Monday, September 19, 2011

Today in Indefensible Journalism, featuring Kevin Kernan

It's rather difficult to find a Yankees writer that doesn't work with his own reality. By that I mean most of the team's writers, or, at the very least, those who write for mainstream publications, tend to view the Yankees franchise and its history through a very narrow, very subjective mindset. Oftentimes said writers piggyback on the well-worn stories that have become engrained with the Yankees, refusing to even skim through a record book or attempt objectivity when it's far easier too ... well ... not. A recent NY Post article by Kevin Kernan serves as a fine example.
All that’s missing is the monument.

Mariano Rivera is much more than the greatest closer of all time. Put him right up there with the greatest Yankees of all time. This is baseball’s most hallowed ground, and Rivera is part of the Yankees’ Fantastic Five in my all-time record book.

Just call him Monument Mo.

You have to start with Babe Ruth; forever he will be No. 1. The Iron Horse Lou Gehrig, who called himself the “luckiest man on the face of the Earth,” is next. No. 3 is Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. Then comes Derek Jeter, Mr. 3,000. Rounding out the Fantastic Five is the incomparable Mariano Rivera.
Before accusing me of tailoring my argument on a misconstrued portion of Kernan's article, take the time to at least skim through. The only numbers he mixes in are Rivera's save total, Jeter's hit total, and the actual numbers of some Yankees legends.

To Kernan, I ask this question: where in the world is Mickey Mantle?

His answer, insofar as the article is concerned, is this: "It hurts deeply for a kid who grew up a Mickey Mantle fan to move The Mick out of the top five, but this is the new Yankees reality. Time marches on, and Mantle, for all his greatness, does not make my final-five cut. If he had stayed healthy, it would have been a different story. Go cry to Billy Crystal."

Groundbreaking stuff.

I will now, without the use of idiocy and indefensible 'reasoning,' make an argument for Mickey Mantle as the third greatest Yankee ... I'll make it easy to follow, too.

01. Ruth, 149.6
02. Mantle, 120.2
03. Gehrig, 118.4
04. DiMaggio, 83.6
05. Jeter, 70.4

01. Ruth, 209
02. Gehrig, 178
03. Mantle, 172
04. DiMaggio, 155
42. Jeter, 117

By Runs Created
01. Ruth, 2446
02. Gehrig, 2233
03. Mantle, 2038
04. Jeter, 1740
05. DiMaggio, 1569

How, exactly, are DiMaggio and Jeter ahead of Mantle?

Is it World Series rings? Can't be - DiMaggio has 9, Mantle 7, and Jeter 5. Mantle also appeared in more World Series than either.

Is it durability? Shouldn't be. Jeter has averaged 150 games since becoming a full-time player ... he's got an Edge. Mickey "Couldn't Stay Healthy" Mantle averaged 136 games. Joe DiMaggio averaged 134. Yes, these totals are on a per-162 basis, so they reflect the shorter schedules pre-1961.

Is there a service time adjustment to push DiMaggio past Mantle? Could be, I suppose. DiMaggio would have had to average 12.2 WAR per season to match Mantle's total, while averaging 156 RC along the way. His three best WAR seasons were 9.4, 9.0, and 8.9 (Mantle had five seasons better than DiMaggio's 9.4 WAR). He bested 156 RC once.

With respect to Rivera, it's very difficult and somewhat disingenuous to compare pitchers to hitters. I'm willing to call Rivera, at worst, the second or third best pitcher in team history - but I think it's inane to put him ahead of someone like Mantle, who produced 64.2 additional WAR (or a bit more than Yogi Berra produced in his career) while playing everyday ... as one of the greatest players of his time, and one of the greatest hitters ever.

So what is it, then? Kernan likely didn't see DiMaggio play, outside of some scratchy black and white highlights. I would also assume, though that is a dangerous game, that he didn't see much of Mantle before his body started to breakdown in the early 1960s. As for Jeter - I think New York sportswriters are required to praise him out of hand.

My best guess - Kernan went with the narrative. DiMaggio was a hero. Class. Grace. Jeter is the face of the Yankees. And Mantle betrayed his body as much as it betrayed him.

It's really a shame, too, as Mantle's legacy has been subjected to such sentiment from the moment he retired, and he is without a doubt (at worst) the third greatest Yankee.

Follow me on Twitter - @DomenicLanza

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