One of the keys to championship baseball in the major leagues is the double play. Since the second baseman is involved in more double plays than anyone else, this is a pretty important position.
A second baseman who can play great defense as well as hit for power and/or average can make a good team great, since the best hitters tend to play other positions. The Yankees have had their share of second basemen who were excellent hitters as well as top-notch fielders.
Based on factors such as longevity with the team, contributions to championships, offensive statistics, and defensive statistics, here are the top five in franchise history:
5) Robinson Cano: Cano was a durable player, appearing in 1,374 games in nine seasons. A .309 lifetime batter, he has also hit for power, averaging 24 homers and 97 RBI’s a year. A three time all star and Gold Glove winner in 2010, his .986 career fielding average is on par with the league average of .985. Cano didn’t produce in the post-season when it counted, though, batting only .222 in 51 games.
4) Bobby Richardson: Winner of five Gold Gloves and named to seven all star teams, Richardson played in 1,412 games during his 12 seasons with the team, contributing to Yankee championship teams in the early 1960’s. His .266 lifetime batting average is respectable, but his real value was as a consistent defender (.979 fielding average, slightly higher than the league average of .978) who rarely missed a game.
3) Joe Gordon: Selected to the Hall of Fame in 2009 by the Veterans Committee, Gordon played 1,000 games at second base during his seven seasons with the Yanks, from 1938-1946 (missing two seasons while serving in the military during World War II). Named an all star for six consecutive years, Gordon won the MVP award in 1942 when he batted .322 with 18 home runs and 103 runs batted in. Gordon’s fielding average was .970, about the same as the league average at the time of .971.
2) Willie Randolph: Appearing in 1,694 games during his 13 seasons with the team, Randolph’s batting average was .275 and his on-base percentage was an excellent .374. He ranks fifth in team history with 1,005 walks and third in stolen bases with 251. Contributing to the team’s championship years in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and a five time All Star, Randolph was a steady defender, with his .980 fielding percentage and range factor of 5.40 comparing favorably with the league averages of the time, which were .980 and 5.31.
1) Tony Lazzeri: Inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1991, Lazzeri appeared in 1,659 games during his 12 seasons with the Yanks. From 1926-1937 he averaged .293 with an on base percentage of .379, and had more than 100 RBI’s in seven seasons. His fielding percentage of .967 is close to the league average of .968 – a time period when gloves weren’t as sophisticated as today. Lazzeri was a key player on five World Championship teams and the best second baseman in Yankees’ history.