1978: 25-3, 1.74 ERA, 248 Ks, 0.946 WHIP
Rest of the rotation: Whitey Ford (1961, 25-4, 3.21 ERA), Lefty Gomez (1934, 26-4, 2.33 ERA), Jack Chesbro (1904, 41-12, 1.81 ERA, 454.2 IP), Allie Reynolds (1952, 20-8, 2.06 ERA)
The ace isn't Whitey Ford? Remember, this isn't a career appreciation award. Ford is a Hall of Famer and still the greatest Yankees starting pitcher ever, but Guidry had the best season when the Yankees rallied past the Red Sox in 1978. The Cy Young winner that year won 25 games -- no Yankees has done that since. The lefty from Louisiana would get the call as the ace. After that, is three Hall of Famers and then another player who had one fabulous season in 1952 in Reynolds.
1936: .362, 22 HR, 107 RBI, 1.045 OPS
Backup: Yogi Berra (1950, .322, 28 HR, 124 RBI, .915 OPS)
Yogi can't possibly be a backup, right? The Yankees have a stellar history at catcher with Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson and into the modern era with Jorge Posada. But the best season of all the Yankees catchers came from one of their first Hall of Famers in Dickey, who had an incredible 1936 season.
1927: .373, 47 HR, 175 RBI, .1.240 OPS
Backup: Don Mattingly (1985, .324, 35 HR, 145 RBI, .939 OPS)
There was no doubt on this one. Gehrig's 1927 season is one of the most incredible in MLB history. The backup call was an interesting one. Jason Giambi's 2002 season (.314, 41 HR, 122 RBI) merited serious consideration, but Mattingly's 1985 was a marvel as well as won the AL MVP award.
1929: .354, 18 HR, 106 RBI, .991 OPS
Backup: Robinson Cano (2010, .319, 28 HR, 118 RBI, .914 OPS)
Cano is getting close to breaking into the lineup at this spot, but the Hall of Famer Lazzeri is holding him off at this point. He benefited from being in a fantastic lineup, but Cano reaps the big-market benefits as well.
2007: .314, 54 HR, 156 RBI, 24 SB, 1.067 OPS
Backup: Graig Nettles (.276, 37 HR, 107 RBI, .829 OPS)
Alex Rodriguez is paid so well, he almost has to have the kind of seasons such as the one he had in 2007 to validate his contract. It was no doubt the best season in the history of Yankees third basemen. Nettles was great in his day as well, and a fantastic glove at the hot corner as well.
1999: .349, 24 HR, 102 RBI, .989 OPS, 19 SB
Backup: Phil Rizzuto (1950, .324, 7 HR, 66 RBI, .857 OPS)
For a team with such a storied history, there's really only two options in the history of the Yankees at shortstop. The backup was made a Hall of Famer by the veterans' committee and the starter will be a first-ballot guy five years after he retires.
1941: .298, 33 HR, 122 RBI, .996 OPS
Backup: Dave Winfield (1982, .280, 37 HR, 106 RBI, .891 OPS)
An upset, for sure. Does anybody out there really remember Charlie Keller? The Yankees have had immortals at center field and right field, but not as much in left. If you could make two of the same guy in the lineup, the winner would be Babe Ruth, who primarily played left field in 1921, when he hit .378 with 59 HR, 171 RBI. But since he's in right field, we'll go Keller, who had a better 1941 statistically than any of Dave Winfield's seasons in left field in the Bronx.
1956: .353, 52 HR, 130 RBI, .1.169 OPS
Backup: Joe DiMaggio (1937, 46 HR, 167 RBI, 1.085 OPS)
How do you choose between two absolute legends at one position? In Mantle's best season of 1956, the Yankees won the World Series. In DiMaggio's best in 1937, they also won. The stats are almost as close. So we'll go to the sabermetrics. Mantle had an incredible WAR (wins over replacement) at 12.2 that season, while DiMaggio's was 10.1. To leave DiMaggio out of the lineup seems a crime, but it would be the same for Mantle, who was ever so slightly better in this one season. Wish we could move one of them to left, but rules are rules.
1923: .393, 41 HR, 131 RBI, 1.309 OPS
Backup: Reggie Jackson (1980, .300, 41 HR, 111 RBI, .995 OPS)
Ruth's 1923 season was simply incredible by any measure. And how about this: Roger Maris broke Ruth's record for homers in 1961, hitting .269 with 61 homers and 141 RBI, and it's arguably not one of the top two years for a Yankees right fielder. Reggie's OPS in 1980 was .995, and Maris' in 1961 was .993.
2009: .274, 28 HR, 90 RBI, .876 OPS
Backup: Don Baylor (1983: .303, 21 HR, 85 RBI, .856 OPS)
If this were a real roster, we'd get DiMaggio or Reggie into the lineup. The Yankees' philosophy over the years at DH has been a revolving door, so there weren't many great candidates. Matsui's season was best statistically, and he was the MVP of the World Series in 2009 as well.
2005: 7-4. 43 saves, 1.38 ERA, 3.2 WAR
Backup: Rich "Goose" Gossage (1980, 6-2, 2.27 ERA, 33 saves)
There's no doubt it's Rivera in this spot, but picking a particular season for the greatest closer of all-time is difficult. We'll go with 2005. He's got a Hall of Famer setting him up, too.
12. Batting order
- Derek Jeter SS
- Alex Rodriguez 3B
- Babe Ruth RF
- Lou Gehrig 1B
- Mickey Mantle CF
- Bill Dickey C
- Tony Lazzeri 2B
- Hideki Matsui DH
- Charlie Keller LF