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Yankees' Top 5 second basemen: Hoch's take

@BryanHoch
April 6, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Bryan Hoch’s ranking of the top five second basemen in Yankees history. Next week: Third basemen.

Yankees All-Time Around the Horn Team: C | 1B

1) Tony Lazzeri, 1926-37
Key fact: Holds American League record for most RBIs in a single game (11, on May 24, 1936)

Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously in 1991, Lazzeri was a feared clutch hitter who served as a key component alongside Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the fabled “Murderers' Row” Yankees lineups. Lazzeri played for six American League pennant winners during his dozen years in pinstripes, batting .293/.379/.467 with 169 home runs and 1,157 RBIs.

After making his World Series debut in 1926, Lazzeri performed admirably in his next five Fall Classics, helping the Yankees to victory in each by batting .291 and slugging .494, with four homers in 79 at-bats. On May 24, 1936, Lazzeri became the first Major Leaguer to hit two grand slams in a single game, collecting 11 RBIs in a 25-2 drubbing of the Athletics. He still leads all Yanks second basemen in hits (1,784), triples (115), RBIs, on-base percentage (.379) and wOBA (.387).

"Around New York, I used to hear that expression, 'Once a Dodger, always a Dodger,'" Lazzeri once said. "But how about, 'Once a Yankee, always a Yankee?' There never was anything better than that. You never get over it."

2) Willie Randolph, 1976-88
Key fact: Leads all Yankees second basemen in fWAR (51.4)

Acquired from the Pirates in December 1975, Randolph held second base for the next 13 seasons, serving as a model of consistency and patience during a period of turbulence in which his clubs were referred to as the “Bronx Zoo.” A five-time All-Star in pinstripes, Randolph was part of two World Series championship rosters ('77, '78) and four pennant-winning teams.

An exceptional defender who was known for his ability to turn double plays, Randolph compiled a .275 batting average and a .374 on-base percentage in his time with the club, winning the 1980 Silver Slugger Award at second base after batting .294 with a MLB-leading 119 walks. Honored with a Monument Park plaque in 2015, Randolph paces all Yanks second basemen in games (1,694), runs (1,027), walks (1,005) and stolen bases (251).

"New Yorkers love people who grew up on the same streets that they came from," the Brooklyn-raised Randolph said in 2016. "They love people who are hard workers and who play hard every time out. I think I did that, and the fans never forgot that."

3) Robinson Canó, 2005-13
Key fact: His 375 doubles from 2005-13 topped Major Leaguers

Promoted to the Majors at age 22 in May 2005, the sweet-swinging Canó manned second base in the Bronx for the better part of nine seasons, garnering five All-Star selections, five Silver Slugger Awards and two Gold Glove Awards. A key member of the 2009 World Series championship squad, Canó placed within the top six in the AL MVP Award voting four times with the Bombers.

Though Canó appeared destined for a place in Monument Park, his Yankees career ended in the offseason prior to the 2014 campaign, when he accepted a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Mariners. While with Seattle in 2018, Canó received an 80-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance. Canó leads all Yankees second basemen in doubles, homers (204), batting average (.309), slugging percentage (.504), OPS (.860) and wRC+ (126).

4) Joe Gordon, 1938-46
Key fact: First AL second baseman to hit 20 or more homers (25, in 1938)

Inducted into the Hall of Fame posthumously in 2009, Gordon earned four World Series rings with the Yankees and earned the 1942 AL MVP Award, beating out Ted Williams even though the Red Sox star won the Triple Crown (imagine what the social media reaction would look like today!). Gordon lost two prime years of his career to military service, suiting up for the Army Air Corps during World War II.

An All-Star in nine of his 11 career season, Gordon was the first AL second baseman to hit 20 homers in a season, which he did seven times, including four times with New York. Gordon went on to star for the Indians and managed four big league squads. He once held the AL record for home runs as a second baseman (246). (Canó now holds the record with 296.) Defensively, he led the AL in assists four times and in double plays three times.

5) Bobby Richardson, 1955-66
Key fact: Only MLB player to be named World Series MVP on a losing team (1960)

A slick defender and excellent contact hitter who won five Gold Glove Awards and merited eight All-Star selections, Richardson won three World Series with the Bombers. He was named the MVP of the 1960 Fall Classic despite the Yankees’ loss to the Pirates, having batted .367 (11-for-30) with a homer and 12 RBIs in a Series decided by Bill Mazeroski’s Game 7 blast.

The middle-infield glue on clubs headlined by Hall of Famers like Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, Richardson was at his best under the October spotlight. His World Series slash line of .305/.331/.405 far exceeded his regular-season tally of .266/.299/.335, and Richardson made a splendid catch on a Willie McCovey liner to seal the 1962 Fall Classic over the Giants, a season in which the Yankee led the AL with 209 hits.

Honorable mentions
Gil McDougald (1951-60) was the '51 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner and spent his entire 10-year career with the Yankees, earning six All-Star selections and winning five World Series. A versatile utility man, he played 599 of his 1,391 games at second base. … Snuffy Stirnweiss ('43-50) was a two-time All-Star and won the '45 batting title, hitting .309/.385/.476. … Horace Clarke ('65-74) is best remembered for manning the position on the declining clubs of the late '60s and early '70s, playing 1,230 games. ... Billy Martin (1950-57) earned an All-Star selection in ‘56, then won two pennants and a World Series title as the Yankees’ manager.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.