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1 week ago  ::  Nov 30, 2019 - 10:04AM #18201
NY23
Posts: 3,616


4 days ago  ::  Dec 03, 2019 - 8:12PM #18202
NY23
Posts: 3,616

3 days ago  ::  Dec 04, 2019 - 11:03AM #18203
NY23
Posts: 3,616

The Most Underrated Yankee Ever


The question of who the most underrated Yankees player ever was is not an easy one to answer. In general, most baseball fans think Yankees players are understood to be overrated even when they are not. Few would argue that recent Yankees greats like Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter, or stars from earlier eras like Reggie Jackson, Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth have not received their due. Similarly, Aaron Judge, the marquee player on today’s Yankees has not exactly escaped national notice. Nonetheless, there have been many Yankees who have contributed a lot to the team while somehow not getting quite the attention they deserved. For example, inexplicably, even the Yankees have been slow to recognize contributions to the team that Bernie Williams made.


The most underrated player in Yankees history cannot simply be somebody like Graig Nettles or Willie Randolph was valued while playing but overlooked and underappreciated by Hall of Fame voters. Nor can it be somebody who is largely forgotten now, but was appreciated while they were playing like Tony Lazzeri or Charlie Keller. The most underrated Yankees player ever should be somebody who was very good, but not given his due while active and who is now largely forgotten.


One way the answer reveals itself is by thinking about the five best outfielders in Yankees history. The first three players should come to mind very quickly-Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, three of the greatest ever. After that it is a little tougher, but it is clear that the answer is Bernie Williams, a great player who played his entire career with the Yankees. The next player on the list might be a little tougher to determine. Some players like Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson, Paul O’Neill or Dave Winfield did not play enough of their career with the Yankees. Others, like Charlie Keller, Brett Gardner Bob Meusel and Hank Bauer were very good players, but not quite good enough to make the top five. The fifth best outfielder in team history played his entire career with the Yankees finishing 1, 625 games in the outfield and 46.8 WAR, only 196 and 2.8 fewer than Williams.


Roy White, a switch hitter who played a few games at second base, some in center, but mostly left field, enjoyed a career spanned two very different periods in Yankees history. He began his time in pinstripes playing alongside Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and finished it when his teammates included Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage. He joined the Yankees in 1965, the first year they finished below .500 in 40 years, became a full time player in 1966 and left for Japan after the 1979 season. In between he was a very good player for a very long time. White was not entirely ignored by the national press in his career. In 1969 and 1970 he was selected for the American League All Star Team and even finished 12th in the MVP voting in 1968, but he was nonetheless never viewed as a big star.


White was underrated during his career and almost entirely unrecognized since retiring for a few reasons. First, most of White’s best years came when the Yankees were not a contending team. Although he was a very valuable part of the Yankees pennant winning teams in the 1970s, he was never a front line star. Even in 1976, when he slashed .286/.365/.409, stole 31 bases and played solid defense in left field for a pennant winning team, Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, Mickey Rivers and Catfish Hunter were all much bigger names on that team.


Second, White had the kind of skill set that is often underrated. He was good at many things, not great at any. White is one of four Yankees, along with Mantle, Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, to hit 150 home runs and steal 150 bases, but he never hit more than 22 home runs or stole more than 31 bases in a season. Although he batted cleanup at times, he was never really a power hitter. Playing in an era when leadoff hitters were supposed to be base stealers, White was never quite fast enough to bat leadoff, so he ended up batting second more than anywhere else, but only about a quarter of the time. In those days of more stable lineups, this made it difficult for an image of him to form in the minds of fans.


White had a skill set that was not appreciated so much at the time he was playing, but would be more valued now. His lifetime batting average was only .270, but he had a very good batting eye and thus drew a lot of walks. He led the league in that category in 1972 and finished in the top ten six more times. This contributed to his .360 career on base percentage.


Another reason White never became a big star is that his best years, came at a time, 1968- 1972, that was a pitcher’s era. During that five year span, White hit .280/.343/.432, for an OPS+ of 139 and 27.5 WAR, good enough for 19th and 9th respectively among all hitters for those years. However, the conventional numbers 75 home runs 368 RBI and 99 stolen bases do not seem very impressive a few decades later. It doesn’t help that the Yankees were still not a contending team for most of this period. Even at the time, almost nobody during those years would have listed White among the 20 best non-pitchers in the game, but he probably was.


White ended up having a very good career with the Yankees, playing on three pennant winning teams and two World Series winners. He got many key hits in those championship seasons including a single two batters before Bucky Dent’s home run in the one game playoff against the Red Sox in 1978. Nonetheless, today he is remembered mostly as a useful player on those late 1970s teams while best years are part of an era in Yankees history that many older fans have chosen to forget. Players like White who have no standout statistical accomplishments or great moments are too easily forgotten, but White as one of the twenty best players and five top outfielders ever to wear the pinstripes, he deserves a better place in our collective Yankees memory.

2 days ago  ::  Dec 05, 2019 - 10:49AM #18204
NY23
Posts: 3,616


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13 hours ago  ::  Dec 07, 2019 - 9:21AM #18205
NY23
Posts: 3,616

One committee’s Hall of Fame case for Thurman Munson


nypost.com/2019/12/06/one-committees-hal...

Time has come today.

For there is a fresh analytical look at Thurman Munson’s career and sturdy postseason numbers to prove he is worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Larry Schnapf, a Manhattan-based environmental lawyer, is leading the charge as co-chair of the Thurman Munson Hall of Fame Committee (www.munsonHOF.com). The group put together an exhaustive breakdown of Munson’s career, which ended much too early at the age of 32, when he died in a crash of a plane he was piloting on Aug. 2, 1979.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America never voted Munson into the National Baseball Hall of Fame during his time on the ballot. His decade of excellence lasted from 1970-79. In 1981, when he was first on the ballot after the BBWAA waived the usual five-year waiting period, he received 15.5 percent of the vote on a ballot that included Bob Gibson, Harmon Killebrew and Juan Marichal.

The next year, Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson were elected. Munson lasted 15 years on the ballot. He never came close to being elected.

Munson will get another chance for election Sunday. He is one of 10 people — nine players and Marvin Miller, the first players’ union leader — on the Modern Baseball Era ballot to be voted on by a panel of 16. Twelve votes are needed for induction.

When Munson was on the writers’ ballot, it was a much different view for writers who held the keys to the Hall. Compiling magic numbers guaranteed induction, but Munson did have the requisite 10 years that the Hall of Fame demands. He finished with a .292 batting average while Hall of Fame catchers Carlton Fisk hit .284 and Johnny Bench batted .267 during the 1970s.

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Thurman Munson Getty Images

One committee’s Hall of Fame case for Thurman Munson
By Kevin Kernan
Time has come today.

For there is a fresh analytical look at Thurman Munson’s career and sturdy postseason numbers to prove he is worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Larry Schnapf, a Manhattan-based environmental lawyer, is leading the charge as co-chair of the Thurman Munson Hall of Fame Committee (www.munsonHOF.com). The group put together an exhaustive breakdown of Munson’s career, which ended much too early at the age of 32, when he died in a crash of a plane he was piloting on Aug. 2, 1979.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America never voted Munson into the National Baseball Hall of Fame during his time on the ballot. His decade of excellence lasted from 1970-79. In 1981, when he was first on the ballot after the BBWAA waived the usual five-year waiting period, he received 15.5 percent of the vote on a ballot that included Bob Gibson, Harmon Killebrew and Juan Marichal.

The next year, Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson were elected. Munson lasted 15 years on the ballot. He never came close to being elected.

Munson will get another chance for election Sunday. He is one of 10 people — nine players and Marvin Miller, the first players’ union leader — on the Modern Baseball Era ballot to be voted on by a panel of 16. Twelve votes are needed for induction.

When Munson was on the writers’ ballot, it was a much different view for writers who held the keys to the Hall. Compiling magic numbers guaranteed induction, but Munson did have the requisite 10 years that the Hall of Fame demands. He finished with a .292 batting average while Hall of Fame catchers Carlton Fisk hit .284 and Johnny Bench batted .267 during the 1970s.

Enlarge ImageThurman Munson
Thurman MunsonGetty Images
For someone who followed Munson’s career from the day the Yankees drafted him fourth overall in 1968 and got to cover Munson on occasion, there was never any doubt Munson was a Hall of Famer whose career was cut short that fateful day.

He changed the Yankees culture, winning Rookie of the Year honors in 1970. He was AL MVP in 1976, a gifted and durable catcher with an incredibly quick release, and was the heart and soul of the team. As captain, he led the Yankees to three straight pennants and back-to-back World Series titles in 1977 and ’78.

Schnapf, 66, and his group, including vice chair and statistician Tom Tunison and chair Rene LeRoux, present a convincing argument when looking at Munson’s career through the lens of today’s analytics.

“We are kind of reintroducing him to the world,’’ Schnapf told The Post. “It’s amazing, 40 years is a long time, it doesn’t seem like a long time for those of us who have watched him.’’

Munson’s career is looked at in that 10-year snapshot. That 10-year requirement fits one of the key components to being elected to the Hall of Fame.

Munson’s career WAR of 45.6 can only be matched over any 10-year period by six other catchers, and every one of them is enshrined in the Hall — Gary Carter, Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, Ivan Rodriguez, Yogi Berra and Mickey Cochrane.

Munson’s WAR per 162 games ranks third among catchers with a 5.25 mark, behind only Cochrane and Bench.

Schnapf’s committee’s presentation is filled with some eye-opening statistics, including:

      • Munson is one of three catchers in history with three consecutive seasons with a .300-plus batting average and 100-plus RBIs in 1975-77. The other two are in the Hall: Bill Dickey and Piazza.



      • Nine consecutive seasons with 1,000-plus innings caught and 100-plus complete games caught — not one Hall of Fame Catcher can match.




      • First all-time (all players) in postseason batting average .357 (minimum 129 at-bats).



      • Only catcher with a .300-plus batting average, 20-plus RBIs and 20-plus runners caught stealing in the postseason.



    • From 1970-1979, he had more innings caught, games started at catcher, complete games caught, assists, runners caught stealing, at-bats, hits and a higher batting average than both Bench and Fisk.



“Thurman was one of the best clutch hitters of all time and he is the only Yankee in history to have an MVP award and the Rookie of the Year award,’’ Schnapf said. “He has two world championships, so he has the hardware.

“When you look at Munson’s WAR compared to other Hall of Fame catchers, he is right there. In 1998, he was voted by the Sporting News as the America League catcher of the decade in the 1970s.’’

Fisk won the Rookie of the Year two years after Munson and played until 1993. Bench won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1968 and retired in 1983. But Bench and Fisk — both born in 1947 as Munson was — were at their best in the 1970s with Munson.

“The conventional wisdom is that Munson didn’t play long enough and when he played he wasn’t good enough,’’ Schnapf said. “The fact of the matter is, if the 10-year rule means anything, he played long enough. The writers in the ’80s did not have the benefit of modern analytics. Baseball teams are evaluating players differently, so we are taking another look at his career through the way players are valued now.’’

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The Thurman Munson Hall of Fame committee is leading a movement to get the former Yankee catcher into the Hall. Co-chairs Rene LeRoux (second from left) and Larry Schnapf (far right) pose with Munson’s son and widow, Mike and Diana.Photo courtesy Larry Schnapf

In more traditional stats, Munson was the first catcher to achieve four consecutive seasons of 180 hits. He finished in the top 10 in batting average five times. He batted .330 with two outs and runners in scoring position from 1975-78 — when his team batted .243.

“Even in 1979, the conventional thinking was that he was in decline, but if you project his WAR for the whole year, it was 3.5. He threw out 46 percent of the runners in 1979. He was in seven All-Star Games in nine seasons,’’ Schnapf said. “He was the first American League catcher to win Rookie of the Year.’’

Munson is the all-time leader in percentage of complete games caught. He caught 1,278 games over his career with 1,182 complete games.

LeRoux, executive director of the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame, points to Munson’s Octobers as a measure of his greatness.

“Thurman’s postseason career puts him over the edge as a Hall of Famer,’’ he said. “Two-time World Series champion, .357 batting average [in 30 postseason games and 135 plate appearances with an .874 OPS], batted .529 in the ’76 World Series, the year he was an MVP. He threw out 44 percent of base runners in the postseason against running teams like the Royals and Reds. He excelled on both sides. With the current trend toward the metrics, his defensive numbers are outstanding. The in-season numbers certainly are merit worthy, but his postseason is what defines him. And his career was long enough. The Hall of Fame says you have to play 10 years, and he played 10 years. That argument ends there.’’

There is a big push for Ted Simmons, who is also on the Modern Baseball Era ballot.

“I think they are very close,’’ LeRoux said. “Munson was the much better defensive catcher and his career batting average was higher and Munson has the two World Series rings, Simmons none. Simmons was never MVP.’’

When I visited the Munson family in Ohio in 1999 on the 20th anniversary of his death and went to his grave with his indelible pinstriped Yankees image on the front of the monument and his No. 15 on the back at Sunset Hills Burial Park, I was struck by the beauty and symbolism of that memorial that sits under the shade of four maple trees — first, second, third and home.

I will never forget the words his widow, Diana, said to me: “Thurman always said he taught me to be tough and I taught him to be gentle.’’

The time is now for Munson to get his deserved Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown.

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Schnapf made this his mission after a bout with kidney cancer in 2016.

“I was very lucky and we caught it early,’’ he said. “I said, ‘OK, what am I going to do with this gift of life that I got.’ I had two things I wanted to do, one was to work on the Kennedy assassination, [he just returned from a Kennedy conference in Dallas] and the other was try to get Munson into the Hall of Fame.’’

He created a Thurman Munson site on Facebook (Thurman Munson Hall of Fame) and the Munson Hall of Fame Committee, pointing toward the 40th anniversary of Munson’s death. His group also presented a petition to the Hall of Fame with 16,500 signatures.

“This is a real grassroots effort,’’ Schnapf said. “We just kind of met each other and we all had complementary gifts. None of us knew each other before we started this campaign.’’

“Munson was truly on his way to the Hall of Fame,’’ Schnapf said, noting he has gotten support from Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay when he launched the campaign at the annual Munson Dinner last February. The 40th dinner is Feb. 4 at Chelsea Piers. “This is like a political campaign. We just got through the primary and now we are in the general election. Getting him on the ballot has reintroduced Thurman, which is a great thing.’’

Derek Jeter will be elected by the writers this year. Munson deserves to enter the Hall this summer as well.

Yankee captains together in Cooperstown.

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