September 24, 2021

Jackie Robinson, Alex Rodriguez Picked by MSG Panel of Experts

April 19, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Over the last few weeks, an MSG Network  panel of experts composed of Fran Healy, Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter, former Cy Young Award winner Sparky Lyle, New York Magazine contributing editor and baseball aficionado Will Leitch, and executive vice president of the Elias Sports Bureau Steve Hirdt, have begun to build the ultimate line-up made of major league players who played in New York.  Despite having the Giants, Dodgers, Yankees, and Mets from which to choose, not surprisingly, the line-up is dominated by Yankees in the early going.  In fact, assuming Derek Jeter will be named the #1 shortstop, it looks like Dodger infielder, Hall of Famer, and cultural icon Jackie Robinson will be the only non-Yankee to crack the team’s infield.

Robinson was named the all-time greatest second baseman in New York history, beating out Yankees Tony Lazzeri, Bobby Richardson, and Willie Randolph, and Giant Frankie Frisch (not particularly in that order).  A quick look at the stats shows that Robinson was more than just a symbol of equality and perseverance, more than just a proud black man who had to endure endless abuse and injustice; he was also one hell of a ballplayer.  His OPS+ of 132 overshadows the others’ by a large margin (the next closest was Jeff Kent’s 123, but Kent didn’t even make the cut).  In fact, it could be argued that Kent and Joe Gordon (120)  should have made the top five over Randolph (104) and Richardson (77), but the vote is about more than offensive numbers and it’s hard to give too much credit to a guy (Kent) who spent parts of only five seasons in New York.

Regardless, the choice of Robinson here was absolutely the right one.

And, as much as I can’t stand him, it’s hard to argue with A-Rod at third base.  I have to admit, though, that this was the most interesting vote of all so far.  Rodriguez beat out Graig Nettles, Howard Johnson, Clete Boyer, and Red Rolfe, and deservedly so.  Rodriguez boasts a career OPS of .966, and if you think all of that came in Texas, think again; his OPS with the Yankees is .967.  Meanwhile the rest of the top five have OPSs of .750, .786, .671, and .773.

Defensively, Nettles was an outstanding third baseman who showed off his glove in front of millions of World Series viewers; Johnson was a horrific third baseman; Boyer is regarded as one of the best defensive hot corner men of all-time, and Rolfe was solid.  A-Rod was good enough at shortstop to win two Gold Gloves, but he’s a below average third baseman, costing the Yankees 5.3 runs on average per year with his glove.  But he more than makes up for it with his bat.

What makes this vote so interesting, though, is that two of the greatest third basemen to ever play the game—Wade Boggs and Frank “Home Run” Baker—didn’t make the cut, nor did Freddie Lindstrom, who retired with a .311 career batting average and was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1976, or David Wright, the best third sacker in Mets history.

Boggs is understandable, considering he spent only five years with the Yankees and was, is, and always will be associated with the Boston Red Sox.  Baker wrote most of his Hall of Fame resume with the Philadelphia Athletics before spending parts of six seasons with the Yankees, but he was still a very good hitter with New York and a better fielder.  Statistically Lindstrom looks to be a better player than Rolfe, both at the plate and in the field but, ironically enough, Bill James has them ranked 43rd (Lindstrom) and 44th (Rolfe) among third basemen in his Historical Baseball Abstract, so it’s a little ridiculous to criticize the voting, especially considering Rolfe won five championships with the Yanks in 10 seasons.

And a case can certainly be made for Wright.  He’s only in his seventh season in the bigs, but he’s already won two Gold Gloves, two Silver Slugger awards, been named to the All-Star team four times, received MVP votes in four of his five full seasons, and trails only Mike Piazza in career OPS.  I can understand why the panel chose not to include a six-year player in the top five, but I’d be willing to bet that when and if they do this in the future, Wright will definitely be in the top five and may even supplant A-Rod.

Be sure to tune-in to the next episode, Tuesday, April 20th starting at 10:30PM, as the panel continues to move around the diamond and will determine NY’s All-Time Best Shortstop. From Derek Jeter, Travis Jackson, Bud Harrelson, to Jose Reyes, and more, you decide who deserves the spot on the lineup! Also, if you missed any series episodes, you can watch video highlights here: http://msg.com/lineup/ Don’t forget to make your weekly picks in MSG.com/lineup’s interactive fantasy game for a chance at winning a signed baseball from a baseball legend! This week’s winner will win a signed baseball from legendary catcher Gary Carter! Each week you play the The Lineup fantasy baseball game is a chance to win more signed memorabilia!

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