Billy Martin, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Roger Maris, Phil Rizzuto, Thurman Munson, Elston Howard and Casey Stengel are all dead. Whitey Ford is 87 years old and can’t be counted on to be around forever.
Derek Jeter, since retired, doesn’t make many Yankees related appearances. Most Yankees fans want Reggie Jackson to make less appearances. Don Mattingly seems more like a Dodger or Marlin these days than a former Yankee. Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson are not wearing Yankees caps on their Cooperstown plaques.
Who does that leave? Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Willie Randolph, Roy White, Bernie Williams, Graig Nettles, Jorge Posada, Paul O’Neill, Ron Guidry and Mel Stottlemyre? Someone else?
For me, the gold standard will always be Ruth-Gehrig-DiMaggio-Mantle-Berra. They were great baseball legends…period. The only still around former Yankees that can get in that team picture are Jeter and Rivera. (And, for the record, Paul O’Neill and Andy Pettitte are two of my all-time favorite Yankees. There’s nothing that I don’t love about them. But, they are not in the class of Jeter or Rivera with respect to standing among baseball’s greats.)
In reality, the Yankees great past has really taken a hit in the last 50 years or so.
In 1965, sure, you could stand there and say “Just look at what the Yankees did in the last 44 years! That’s 29 pennants and TWENTY RINGS!” But, to be truthful, from 1965 through 2015, the Yankees were awesome twice – in the late 70′s and late 90′s. That’s it. That’s 51 years and 7 rings. See the difference?
Granted, yeah, the playoff format is different. There was less rounds before 1973, yadda-yadda. But, still, seven for fifty one is a lot different than twenty for forty four. Right?