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Bob Meusel leads off all-time Yankees team of complementary greats

Let’s talk about some overlooked Yankee greats, starting with Bob Meusel.

Babe Ruth Posing with Jacob Ruppert and Bob Meusel
Babe Ruth, owner Jacob Ruppert, and Bob Meusel

As we reach the end of another year, the end of this frozen period in baseball doesn’t seem particularly near. The important topics that are bound to generate the most friction in negotiations between the two sides on this CBA negotiation haven’t even been discussed yet. The downtime will last for at least a significant while.

In this period without much in terms of news to discuss, we’ll reach all the way to the back of our minds for different ideas to present you, the fans, with some entertaining content and a little bit of a distraction until everything is settled.

I’ll be starting a mini-series with the purpose of creating an all-time Yankees team focused exclusively on complementary players. All members had solid careers, but would otherwise never get mentioned alongside the all-time greats. Diehard fans may know most of these guys, but it’s important to highlight their accomplishments and places in Yankees history.

With each post, we’ll be adding players to the fold while discussing a little bit of what they did in pinstripes. For this first post, we’ll be adding a corner outfielder: Bob Meusel.

Career NYY stats: 1,294 G, .311/.358/.500, 121 OPS+, 146 HR, 1,009 RBI

There’s no talking about Bob Meusel without referring to Babe Ruth. Having played for the entirety of the 1920’s as an outfielder with the Yankees, his career was always going to be intertwined and overshadowed by the Babe.

For starters, Meusel pretty much split his time in right and left field for his entire career with 695 games in left and 575 in left. That happened because Ruth didn’t like to face the glaring sun and so depending on the ballpark, Meusel moved to left or right. Meusel was also one of Ruth’s partners (if not the biggest) during his barnstorming tours that ultimately earned them both a suspension after the 1921 World Series.

Meusel actually joined the Yankees at the same time as Ruth. The California native starred for the Vernon Tigers of the Pacific Coast League before being purchased by New York in August 1919. Older brother Emil “Irish” Meusel had been the first in the family to succeed in the majors, and Bob soon followed suit. In 1920, the younger Meusel hit .328/.359/.517 with 40 doubles, 11 homers, and a 128 OPS+ as a rookie, setting the stage for quite an impressive decade. Over the course of the ‘20s, Meusel was one of the league’s best hitters, helping the Yankees win six AL pennants and six World Series titles.

The Yankees felt comfortable moving Meusel around for the benefit of Ruth because he was an outstanding fielder with one of the better arms in the history of the sport. In 1925, the year that Ruth struggled due to his off the field activities and before Lou Gehrig blossomed into the all-time great he was, it was Meusel who took the charge and led the AL in:

Home Runs (33)
Extra-Base Hits (75)
Runs Batted In (134)
Win Probability Added (5.3)

Nicknamed Languid Bob, Meusel had a batting average of at least .315 in seven of his first eight seasons while also ranking in the top five in both home runs and RBI for the decade. Meusel also holds a couple of interesting records, being one of only two AL players with three cycles (tied with Adrian Beltre), and also the most steals of home in World Series play with two — once in 1921 and the other one in 1928.

Side note: You’ll notice that I didn’t include Bob Meusel’s career WAR in his stats. That happened because there is a clear disconnect between the reports of his defense and the value he gets from mostly basic defensive stats. Even factoring in that, he was still a very good player for his whole tenure with those 1920s Yankees teams.

Meusel is the first entry in our team. Be sure to drop in the comment section a player you think deserves to be selected.

Credit to SABR for research assistance.