We recently wrote up a little piece wondering if the easiest question in the history of baseball (“Who is the greatest first baseman of all time?”) has a new answer.
The article caused a bit of a stir on The Facebook. Folks are very protective of their legends – the mere suggestion that Lou Gehrig might have competition as the starting first baseman on the “All-Time Team” was enough to ruffle the dander of some Yankees fans.[ii]
The thing is, the article in no way denigrates the magnificent career of Lou Gehrig – he is, at the very worst, the second-greatest ever at his position (and in all likelihood remains the gold standard).
Which got us to thinking: The Yankees sure are stocked with contenders for mythical “Best-Ever” status. You know the usual suspects: Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, etc. – but they're basically flush everywhere. In fact, if one were to compose the “All-Time Yankees Lineup,” it might be competitive with a composite “All-Time Major League Lineup” made up of players from every other franchise.
So, just for fun: The NY Yankees vs the rest of the Universe for “all-time” bragging rights. The rules: 1) To be considered for the Yankees lineup, a player must have spent the bulk of his career with the team, or barring that, have his career most closely associated with the team (the team logo on his HOF plaque might be instructive in this regard); 2) There will be no double-dipping: Since Ruth mans right field for the Yankees, he can’t be drafted by the Universe.
We go to the chart:
Obviously, it was never a fair fight: The rest of the baseball universe gets to pick from a player pool that’s exponentially larger than what the Yankees have at their disposal. Over the course of a full season, the all-time Yankees lose significantly more than they win – but would it stretch credulity to suggest this team could win a short series against the “All-Time” squad? The Yankees acquit themselves quite well in this thought experiment – better, we suspect, than any other franchise (though the Giants, Athletics, Dodgers, and Cardinals may have an argument in this regard).[iii]
[i] And an extended, thoughtful, generally great discussion at baseballthinkfactory.org.
[ii] Not sure if “ruffle the dander” is actually a thing… Let’s make it a thing.
[iii] Another article, perhaps, for another time -- though we won't be able to approach Rob Neyer's excellent Big Book of Baseball Lineups.