As we anxiously await the start of what promises to be a thrilling 2018 Yankees baseball season, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the standout individual performances of recent years. Countless outstanding players have donned the pinstripes over the last decade and a half. Not surprisingly, many produced seasons worthy of top-five finishes in the Cy Young and MVP Award balloting. It wasn’t difficult to put together a 25-man roster that I’d feel confident putting on the field against a similarly constructed team from any franchise in baseball.
The Starting Lineup
They are called the Bronx Bombers, after all. So I favored home run hitters in building the lineup, but not exclusively. The result was 335 homers and 1,022 runs scored from the starting nine. They hit a gaudy .294 with a .399 on-base percentage and .953 OPS. I tried to break up the lefties and righties like you would in constructing a real lineup. Having two switch hitters in the batting order certainly helped.
1. Derek Jeter (2006) - SS
The Captain led the major leagues with a 7.1 offensive WAR. He was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and won a Gold Glove en route to finishing second in the MVP voting behind Justin Morneau. Jeter also finished only four points behind Joe Mauer for the AL Batting Title. He’s the obvious choice to hit leadoff.
2. Aaron Judge (2017) - RF
All Rise broke the rookie home run record en route to being the unanimous AL ROY winner. He was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and was runner-up for both the Gold Glove and MVP Award. Judge primarily hit second, so I see no reason to change that.
3. Jason Giambi (2003) - DH
Giambi led the league in walks and HBP. He was an All-Star and finished thirteenth in the MVP voting. With his power and on-base abilities, Giambi is the perfect lefty to put in between Judge and A-Rod.
4. Alex Rodríguez (2007) - 3B
A-Rod led the league in homers, RBIs, runs scored, total bases, slugging average, and OPS. He was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and won his third MVP Award.
5. Mark Teixeira (2009) - 1B
Tex led the league in home runs, RBIs, and total bases. He was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove winner, and finished second in the MVP voting behind Joe Mauer.
6. Robinson Cano (2012) - 2B
Cano was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove winner, and finished fourth in the MVP voting behind Cabrera, Trout, and Beltre.
7. Jorge Posada (2003) - C
Posada was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and finished third in the MVP voting behind Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Delgado.
8. Hideki Matsui (2004) - LF
Godzilla was one of four MLB players to appear in all 162 games for their respective clubs. He was an All-Star and received down-ballot MVP votes.
9. Curtis Granderson (2011) - CF
Granderson led the league in RBIs and runs scored. He was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and finished fourth in the MVP voting behind Verlander, Ellsbury, and Bautista. You know you have a world-beating lineup when your number-nine hitter has a .916 OPS with 41 homers.
I went with a five-man bench, rather than seven in the bullpen. The team already has a backup first baseman serving as designated hitter in the starting lineup.
1. Gary Sanchez (2017) - C
The Kraken broke the Yankees franchise record for most home runs in a season by a catcher, previously shared by Yogi Berra and Jorge Posada (30). Sanchez was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and received down-ballot MVP votes.
2. Alfonso Soriano (2003) - 2B/OF
Soriano was a 30-30 man for the second straight year, hitting 38 home runs and stealing 35 bases. He remains the only Yankee to accomplish the feat in consecutive seasons.
3. Didi Gregorius (2017) - SS
Gregorius broke Derek Jeter’s single-season franchise record for home runs by a shortstop and finished twentieth in the MVP voting.
4. Gary Sheffield (2004) - 3B/OF
Sheffield was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and finished second in the MVP voting behind Vladimir Guerrero.
5. Johnny Damon (2009) - OF
If you remember the 2009 championship run, then you know why Damon is on this team.
It was surprisingly easy to settle on the five starting pitchers. Some had multiple outstanding years, though. It is truly a circular rotation. I present them simply in reverse chronological order:
1. Luis Severino (2017)
Of the 40 qualifiers who started for the Yankees over the last 15 years, Severino had the lowest ERA, best ERA+, and lowest triple slash line against during his 2017 campaign. His .603 OPS against was also the lowest by far, besting Tanaka (.645 in 2016), Mussina (.647 in 2003), and Sabathia (.653 in 2009). That’s right, Sevy was that good in a breakout year that saw him named to the All-Star team and finish third in the Cy Young Award balloting behind Corey Kluber and Chris Sale.
2. CC Sabathia (2010)
Sabathia finished third in the Cy Young balloting behind Felix Hernandez and David Price during the only 20-win season of his spectacular career. CC was an All-Star and finished thirteenth in the MVP voting.
3. Mike Mussina (2008)
Moose won 20 games for the only time in his career during his final season. The likely Hall of Famer won his seventh Gold Glove, while finishing sixth in the Cy Young balloting and nineteenth in the MVP voting.
4. Chien-Ming Wang (2006)
Wang led the league in wins and finished second in the Cy Young voting behind Johan Santana.
5. Andy Pettitte (2003)
Pettitte was a 20-game winner for the second time in his career and finished sixth in the Cy Young balloting.
Eight of the twelve best seasons by a Yankee reliever over the last 15 years were produced by Mariano. Nevertheless, D-Rob, Betances, and Miller also turned in dominant campaigns. Chad Green had a historically great season in 2017.
The Big Unit was the obvious choice to fill the role of long reliever and spot starter. How could you not want an intimidating, left-handed, flame-throwing Hall of Famer coming out of the pen?
There you have it, my all-Yankees team from 2003 through last season. Feel free to dispute my choices in the comments section below. If you want to have some additional fun, how about choosing 15 more players to fill out the 40? Remember, though, no duplicates. Choose only one year per player. Happy managing!