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against Boston... arguably the most memorable Yankee game in history. 2) He played a famous pick-up basketball game in which he badly hurt his ankle. The Yankees then traded for Alex Rodriguez. Aaron Boone, you'll always be a Yankee in my book.
#1 Most Underrated/Beloved Yankee from 2000-2009: Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez (SP) 1998-2004
After being banned from Cuban baseball in 1997, El Duque left Cuba in a boat for America. The Yankees signed him immediately (because he was not a U.S. citizen) to a four-year, $6.6 million contract. It paid off. Although his best years were probably 1998 and 1999, he was still a big part of success in his later Yankee years. K/9 of 7.2, 1.23 WHIP, 521 innings pitched, 32-27 record. He was a workhorse and helped the Yankees to three world championships total and one in the 2000-2009 era. Although he is widely known by Yankee fans, he was never exactly a shining star in the baseball world. He tops this list.