At NY Yankees Digest, we believe in historical context above many things. As we have broken down lists of Yankees greats and will soon be publishing a series of greatest Yankees by position, we had to discuss the Mt. Rushmore of Yankees. Of course, it is easy to look at the storied history of the Yankees and come up with four. In that context are players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, with Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle fighting for the last position.
So how can we define the franchise without those five filling the four available spots? Then it hit us, draw a line. As such, we decided to draw the line at 50 years. Now that makes things a little more interesting. From 1968 until the end of the 2017 season, who belongs on the Yankees Mt Rushmore of the last 50 years?
Before we divulge who we chose, we need to lay out some of the rules we worked within. First, players only counted in the last 50 years. Secondly, if a player started playing before 1968, the only years that will matter are 1968 and forward. So if you were looking at Mickey Mantle, you only get to use his last year in 1968. Third, projections do not count. You cannot argue that player X did this over the last five years so if they continue… Nope, not allowed.
Let’s get to it. Here NY Yankees Digest presents the Yankees Mt Rushmore of the last 50 years.
Yankees Mt Rushmore – The Roosevelt Position
Adam –Can you hear “Enter Sandman” playing? I can and so have opposing hitters since the mid-90s. He is, without question, the greatest closer the game has ever seen and a sure-fire First Ballot Hall of Famer. He was a pseudo failed experiment as a starter and was transitioned to the bullpen. In the bullpen, his lethal cutter became the scariest pitch in baseball. He is the all-time leader in saves with 652, career 2.21 ERA, and averaged 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings. His adjusted ERA+ of 205 is the best all-time and his closest competitor is Clayton Kershaw at 161.
That in itself is great but his post-season numbers are the stuff of legend. He has appeared in 96 career post-season games, saving 42 with an ERA of .70! That microscopic ERA was in 141 post-season innings, which is an immense sample size making the number almost god-like. Many will say he was just a closer but that closer, in February 2000, was awarded the largest arbitration salary in the history of baseball at that time. That speaks to his value to the team and league. The Yankees would not have won their five World Series without the greatest closer ever. His place, as a closer, in history has no doubt. When going back 50 years, how can Rivera not be on the Yankees Mt Rushmore?
Rich –When we discussed the Top 5 Yankees of All-Time, Mariano Rivera made the cut at number 5 so that means he is a no-brainer for the Yankees Mt. Rushmore for the last 50 years. Rivera was easily the best Yankees closer ever as well as the best closer in MLB history. Rivera was a member of the “Core Four” along with Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte. I truly believe the Yankees do not win as many World Series as they did between 1998 and 2009 with anyone else as the closer – he was that automatic in October.
The numbers he put up while wearing the Pinstripes are simply amazing and historic – there was no one better. I do believe that if you ignore starter/reliever comparisons, Mariano Rivera is not only the greatest closer ever, but one of the best pitchers in MLB history. The fact that he was as successful as he was when everyone knew what pitch he was throwing speaks volumes about just how good he was and how truly epic and legendary his cutter was.