Four Yankees Who Should Be in the Hall of Fame: Some of the Greatest Players in Yankees History

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In New York Yankees history, there are four great players who have been continually passed over in voting for inclusion in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Usually I try to stay clear of these discussions because it is so frustrating. Everyone seems to use different criteria in determining the type of achievements deserving of Hall of Fame enshrinement. Two points are particularly bothersome.

First, there is the problem of comparing the stats of hitters regardless of the position they played. Quite frankly, the offensive standards for catchers and shortstops should be much lower than for first basemen and outfielders (because the positions of catcher and shortstop are primarily defensive, and because catchers’ careers are much shorter, generally).

Then there is the issue personified by someone like Don Sutton, a guy who based on his career number of wins (324) would appear to be a shoo-in for Cooperstown. He is indeed in the Hall, but he was a 20-game winner only once and was never considered among the most game’s truly elite pitchers during any part of his 23 seasons in the majors.

I am not begrudging Sutton; he deserves his place in the Hall. I would merely point out that, besides using a measuring stick to find those players who had a fairly high level of performance over a very long period of time, there must be a place in the Hall of Fame for players who played over a much more compressed time-frame, but who were among the very best of their eras and/or at their position.

Roger Maris, Thurman Munson and Don Mattingly

This brings me to the cases of Roger Maris, Thurman Munson, and Don Mattingly, three of the greatest all-round players the game has ever seen.

Four Yankees Who Should Be in the Hall of Fame: Some of the Greatest Players in Yankees History

Maris played an excellent right field, had a strong and true throwing arm, several times dove into the right-field seats to take away homers at Yankee Stadium, hit for power, hit in the clutch, and played heads-up, winning baseball.

He, of course, is remembered best for his record 61 home runs in 1961, and from what I have been seeing in the news the past year or so concerning steroids, maybe his record should be once again recognized as the legitimate record.

Roger’s problem for the Hall was that it took him several years to achieve a level of greatness, which didn’t last more than five years because of injuries. But, make no mistake, he was one of baseball’s great stars in the early 60′s. Take Hack Wilson’s record 191 RBI’s in 1930 out of his career and he wouldn’t get a second thought for the Hall. Yet, there he is, in the Hall, because of his RBI record. Maris should be there, too.

I am not even going to quote statistics on Munson. Sure, he had great seasons defensively and offensively, but he was first and foremost a great, hard-nosed ballplayer. A contemporary of his, Johnny Bench, was probably the game’s greatest catcher, but for 10 years, until that fateful day in 1979 when Munson was killed in a plane crash, Munson was a close second to Bench. At least half the catchers currently in the Hall weren’t as good as Munson, and, frankly, a Hall of Fame without Munson, is hardly worth having at all.

I feel much the same way about Mattingly. He was a MVP, a batting champion, a nine-time Gold Glove winner, who, for about six seasons in the ‘80′s, was one of the two or three best players in baseball. A back injury sapped him of his power and brought his career to a premature end, but there was never a more graceful professional or a first baseman more adept at making the 3-6-3 double play. And there are plenty of guys in the Hall who cannot boast Mattingly’s lifetime batting average of .311.

Jacob Ruppert: One of the Greatest Owners in Yankees History

The fourth Yankee who isn’t in the Hall and should be is Jacob Ruppert, the alligater-eyed owner of the Yankees from 1915 until his death in 1939. When he bought the club with Cap Huston, the Yankees were nothing but a morbid franchise, and when he died, the Yankees were the world’s greatest sports empire.

Say what you want about the contributions of Babe Ruth, Miller Huggins, and Ed Barrow (all Hall of Famers) in building the empire, it was Ruppert who brought them — and others — all together. Why isn’t Ruppert in the Hall, too? Better yet, why isn’t there any outcry?