MLB Top 5: New York Yankees Corner Infielders and DHs

This is the second article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the New York Yankees. In this installment are first and third basemen and designated hitters.

The Best First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters in New York Yankees History

Most of the top corner infielders in Yankees history focused on defense, and the starters at each spot were arguably the best run producers of their respective eras. Add in playoff heroics and other intangibles and you have a group that is dangerous in the clutch.

First Basemen

Dishonorable Mention – Harold “Hal” Chase may have been the best fielding first baseman of his generation, but he was also expelled from multiple leagues for gambling and getting others to help him fix games in the late 1910s. The charming but arrogant “Prince Hal” spent nine seasons as a star on the Highlanders (1905-13), producing runs and making stellar defensive plays but also belittling teammates, disrespecting managers and holding out for more money on a regular basis. He finished his time ranked fifth in franchise history with 248 stolen bases to go with a .284 average, 551 runs, 1,182 hits, 165 doubles, 494 RBIs and 1,507 total bases in 1,061 games.

Chase continued his troublemaking ways with the White Sox, spent two seasons in the upstart Federal League and was part of bribery scandals with both the Reds and Giants. He was implicated as being a major organizer in the “Black Sox” scandal during the 1919 World Series and never played in the majors again after attempting to bribe teammates with the Giants. Chase did the same thing in the semipro Pacific Coast League in 1920 and was banned from playing baseball in California when he was caught. He played throughout the Southwest over the next decade Years of gambling, drinking and carousing caught up to Chase, and he spent the final years of his life admitting to betting on baseball, although, like future baseball gambler Pete Rose, he said he never bet against his own team. Chase died in 1947 at age 64.

Honorable Mentions – Joe Pepitone‘s emergence allowed the Yankees to trade a team star from the 1950s. After overcoming an abusive father and an accidental gunshot wound as a child, he made the New York roster during the 1962 season. Following the trade of Moose Skowron, Pepitone earned three All-Star selections and three gold gloves during an eight-year tenure with the Yankees (1962-69). He had his best season in 1964, when he hit 28 home runs and drove in a career-best 100 runs, and he smacked 20 homers four times while in pinstripes. The three-time fielding champion played in two World Series (both losses) before he was traded to the Astros before the 1970 season. “Pep” also spent time as an outfielder with the Cubs and Braves before he retired in 1973. The Yankees hired him as a coach in the mid-1980s, and he overcame several vices, including drugs, alcohol, poor business decisions and Bipolar Disorder. Pepitone passed away in 2023 at age 82.

Chris Chambliss was the first overall pick in the 1970 draft by the Indians and won the Rookie of the Year Award with Cleveland the following season. He came to New York in early 1974 in a seven-player trade involving Fritz Peterson, who made headlines for swapping wives with another player. Chambliss proved his doubters wrong, and the Yankees returned to prominence, winning three straight American League pennants. His leadoff home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 5 of the 1976 ALCS against Kansas City sent New York to their first World Series in more than a decade. Chambliss was traded twice following the 1979 season, first to the Blue Jays and then the Braves. He retired in 1986 but was brought back to the Yankees for one at-bat two years later. In seven seasons with New York (1974-80), Chambliss batted .282 with 415 runs, 954 hits, 171 doubles, 79 homers, 454 RBIs and 1,412 total bases in 885 games. He was the Minor League Manager of the Year in 1991 with Greenville in the Braves’ system and was the hitting coach for the Yankees when they won four titles in five years at the end of the decade.

Mark Teixeira proved his worth as a power hitter with the Rangers and also spent time with the Braves and Angels before coming to the Yankees after signing an eight-year, $180 million deal before the 2009 season. He paid immediate dividends, finishing second in the MVP race and earning an All-Star selection as well a Gold Glove and a silver slugger after leading the league with 39 home runs and 122 runs batted in. Despite slumping during the playoffs, Teixeira hit two homers and drove in eight runs, helping his team win the World Series. In eight seasons with New York (2009-16), he earned a pair of All-Star selections, hit at least 20 home runs six times and drove in 100 or more runs in three straight campaigns. “Tex” missed most of the 2013 season with a wrist injury and his numbers declined afterward. He appeared in 958 games with the Yankees, totaling 533 runs 873 hits, 185 doubles, 206 homers, 622 RBIs and 1,686 total bases. Teixeira retired in 2016 after playing through a neck injury, and he worked for a few years as an analyst for ESPN after his playing career.

5. Tino Martinez – He was a first-round pick of the Mariners and won a gold medal with Team USA in the 1988 Summer Olympics in South Korea. Martinez was traded to the Yankees in 1996 and took over for a legend at the position. He became one of the offensive stars of a team that won four championships in five seasons. Martinez had his best offensive year in 1997, when he earned an All-Star selection, won a silver slugger and finished second in the MVP voting after setting career highs with a .296 average, 96 runs, 176 hits, 44 home runs and 141 RBIs.

The 1997 All-Star Home Run Derby winner spent seven seasons with the Yankees (1996-2001 and ’05), batting .276 with 566 runs, 1,039 hits, 189 doubles, 192 homers, 739 RBIs and 1,862 total bases in 1,054 games. He also made 81 postseason appearances, totaling 36 runs, 69 hits, 14 doubles, eight home runs and 32 runs batted in. Martinez hit a grand slam in Game 1 of the 1998 Series against the Padres (which earned him the nickname “Bam-Tino”) and smacked a game-winning homer off Byung-Hyun Kim in Game 4 of the Fall Classic in 2001, but Arizona came back to win the series. Martinez played for the Cardinals and Devil Rays before returning to the Yankees for one final season in 2005. He was an analyst for ESPN’s Baseball Tonight and is now a commercial real estate agent in the Tampa area.

4. Wally Pipp – He had a stellar career and was one of the Deadball Era’s best home run hitters, but he will always be best remembered for having what has become the most famous headache in baseball history. Pipp came to the Yankees from the Tigers in 1915 as the first major acquisition of new owners Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast Huston. He went on to lead the league in home runs twice and post four straight seasons with at least 90 RBIs, including 1924, when he also topped the American League with 19 triples. However, with the arrival of Babe Ruth, he ceased to be both New York’s biggest star and the top power hitter.

Pipp was the starter on three straight pennant-winning clubs in the early 1920s, but he suffered from recurring headaches throughout his baseball career, which he said dated back to a hockey injury he had as a youth. He took a day off on June 2, 1925, and never returned to the starting lineup after suffering a concussion a month later. Pipp ranks fourth in franchise history with 121 triples, and he also batted .292 with 820 runs, 1,577 hits (including five straight seasons with 170 or more), 259 doubles, 80 home runs, 833 RBIs and 2,318 total bases in 1,488 games. He appeared in 19 World Series games, amassing 15 hits and six RBIs. Pipp was a talented defensive player, winning a pair of fielding titles and leading the league in double plays five times, putouts four times and assists twice.

Pipp bounced back with 99 RBIs after being traded to the Reds the following year. However, his skills declined, and he retired in 1929. Like many people during the Great Depression, Pipp worked multiple odd jobs to try and survive. He helped make B-24 bombers at a Ford auto plant during World War II and later sold automotive parts. Pipp suffered several strokes later in life and passed away due to a heart attack in 1965 at age 71.

3. Bill “Moose” Skowron – He converted from third base across the diamond and became a clutch run producer who was a seven-time All-Star and appeared in seven World Series, winning four during his nine-year stretch in New York (1954-62). He finished his Yankee career with a .294 average (with five seasons at .300 or better), 518 runs, 1,103 hits, 173 doubles, 165 home runs, 672 RBIs and 1,859 total bases in 1,087 games. Skowron appeared in 39 games, totaling 18 runs, 38 hits, eight homers and 29 RBIs. His biggest moment was a go-ahead three-run home run in the eighth inning in Game 7 of the 1958 World Series against the Braves.

With the Yankees looking to go with the younger Pepitone at first, Skowron was traded to the Dodgers in 1963. The teams met in the World Series and “Moose” helped Los Angeles sweep his former team with five hits, a homer and three RBIs. He spent time with the Senators, White Sox and Angels before retiring in 1967. Skowron worked several sales positions and was a community affairs representative with the White Sox until his passing from congestive heart failure in 2012.

2. Don Mattingly – He was one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball until a bad back affected his play and forced him to retire. Mattingly had a brief call-up to the Yankees in 1982 and was named the full-time starter two years later. He quickly got fans and reporters to take notice of his abilities, earning his first of six straight All-Star selections, hitting 23 home runs and driving in 110 runs, and leading the league with a .343 average, 207 hits and 44 doubles.

“Donnie Baseball” was even better in 1985, batting 324 with 107 runs, 211 hits, a career-high 35 homers and league-leading totals of 48 doubles and 145 RBIs, the most by an American League left-handed batter in more than 35 years. The season ended with Mattingly winning the MVP Award, as well as his first gold glove and silver slugger. In 1986, he posted a .352-31-113 stat line, and both led the league and set team records with 238 hits and 53 doubles to finish as the MVP runner-up.

Mattingly continued his stellar play for the rest of the 1980s He finished with six straight seasons hitting .300 or better and 180 or more hits, producing five seasons with at least 20 homers and 100 RBIs and scoring at least 100 runs twice. Mattingly experienced his first back issues in 1987 but also posted two memorable stats during the season. From July 8-18, the Yankees played eight games and he homered in all of them, tying a major league record. Mattingly also hit a baseball single-season record six grand slams.

In 1990, “The Hit Man” signed the biggest contract in baseball history at the time and was also named captain, but he saw his production drop. His back injury was determined to be a congenital disk deformity and affected him the following year, although his average jumped back to .288. After an offseason physical therapy regimen, Mattingly saw some of his power return over the next two years. However, the pressure was mounting for the team to make the playoffs.

The Yankees were in first place for a good portion of the 1994 season and were up by 6½ games on August 12 when the players went on strike. A little over a month later, the rest of the season and playoffs were canceled, and Mattingly was one of the few players who got public sympathy during the ordeal. When baseball returned, their first baseman was with the team, but his skills were clearly on the decline. New York got hot late and made the playoffs for the first time in Mattingly’s 14-year tenure (1982-95). He batted .417 (10-for-24) with one home run and six RBIs, but the Yankees fell to the Mariners (and his eventual replacement Martinez) in the new five-game Division Series.

Mattingly ranks fourth in franchise history in doubles (442), seventh in hits (2,153), eighth in total bases (3,301) and tenth in games (1,785), RBIs (1,099) and batting average (.307) to go with 1,007 runs and 222 home runs. He earned nine gold gloves, six All-Star selections, three silver sluggers and was in the top 10 of MVP voting four times. The 1993 Lou Gehrig Award winner sat out the 1996 season hoping his condition would improve. In the meantime, the Yankees won the World Series and Mattingly retired early the following year.

“Donnie Baseball” worked on his horse farm before coming back to coach for the Yankees and Dodgers. He took over as manager when Joe Torre left to work in the commissioner’s office. Mattingly managed in Los Angeles and Miami, amassing an 889-950 record in 12 seasons and winning the Manager of the Year Award with the Marlins in 20202. He is entering his second year as hitting coach with the Blue Jays.

1. Lou Gehrig – He was signed by the Yankees when he was at Columbia University and spent most of his first two professional seasons playing for their affiliate in Hartford. When he finally made the big-league club in 1925, Gehrig served as a backup outfielder and pinch-hitter for the first two months of the year. He got his first start at first base on June 2, replacing Pipp, who either was suffering from poor play or a wicked headache (depending on which story you believe). Gehrig went on to become the “Iron Horse” and played in every game for the next 14½ seasons.

Gehrig’s production was unmatched in his or any era. Beginning in 1926, he had a run of 13 straight seasons with at least 100 runs scored and 100 runs batted in, and he led the league in the latter category five times. Gehrig holds the top three spots in the category in franchise history, including a club-record 185 in 1931. He also topped the A. L. five times in on-base percentage, four times each in runs and total bases, three times in home runs, twice in doubles and once each in hits, triples and batting average. Gehrig also had 200 or more hits eight times and set a record by surpassing 400 total bases in five seasons.

Despite being overshadowed by either Babe Ruth or Joe DiMaggio for most of his career, Gehrig held his own, earning seven All-Star selections after the game’s inception in 1933 and finishing in the Top 10 of the MVP voting. He was a major part of the “Murderer’s Row” Yankees of 1927, winning the MVP Award after posting a .373 average, 218 hits, 47 home runs and league-high totals of 173 RBIs and 52 doubles, both of which rank second in team history. New York won 110 games that season, which set an American League record and was 19 games clear of second place Philadelphia, then swept Pittsburgh in the World Series.

The Yankees would win a total of eight championships in nine World Series appearances during Gehrig’s 17-year tenure (1923-39), although he was ineligible to play during his first season and was not capable of playing in his final campaign (more on that later). He was just as dangerous in the postseason, batting .361 with 30 runs, 43 hits, eight doubles, 10 home runs and 35 RBIs in 34 games. Had there been a World Series MVP Award at the time, he almost certainly would have won it with his performance (a .545 average, four home runs and nine RBIs) in a four-game sweep of the Cardinals.

Gehrig won the Triple Crown in 1934, batting .363 with 49 homers and 166 RBIs (and also leading the league with 211 hits and an astonishing 163 runs in 155 games), yet he somehow only finished fifth in the MVP voting. After six straight years of near misses, he won the Award for a second time in 1936 after batting .354 with 205 hits, 152 RBIs and league-leading totals of 167 runs (second in team history) and 49 home runs.

“Larrupin’ Lou” continued his astounding level of production while the Yankees battled the Athletics for supremacy in the early 1930s. In 1932, New York was on its way to a pennant and a showdown with the Cubs in the World Series, but Gehrig gave fans a show along the way. He drove in 151 runs and hit 34 homers, including four in Philadelphia on June 3, becoming just the third player in baseball history to hit four in a game and the first in 36 years. A six-run Yankees inning gave him one more shot at a fifth, but his blast was snagged by center fielder Al Simmons with a leaping grab at the wall. Gehrig had another stellar World Series, but he was overshadowed by Ruth and his “called home run.”

Gehrig set the consecutive games played record with number 1,308 on August 17, 1933, breaking the mark set by former teammate Everett Scott. Ruth left after the following season and Gehrig became the team captain, but he had just one year in the spotlight before DiMaggio came to New York in 1936. Two years later, his body began to wear down throughout the season, and fans and sportswriters thought his extra effort was the cause. Gehrig continued his usual offseason routine with no improvements and doctors diagnosed him with a gallbladder issue.

The “Iron Horse” was struggling with hitting, catching and other forms of coordination as the 1939 season began, so on May 2, he took himself out of the lineup, ending his streak at 2,130 consecutive games. Not only did he not play that day, but he never played again. Even with rest, Gehrig’s condition worsened and his wife, Eleanor, sent him to the Mayo Clinic, where doctors diagnosed him with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The condition causes a hardening of the spinal cord, which would lead to a deterioration of muscles and nerve endings and eventual paralysis and organ failure.

Gehrig is the all-time franchise leader in RBIs (1,995) and triples (163). He ranks second in batting average (.340), hits (2,721), doubles (534), total bases (5,060), on-base percentage (.447) and slugging percentage (.632) and third in games (2,164), runs (1,888), home runs (493) and walks (1,508). The RBI total ranks seventh on the all-time list. His consecutive games streak stood for nearly 60 years before it was broken by Cal Ripken Jr. in 1995.

The Yankees held “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day” on July 4, with the “Iron Horse” speaking in between games of a doubleheader. Despite the nature of his condition, his speech included the iconic line, “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” The team brought in members of the 1927 championship team for the ceremony, including Ruth. The pair were friends and card-playing partners during their early years on the Yankees, but their relationship became strained.

Ruth and Gehrig participated in barnstorming baseball tours around the U.S. and the World but developed a professional and personal rivalry. Whether it was Gehrig harboring resentment towards the Babe’s hard-partying lifestyle while he lived clean, or his mother’s comment about Ruth’s new wife dressing her own daughter better than the slugger’s from his first marriage, or Ruth’s outspoken nature about many topics, including Gehrig’s streak, the pair hardly spoke for the final few years of their time together.

Gehrig passed away on June 2, 1941, at his home in the Bronx, 16 years to the day after making his first start at first base for the Yankees. Upon his death, flags throughout New York City, as well as at ballparks around the country, flew at half staff. The cemetery where he is laid also houses Andy Coakley (his coach at Columbia), Paul Krichell (the scout who signed him), Edward Barrow (the Yankees’ general manager) and team owner Jacob Ruppert. Ruth is buried at an adjoining cemetery. Major League Baseball annually awards the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award for a player who best exhibits character and integrity, and the condition that took his life now bears his name.

Third Basemen

Honorable Mentions – Clete Boyer came to New York from Kansas City in a 13-player swap in 1957, one of the many between the Yankees and Athletics in that era. Although he was overshadowed offensively in a talented lineup, he was solid in the field, leading the league in assists three times and both double plays and fielding percentage twice during his eight-year run in New York (1959-66). Boyer finished his Yankees tenure with 434 runs, 882 hits, 140 doubles, 95 home runs, 393 RBIs and 1,357 total bases in 1,068. He also appeared in five World Series in pinstripes and won a pair of titles. Boyer did not win in 1964, but someone with his last name did. His brother, Ken, manned the hot corner for the Cardinals and, even though both brothers homered in Game 7 (the first time that had been done in a Fall Classic), St. Louis prevailed. Boyer had 20 hits, two home runs and 11 RBIs in 27 postseason games with the Yankees. He ended his career with the Braves, winning his only gold glove in 1969. Boyer was a coach for the Athletics and Yankees and ran a restaurant in Cooperstown, NY, until he passed away due to a stroke in 2007.

Scott Brosius was solid for most of his time in Oakland but found his stroke once he came to New York in 1998. He earned the lone All-Star selection in his first season after batting .300, hitting 19 home runs and setting career highs with 86 runs, 159 hits and 98 runs batted in. Brosius was even better in the postseason, winning the World Series MVP Award and the Babe Ruth Award after totaling six runs, 18 hits, four homers and 15 RBIs in 13 games. He was a major part of three straight Yankee championships and did his best to bring the team a fourth in 2001. Brosius hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning off Byung-Hyun Kim in Game 5, but the Diamondbacks won the final two games.

Brosius retired after the series, finishing his four-year tenure in New York (1998-2001) with a .267 average, 264 runs, 507 hits, 105 doubles, 65 home runs and 282 RBIs in 540 games. The 1999 Gold Glove winner appeared in 58 playoff games, totaling 19 runs, 48 hits, eight doubles, eight homers and 30 runs batted in. Following his playing career, Brosius coached at Linfield College before joining the Mariners’ coaching staff in 2017.

5. Wade Boggs – He was one of the best pure hitters of his era, earning eight All-Star selections and six silver sluggers while also winning five batting titles as a member of the Red Sox. Boggs joined the rival Yankees in 1993 and kept up his stellar play, adding four more All-Star selections (giving him 12 in a row) and winning two silver sluggers and two gold gloves in five seasons in the Bronx (1993-97). While “Chicken Man” was held in check during the 1996 World Series, the Yankees won the title, and he celebrated by riding around the field on the back of a police horse.

Boggs lost playing time to Charlie Hayes the following year and left the Yankees to join an expansion team that was playing in his hometown, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He finished his time in New York tied for fifth in franchise history with a, 313 average to go with 355 runs, 702 hits, 119 doubles and 246 RBIs in 501 games. Boggs became the first person to homer for his 3,000th hit when he reached the mark in 1999. Known by teammates for his hitting prowess and beer drinking, Boggs was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.

4. Joe Dugan – Although he quickly became one of the best players in the game upon his arrival in the late 1910s, he earned the nickname “Jumping Joe” for his near-constant trade demands from Philadelphia. Dugan came to New York in 1922 after spending only half a season in Boston and he settled down now that he was playing every day for a winner. He had his best season in 1923, batting .283 and setting career highs with 111 runs and 65 RBIs. He also helped the Yankees break a two-year World Series losing streak by hitting an inside-the-park home run in Game 5 against the Giants.

Dugan’s later career was affected by a knee injury that required surgery. In seven seasons with the Yankees (1922-28), he batted .286 with 426 runs, 871 hits, 147 doubles, 316 RBIs and 1,138 total bases in 785 games. The 1923 fielding champion appeared in five World Series, winning three titles and totaling 13 runs, 24 hits and eight RBIs in 25 postseason contests. Dugan was sold to the Braves in 1929 and, after a year off, played his final season with the Tigers. Following his retirement, he ran a beer distribution company, owned a tavern, ran a baseball school in New England and worked as a scout for the Red Sox for a decade. “Jumping Joe” passed away due pneumonia and a stroke in 1982.

3. Robert “Red” Rolfe – He caught the eye of the Yankees while attending Dartmouth and playing shortstop on the school’s baseball team. Rolfe played one game in New York in 1931 then was sent to the minors for two full seasons before returning to the big leagues. He soon became a standout hitter, topping the .300 mark four times, getting 170 or more hits for five straight years and scoring at least 100 runs in seven consecutive seasons. Rolfe’s best offensive campaign was 1939, when he drove in 81 runs, batted a career-best .329 and led the league with 139 runs, 213 hits and 46 doubles.

In addition, Dugan was slick at the hot corner, winning a pair of fielding titles, and he also used his Ivy League education and desire for knowledge to take detailed notes on where opposing batters would hit the ball based on type of pitch and location. His early version of hitting charts would also lead to infield defensive shifts. Rolfe led the league with 15 triples in 1936 and earned All-Star selections in each of the next four years.

Rolfe spent his entire 10-year career with the Yankees (1931 and 34-42), batting .289 with 942 runs, 1,394 hits, 257 doubles, 67 triples, 69 home runs, 497 RBIs and 1,992 total bases in 1,175 games. The redhead retired after the 1942 season after dealing with inflammatory colitis in his stomach, and he became the coach at Yale University. He also played in the World Series six times and was on the winning side on five occasions, totaling 17 runs, 33 hits and six RBIs in 28 games.

In 1946, Rolfe coached the Toronto Huskies in the first season of the Basketball Association of America (BAA), which would later become the NBA. He became the farm director and then manager of the Tigers, leading Detroit to a 278-256 record in four seasons before he was fired in 1952. “Robert the Red” returned to Dartmouth as athletic director, but he retired after his intestinal issues required surgery. The school renamed their baseball field after him in 1969, and he passed away about a month later due to kidney failure at age 40.

2. Graig Nettles – After a brief stint with the Twins and improvement over three seasons with the Indians, he came to the Yankees and turned into a star both on offense and defense. Despite the turmoil in the front office and the dugout, Nettles earned five All-Star selections and two gold gloves while helping New York reach the postseason five times, play in the World Series four times and win two titles in a six-year span.

“Puff” bashed 20 or more home runs eight times in 11 years with the Yankees (1973-83) and led the league with 32 in 1977. He also had five seasons with at least 80 runs batted in. Although he never hit for a high average, Nettles was productive throughout his career with his best season being 1977, when he set career highs with 37 home runs and 107 RBIs. The Yankees and Red Sox battled in a one-game playoff for the division title in 1978 and, while Bucky Dent gets all the accolades for the go-ahead home run, it was Nettles who caught the final out.

After the death of catcher Thurman Munson in a plane crash, Nettles was named team captain. He was stellar against the Athletics in the 1981 ALCS, winning series MVP honors after batting .500 (6-for-12) with a homer and nine RBIs in the three-game series, but the Yankees fell to the Dodgers in the World Series. Nettles was traded to the Padres before the 1984 season, and he also played with the Braves and Expos before retiring in 1988. He was a coach and scout with New York and San Diego following his playing career.

1. Alex Rodriguez – This choice is sure to create some debate and even disgust among fans. Rodriguez was a sure-fire Hall of Famer. He was the first pick of the draft by the Mariners in 1993, a true five-tool player and his accolades stack up well against just about anyone who ever put on a major league uniform. During his 22-year career, he won three MVP Awards, 10 silver sluggers and two gold gloves, was a 14-time All-Star, led the league in runs five times, home runs four times, RBIs twice, topped the 200-hit mark three times, won a batting title with a career-best .358 mark in 1996 with Seattle and joined the 40-40 club two years later.

However, with players this talented, there is usually a flip side. In this case, Rodriguez had quite the ego, which included infidelity and led to a divorce, vanity (although he denies having pictures of himself as a centaur in his bedroom) and greed (signing a 10-year, $252 million deal with the Rangers in 2001, then getting traded to the Yankees three years later and signing for 10-$275 million in 2007). From a baseball standpoint, his worst transgression was his use of steroids. According to a Sports Illustrated story, he first tested positive in 2003, and his ties to the Biogenesis facility in Florida, along with an admission of use in 2010) led to a suspension that lasted for the entire 2014 season.

During his 12 seasons with the Yankees (2004-16), “A-Rod” continued his earlier success, starting off his tenure by producing five straight seasons of at least 100 runs, 150 hits, 35 home runs and 100 runs batted in. His resume in New York includes seven All-Star selections, three silver sluggers and a pair of MVP Awards. In 2005, one year after moving from his previous position of shortstop, Rodriguez led the league with 124 runs, 48 home runs and a .610 slugging percentage to go with 194 hits, 130 RBIs, a .321 average and 369 total bases. Two years later, he put together another otherworldly season, batting .313 and topping the A. L. with 143 runs, 54 homers, 156 RBIs, a .645 slugging percentage and .376 total bases.

The other knock against Rodriguez besides his steroid use or personality flaws was that he failed to make any of his teams better. Although he had near limitless potential “A-Rod” played in only one World Series, helping the Yankees defeat the Phillies for their 27th title in 2009. He won the Babe Ruth Award for his performance, which included 15 runs, 19 hits, six home runs and 18 RBIs in 15 games. The rest of his 11 postseason appearances ended in disappointment and a .259 average, despite 13 home runs in 76 career playoff games.

“A-Rod” ranks fourth in franchise history with 1,292 strikeouts, sixth with 351 home runs and tenth with 1,012 runs and 2,914 hits. He also batted .283 with 1,580 hits, 263 doubles, 1,096 RBIs and 152 stolen bases in 1,509 games. The 2007 Hank Aaron Award winner had four Top 10 MVP finishes and won a fielding title in 2008. Ironically enough, his numbers went on the decline following the 2010 season, when he later said he used steroids. Despite a resurgence in 2015, a strained hamstring cut short his following season, and he played his last game in August.

Since he retired, Rodriguez has worked as an analyst for Fox Sports and ESPN, purchased the NBA’s Timberwolves and the WNBA’s Lynx and has had an active dating life. He is now ranked fourth on the all-time list in RBIs (2,086), fifth in home runs (696), seventh in total bases (5,813), eighth in runs (2,021), 12th in WAR (117.5) and 23rd in hits (3,115). Despite all of the accolades, awards and fantastic statistics, his steroid suspension may ultimately keep him out of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Designated Hitters

5. Danny Tartabull – Following a stellar start to his career with the Mariners and Royals that included is only All-Star selection in 1991, he joined the Yankees and, while he still had solid power numbers, his average and production fell due to several injuries. Tartabull’s best year in New York was 1993, when he hit 31 home runs and drove in 102 runs. However, his stats dipped, and he was traded to the Athletics midway through the 1995 season. He also spent time with the White Sox and played a three-game stint with the Phillies in 1997 that included a fractured foot that ultimately ended his career.

Tartabull’s cockiness and arrogance turned off teammates, bothered management and angered fans everywhere he played. His desire to show off his wealth also led to issues. After his divorce, Tartabull refused to pay child support for his younger two children, with the bill eventually reaching more than $200,000.00. He violated probation and an arrest warrant was issued, which he evaded for nearly four years until he was picked up after calling police to report his stolen car in 2017.

4. Don Baylor – He made his name with the Angels, winning the MVP Award and earning his only All-Star selection in 1979 after leading the league with 120 runs and 139 RBIs and setting career highs with 186 hits and 36 home runs. Baylor joined the Yankees as a free agent in 1983 and had at least 20 homers and 80 RBIs in each of his three seasons in pinstripes (1983-85), but his average dipped every year.

“Groove” was known for his ability to get on base by being hit by a pitch. He retired with a major league record 267 (since broken) and led the league twice with the Yankees. Although Baylor won the Roberto Clemente Award in 1985, he and owner George Steinbrenner did not get along, so he was traded to the Red Sox. He also played with Minnesota and Oakland before his 19-year career came to an end in 1988. Baylor was a coach and manager in the major leagues for nearly three decades. The Rockies’ first manager passed away after a battle with multiple myeloma in 2017 at age 68.

3. Hideki Matsui – He was one of the most popular and productive players throughout his seven-year run in New York (2003-09), which saw him play all three outfield positions as well as designated hitter. Matsui drove in at least 100 runs four times in his career, including his first three seasons after coming over from Japan’s Yomiuri Giants. He earned a pair of All-Star selections and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting while playing in every game.

“Godzilla” set career highs in 2005 with a .305 average and 116 RBIs but missed time over the next few years with wrist and knee injuries. He returned strong in 2009, setting a franchise record with 26 home runs by a designated hitter. Matsui batted .615 (8-for-13) with three homers and eight RBIs in the World Series win over the Phillies, and his record-tying six RBIs in Game 6 helped him earn series MVP honors. He became the first Japanese player and first designated hitter to win the award.

Matsui batted .292 with 536 runs, 977 hits, 196 doubles, 140 home runs, 597 RBIs and 1,615 total bases in 916 games. In the playoffs, he had a .312 average, 32 runs, 64 hits, 15 doubles, 10 homers and 39 RBIs in 56 contests. After one season each with the Angels, Athletics and Rays, Matsui retired in 2012. He earned the People’s Honor Award in his native country, was the youngest player elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame when he earned that honor in 2018 and was one of the torchbearers in the 2020 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.

2. Giancarlo Stanton – He began his career going by his middle name Mike during the 2009 MLB Futures Game and also for his first two seasons with the Florida Marlins. He decided to use his given name once the team changed to Miami in 2012. From there, Stanton earned four All-Star selections in South Florida and set franchise marks with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs in his MVP season in 2017.

Like most other talented young Marlins stars, the team traded Stanton before he could ask for more money, with the Yankees being the beneficiary of this good fortune. He moved to designated hitter and batted .266 with 38 home runs and 100 RBIs despite striking out a team-record 211 times. Bicep, shoulder and knee injuries cost him most of the 2019 season, and he also had a hamstring issue during the COVID-shortened campaign.

“Bigfoot” returned to form in 2021 and even made the All-Star team for the first time as a Yankee the following year and was named MVP of the Midsummer Classic, but his strikeout total has remained high while his batting average has plummeted. He reached the 400-homer and 1,000-RBI marks during the 2023 season, but he batted a paltry .191. Stanton has 494 hits, 135 home runs and 359 RBIs in 549 games. He has appeared in 27 career postseason contests, all with New York, and has amassed 16 runs, 25 hits, 11 homers and 24 RBIs, including a .316-4-10 stat line in a loss to the Rays in the 2020 Division Series.

1. Jason Giambi – Other than his final season, most of his seven-year stay in the Big Apple (2002-08) was split fairly evenly between first base and designated hitter. Giambi improved each year he was in Oakland, winning the MVP Award in 2000 and coming in second the following year. However, his career nearly ended when his grand jury admission concerning the use of illegal steroids became public knowledge. However, that fit with the rest of his on-the-edge lifestyle.

Giambi joined the Yankees, signing a seven-year, $120 million contract before the 2002 season. Under the strict Steinbrenner guidelines, he cut his hair and stopped his more dangerous lifestyle. However, Giambi was notoriously slow to get started during the season, but he rebounded in the later months, earning All-Star and silver slugger recognition and finishing fifth in the MVP voting after batting .314 with 41 home runs and 122 RBIs. He followed that up with a .250-41-107 stat line in 2003 and hit two homers in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Red Sox.

The “Giambino” (as Yankees announcer John Sterling called him) missed most of the 2004 season due to a tumor on his pituitary gland, and the team tried to void the rest of his big contract when his steroid testimony came out. While it took some work, Giambi made the effort to make amends with teammates and fans, and he also reached the 30-homer mark in each of the next two seasons. In 2007, he officially admitted publicly to using steroids and missed half the year due to injury. The following season was his last as a Yankee, and he hit 32 home runs before returning to the Athletics as a free agent.

Giambi batted .260 with 515 runs, 764 hits, 134 doubles, 209 home runs, 604 RBIs and 1,529 total bases in 897 games. He appeared in 32 playoff games with the Bombers, totaling 14 runs, 29 hits, six homers and 13 RBIs and playing in one World Series in 2003 (a loss to the Marlins). After one season in Oakland, Giambi spent time in Colorado and Cleveland before retiring in 2015 with 440 home runs and 1,441 RBIs in his 20-year career.

Upcoming Stories

New York Yankees Catchers and Managers
New York Yankees First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
New York Yankees Second Basemen and Shortstops – coming soon
New York Yankees Outfielders – coming soon
New York Yankees Pitchers – coming soon

Previous Series

A look back at the New York Mets

New York Mets Catchers and Managers
New York Mets First and Third Basemen
New York Mets Second Basemen and Shortstops
New York Mets Outfielders
New York Mets Pitchers

A look back at the Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins Catchers and Managers
Minnesota Twins First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Minnesota Twins Second Basemen and Shortstops
Minnesota Twins Outfielders
Minnesota Twins Pitchers

A look back at the Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers Catchers and Managers
Milwaukee Brewers First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Milwaukee Brewers Second Basemen and Shortstops
Milwaukee Brewers Outfielders
Milwaukee Brewers Pitchers

A look back at the Miami Marlins

Miami Marlins Catchers and Managers
Miami Marlins First and Third Basemen
Miami Marlins Second Basemen and Shortstops
Miami Marlins Outfielders
Miami Marlins Pitchers

A look back at the Los Angeles Dodgers

A look back at the Los Angeles Angels

Los Angeles Angels Catchers and Managers
Los Angeles Angels First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Los Angeles Angels Second Basemen and Shortstops
Los Angeles Angels Outfielders
Los Angeles Angels Pitchers

A look back at the Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals Catchers and Managers
Kansas City Royals First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Kansas City Royals Second Basemen and Shortstops
Kansas City Royals Outfielders
Kansas City Royals Pitchers

A look back at the Houston Astros

Houston Astros Catchers and Managers
Houston Astros First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Houston Astros Second Basemen and Shortstops
Houston Astros Outfielders
Houston Astros Pitchers

A look back at the Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers Catchers and Managers
Detroit Tigers First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Detroit Tigers Second Basemen and Shortstops
Detroit Tigers Outfielders
Detroit Tigers Pitchers

A look back at the Colorado Rockies

Colorado Rockies Catchers and Managers
Colorado Rockies First and Third Basemen
Colorado Rockies Second Basemen and Shortstops
Colorado Rockies Outfielders
Colorado Rockies Pitchers

A look back at the Cleveland Guardians

Cleveland Guardians Catchers and Managers
Cleveland Guardians First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Cleveland Guardians Second Basemen and Shortstops
Cleveland Guardians Outfielders
Cleveland Guardians Pitchers

A look back at the Cincinnati Reds

A look back at the Chicago White Sox

Chicago Cubs Catchers and Managers
Chicago Cubs First and Third Basemen
Chicago Cubs Second Basemen and Shortstops
Chicago Cubs Outfielders
Chicago Cubs Pitchers

A look back at the Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox Catchers and Managers
Boston Red Sox First and Third Basemen
Boston Red Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Boston Red Sox Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Boston Red Sox Pitchers

A look back at the Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers

A look back at the Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves Catchers and Managers
Atlanta Braves First and Third Basemen
Atlanta Braves Second Basemen and Shortstops
Atlanta Braves Outfielders
Atlanta Braves Pitchers

A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks Catchers and Managers
Arizona Diamondbacks First and Third Basemen
Arizona Diamondbacks Second Basemen and Shortstops
Arizona Diamondbacks Outfielders
Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers

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