So it turns out Joe Torre didn’t have a Hall of Famer at every position after all.
In fact, it may turn out that out of those great Yankee teams from 1996-2003, which appeared in six World Series and won four of them, only two players will wind up in Cooperstown: Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.
And so much for the myth of “New York Bias’’ tilting the scales in favor of players who played for the Yankees. If there was such a thing, Jorge Posada would not have fallen off the ballot on his first attempt, as he did upon the announcement of the 2017 Hall of Fame inductees Wednesday night.
The guys that got in are well-deserving; I was glad to see both Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines to make it, especially since Rock was in his last year on the ballot, and especially, from a personal standpoint, since my decision not to turn in a ballot robbed both of them of what might have been a crucial vote. I probably would have voted for Pudge Rodriguez, too, although I wouldn’t have felt good about it since having covered him in his brief tenure as a Yankee, I was struck by the drastic change in his body, which of course coincided with you-know-what. But minus a positive test or a mention in the Mitchell Report or some other persuasive evidence aside from my own eyes, the numbers dictated that I would have shelved my skepticism and voted for him.
But for Posada to make a one-and-done appearance on the ballot – he got just 3.8%, or 17 votes, out of the 442 ballots cast – seems like an injustice. Posada had a higher career OPS, .848 to .798, than Rodriguez. He had a higher slugging percentage, .474 to .464. He hit 36 fewer home runs – 275 as compared with 311 – but in four fewer seasons, more than 700 fewer games and some 3,500 fewer at-bats. Yes, Pudge has the 1999 AL MVP, but Posada has those four World Series rings. And obviously, Rodriguez was the better defensive catcher.
I’m not trying to make the point that Posada was more deserving than Pudge, or even that he’s deserving at all – not having done the work this year, I can’t say for sure he would have made it onto my ballot – but he certainly deserved more than one cameo appearance.
Which brings me to my point about the last Yankee dynasty. Clearly, they had a lot of excellent, and high-priced, players on those teams. But they never had a league MVP, and clearly, many of them are not held in high regard among Hall of Fame voters. You can’t count Wade Boggs; the best thing he did in a Yankee uniform was to jump on the back of a police horse and ride around the Stadium during the celebration of the 1996 win over the Braves.
And you can’t count Roger Clemens, a known steroid cheat who crept up slightly this year, to 54.1% from 45% last year. Unless Clemens and Barry Bonds eventually get in through the largesse of a more forgiving class of voters, the only way Alex Rodriguez is getting in is as a broadcaster. Or a ticket-buyer.
Bernie Williams, the centerfielder and a dangerous bat for all those great teams, made two appearances on the ballot; he got a measly 19 votes in 2013. Paul O’Neill got 12 votes in 2007.
The point is, those Yankee teams were great TEAMS, not collections of superstars, as is the conventional wisdom. Jeter and Mo are the epitome of what Hall of Famers should be – no need to waive the “character, integrity and sportsmanship’’ clause for either of them — and both will almost certainly be elected on the first ballot. But the rest were largely a talented group of role players, and maybe there was more to Torre — often denigrated as a plug-and-play manager – than he was given credit for.
At the same time, a lot of players who were instrumental to that team’s success have been given short shrift. Jorge Posada is one of them. One more time; he may not have deserved to be enshrined in Cooperstown, but neither did he deserved to be shunted aside after one year.
And the one member of that team who probably deserves it most of all, for various reasons, seems likely never to get in at all. That would be The Boss, George Steinbrenner, who for all his faults only pulled a once-great franchise out of the dumpster and made it even greater, and more profitable, than before.
Maybe the truth is that there is a New York bias, although it may not work the way were told it did. In fact, it may work in just the opposite way, after all.