It’s one of the most exciting times of the year in New York City. This Sunday, Puerto Ricans from far and wide will come together to celebrate their culture and people in the yearly Puerto Rican day parade. As a Puerto Rican myself, I can tell you for sure that the island and Nuyoricans (Puerto Ricans living in New York) are moved by two sports: baseball and boxing. It runs in our blood. It brings our people together like nothing else. We back our legends like Roberto Clemente and Tito Trinidad as if they are gods.
These aren’t the only people we adore though. Specifically, us Nuyoricans have a fond place in our heart for the Puerto Ricans who came through the Bronx, flexed the pinstripes, and brought the Yankees championships. You know who I’m talking about — Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada. These two players were crucial to the Yankees late 90’s and early 2000’s success.
At center field and catcher, they were one of the best in the league in any given year. These players afforded the Yankees the opportunity to allocate resources elsewhere, whether that be re-signing Derek Jeter, trading for and re-signing Alex Rodriguez, or signing Jason Giambi. If it wasn’t for Posada and Williams’ incredible performances for a decade at discounted contracts, the Yankees wouldn’t have had the flexibility they did.
While neither player was necessarily an above-average defender, their switch-hitting, contact-oriented approaches made any Yankees lineup extremely versatile. It’s one thing to have any formidable switch-hitter, but it’s another to have two who consistently performed to an at least 125 OPS+ in their peak years. They combined for 10 All-Star appearances and probably could have had at least two to four more if not for playing in the steroid era. In fact, their Hall of Fame cases would be much more solidified if you put them in just about any other era of baseball.
Posada and Williams accumulated 42.7 and 49.6 rWAR, respectively. They fall just a little short of the desirable 60 mark that most Hall of Famers must live up to in today’s voting. Unfortunately, their wonderful postseason profiles aren’t taken into account either. If they were, perhaps voters would be even more convinced of their Hall of Fame prowess. Obviously I’m speaking from an extremely biased perspective here, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s impossible to be unbiased when discussing the Hall.
Not having Hall of Fame recognition does not define these players though. Their World Series titles, incredible baseball skills, and knack for the clutch do. On a week like this where so many Puerto Ricans are honoring their culture, it’s only right that we did the same for two Yankee legends who brought years of happiness to so many Yankee fans. These are two of my personal favorite Yankees ever.
While these two are the most well-known and accumulated the most success, there have been plenty more Puerto Ricans that have short to medium stints in the Bronx. That list includes a number of Hall of Famers and terrific players, like Carlos Beltrán, Iván “Pudge” Rodriguez, Javier Vázquez, Jose Molina, and several more (Luis Arroyo and Ed Figueroa certainly qualify as stars of yesteryear).
While I obviously have not had this experience myself, there is something beautiful about having the opportunity to sport the pinstripes while also repping the island. Many Puerto Ricans grow up with the dream of playing for the Yankees — if you actually get the chance to, it’s an honor. Beltrán’s case is a perfect example of this. His brief stint left a mark on him and has led to his relationship with the team. It’s special and it’s great to have the chance to recognize it whenever we can.