Last week saw the opening ceremonies of the 2022 Winer Olympics in Beijing and the latest edition of the winter games kicking off. While baseball isn’t in the winter games, and there’s no obvious connection to the Yankees, let’s get into an international state of mind.
In honor of the Olympics, let’s make a team of Yankees from around the world. For this post, we’re going to choose an all-time team of Yankees representing various different countries. The one rule is that we’re only choosing one player from each country. So say you choose Derek Jeter for shortstop, then you can’t pick any other American players. Now that we’ve established that rule, here are my choices:
Starting Pitcher: Orlando Hernández (Cuba)
We’re starting with an Olympic connection, as before defecting, “El Duque” was a regular on the Cuban national team, winning a gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Aroldis Chapman is his biggest competition for the best Yankee from there, but you’ll probably be able to guess who’s in the relief pitcher position instead of him.
Relief Pitcher: Mariano Rivera (Panama)
The greatest ever reliever and the greatest ever Yankee (maybe also greatest player in general) from Panama was an easy choice for both of these slots. There are some other notable Yankees from the country in the likes of Roberto Kelly, Héctor López, and Ramiro Mendoza, but none come close to Mo.
Catcher: Jorge Posada (Puerto Rico)
While it technically is a US territory, Puerto Rico typically has its own national teams and competes on its own at events like the Olympics. That allows us to give it its own designation and pick Jorge for catcher for this team. It was a tough call between him and Bernie Williams for Puerto Rico, but catcher was a more glaring open spot.
First Base: John Anderson (Norway)
So, the players for this team were not picked in the order you’re reading them, we’re going an in position-based order. I say that to say this: this was the last player picked by both position and country. A New York Highlander from 1904-05, Anderson is one of just four MLB players to have ever been born in Norway, having moved to the US with his family at age eight. He was perfectly fine in his time in New York and over his 14-year career in general, but he is definitely a ways behind everyone else on this team.
Second Base: Robinson Canó (Dominican Republic)
While Álex Rodríguez was set to represent the DR in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and lived there for part of his youth, he was born in the US and spent most of his formative years in Miami. While you could pick him, I’m giving this slot to Canó instead. He is the Yankee with the most WAR born in the DR, a country which produces a ton of incredible baseball talent.
Shortstop: Didi Gregorius (Netherlands)
While many other players on this list have likely been honored by their countries in various ways, I believe Didi is the only one that’s been knighted by his. Along with the rest of his team, Gregorius was honored after helping the Netherlands win the 2011 Baseball World Cup. If you’re wondering why a certain Hall of Fame shortstop that Gregorius replaced in 2015 isn’t here who I gave as an example earlier, we’re saving his country for someone else.
Third Base: Gio Urshela (Colombia)
Colombia has produced some solid players, from the likes of Edgar Rentería to Orlando Cabrera, but the best Yankee is Urshela. While he had a bit of a drop off in 2021, his two previous seasons after coming out of seemingly nowhere were good enough to get him the slot for Colombia and third base.
Left Field: Hideki Matsui (Japan)
The 2009 World Series MVP is one of two clear choices from Japan, but he gets the nod over Masahiro Tanaka. For one, we’ve chosen a starting pitcher slot for someone else, but Matsui just had a great Yankee career in general. Between his multiple All-Star appearances and his ‘09 heroics, “Godzilla” is our left fielder on this team. Yes, his most notable moment came after he had switched to full time DH, but we’re saving that slot for another outfielder who we can’t squeeze here in because he never played in left.
Center Field: George Selkirk (Canada)
A two-time All-Star and a good player on five championship teams, Selkirk moved to the US at a young age, but he was born in Canada, qualifying him for this team.
Right Field: Babe Ruth (United States)
Most of the greatest Yankees of all time came from the US, so this was a bit of a tough choice. While I could’ve used the US slot strategically, in the end I just decided to go with the best player, even if it does take some other all-time great options off the board. Apologies to Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Jeter, and the dozens of other incredible Yankees from the US, but c’mon, it’s Ruth.
Designated Hitter: Bobby Abreu (Venezuela)
Yes, he spent most of his Yankee career in right field, but he did DH a few games here or there, so we’re using that to squeeze him in here. You could make an argument for Francisco Cervelli or Luis Sojo being the Venezuelan pick, but Abreu was a better player than them, even if his Yankee career was only a couple years.
Now that you’ve seen my team, I’d love to see the ones you can come up. Picking just one player per country, try and come up with your own that could top mine!