Greatest Yankees of All-Time – Number 4
Rich: The fourth greatest Yankee of all-time is the Commerce Comet himself, the Mick, Mickey Mantle. There are two distinct groups of Yankees fans in regards to the greatest Yankees center fielder ever – those which saw Joe DiMaggio play center and think he is the greatest, and those who saw Mickey Mantle play and know he is.
If you compare Mantle to DiMaggio you will see differences that made each great in their own right. Mantle had more power (though being a switch-hitter instead of solely right-handed definitely helped Mantle in that regards, at least for games within Yankees Stadium). Their OPS for their career is an identical .977, though Mantle has a huge edge in OPS+. DiMaggio’s Slugging Percentage was better but Mantle’s OBP was better. In regards to fielding, they were both fantastic fielders, it’s just DiMaggio made it look easier.
To me, the difference is in the “what ifs” that have been mentioned repeatedly up to this point. DiMaggio missed three prime years to military service. Mantle’s is solely about his knees. Mantle came to the Yankees with bad knees to begin with and only got worse over the years, especially while roaming the cavernous center field of Yankees Stadium. What would have Mantle’s final numbers been if he only had good knees for even half his career? I do believe he easily would have topped 600 HRs, close to 3000 Hits and would have finished with a batting average over .300 instead of .298 (though if you gave DiMaggio his years back as well, the comparison would probably still be close).
In baseball history, there are several things that are too close to call – Berra/Bench as greatest catcher, Cobb/Mays as greatest center fielder, and in Yankees history, it’s DiMaggio/Mantle for greatest center fielder. If you believe Mantle should be ranked higher than DiMaggio or vice versa, I could easily argue either side and not be wrong. However, there is one sure thing – Mickey Mantle has to be included in the Top-5 Greatest Yankees of All-Time!
Adam: It is a broken record today but here is another player that is not only one of the best in franchise history but in all of baseball. Joe DiMaggio played one of the most demanding positions in baseball and by all accounts, he made it look easy. No person ever accused Joltin’ Joe of being a speed burner but he was the living example of what every high school coach would try and teach their pupils; judge it off the bat, make the move, and be in the right place every time. That was DiMaggio.
The moment was never too big for DiMaggio and he was ready for greatness right away. In his first month with the Yankees, he jumped out and put wood to ball yielding 48 hits; a Major League record for rookies. He hit .325 for his career with 361 home runs and 1,537 RBIs while slugging .579, which is good for ninth all-time.
Nicknamed the “Yankee Clipper,” his name is brought up when defining a winner. DiMaggio was a leader during nine World Series titles. He made the All-Star team every year that he played. He was three-time MVP and owner of “the streak”, a 56-game hitting streak that still stands to this day.
He lost three years in the middle of his career honorably serving in the US Army. It is hard to predict what he would have done in his prime years. Many will take career averages in an attempt to extrapolate the numbers. I will not do that. To me, just knowing how incredible he was, even without his prime years is good enough for me.
Oh, and being married to Marilyn Monroe isn’t too shabby either. He finishes at number four on my top-five greatest Yankees of all-time list but the hair-splitting is getting tough.