Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mickey Mantle was more lucky than great, according to the Wall Street Journal

It looks like The Wall Street Journal's new beefed-up sports section is trying to be all edgy these days. They've come up with a very controversial list of the top 10 Yankee position players. But the WSJ are unable to really back up their picks with anything more than "because we said so" criteria. And the way they downgrade Yankee greats like Mickey Mantle is just ridiculous.

Here's their list:
  1. Babe Ruth
  2. Lou Gehrig
  3. Joe DiMaggio
  4. Derek Jeter
  5. Yogi Berra
  6. Mickey Mantle
  7. Reggie Jackson
  8. Alex Rodriguez
  9. Joe Gordon
  10. Tommy Henrich
 The WSJ explained their grades this way:
The categories included postseason batting, fielding range, on-base plus slugging percentage and wins above replacement player. We also included the player's impact on team attendance and his effect on the value of the franchise. To give a more rounded portrait, we scored each candidate by their relevance in popular culture, upstandingness and earning power in the collectibles market. The totals were compiled by giving each player a score (1 to 10) in each of 11 categories and tabulating the results.
Collectibles? Is this the ranking of great players or bobbleheads?

As for their top 10 list, 1 and 2, of course, are obvious choices. But the WSJ put DiMaggio at No. 3 instead of No. 2 because of a rather bizarre reason. The WSJ writes:
In the end, DiMaggio fell to third in our rankings, behind Lou Gehrig, for another reason: likability. At the Yankees' Old-Timers' Day celebrations, the famously petty DiMaggio insisted on being introduced last, according to long-time team PR man Marty Appel.
The WSJ can't even get that tidbit straight. The egotistical part wasn't DiMaggio being introduced last. After all, Yogi Berra gets that treatment today. No, what was over the top about it was that Joe insisted on being introduced as the "greatest living ballplayer."
At any rate, I wouldn't have DiMaggio even that high on my own list. He would be fourth, below Mantle. Nothing to do with likability, but with longevity. And if Derek Jeter gets 3,000 hits, I would put Jeter above Joltin' Joe.
But on the WSJ's list, Jeter gets ranked above both Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra. The WSJ downplays Mantle, saying that "despite his many accomplishments, Mantle also benefitted from dumb luck."
Yeah, right. It was really lucky when the rookie Mantle got his spikes caught in a Yankee Stadium drainpipe cover in the 1951 World Series, and tore up the ligaments in his knee. And how he never played in another game without physical pain in his career, and injuries kept him from being even greater. Oh, and the fact that all the men in his family, including his father, died young (he and his father were side-by-side in hospital beds when Mantle first hurt his knee) helped drive him to drink. 
But the WSJ thinks Mantle was lucky because he "joined the Yankees in 1951, the same year major-league games were first broadcast in color and nationally" and "became the face of a loaded team that reached 12 World Series in 14 years." Never mind that most Americans didn't even have TVs in 1951, and color TV didn't become mainstream until at least 15 years later. And that Mantle was the No. 1 reason those Yankees were "a loaded team" in the first place.
Also, where the heck is Don Mattingly on this list? By the WSJ's own criteria on likability, value to the franchise, and importance in pop culture, Donnie Baseball should be in the top 10. He was only the most popular Yankee player of an entire generation, after all.

Reggie Jackson and Alex Rodriguez are No. 7 and 8. The WSJ says "both of whom made the list largely on the strength of their offensive statistics -- in the regular season and the playoffs." Hmmm, has the paper already forgotten how much grief A-Rod got for his postseason numbers until 2009?

Besides, these are two of my all-time favorite Yankees, but even I wouldn't put Reggie in the top 10 - he was only on the team for five seasons, after all. And A-Rod should end up in the top 10, but I still wouldn't put him at No. 8 at this point, given that he's only been with the team since 2004.

Joe Gordon is No. 9 for "defense." But is he an all-time top 10 Yankee? I don't think so. Tommy Heinrich makes No. 10 because "the team's winning percentage during his career was the highest for any player." Huh? Was he single-handedly responsible for that? Please. Mantle gets downgraded because he was part of a "loaded team," while Heinrich makes the top 10 for being part of a loaded team? How does that make any sense?

I guess the WSJ is trying to make an impact on the New York sports scene, but between this article and the way that they twisted around statistics to make sure that A-Rod would have the longest home run trot numbers, color me unimpressed with their new sports stuff.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!


Rob said...

This list is retarded. They're probably trying to draw attention to themselves with it as they expand their sports coverage.

Mantle was the hurt by bad luck, not helped by good luck. If he didn't get hurt so often by freak accidents and stuff he couldn't control and if he didn't play for Casey Stengle who constantly platooned everyone his numbers would be through the roof.

You also would think that if they are including pop culture in this that Mantle would be no. 1, maybe 2 behind Ruth.

-Rob A from BBD-

greg ubanks said...

dumb luck i guess mickey stats are make beleve he is the best power /switch hitter in history his WS records speak for them selfs i dont know were they got there information but he is #2 in anybodys book jetter is a good hitter but cant be compaired to mantle.if mickey was dumb luck so was willie mays??

"Nutball Gazette" said...

Where is Cody Ramson??? sniff sniff,, pout pout.

Uncle Mike said...

The Wall Street Journal, like the New York Post and the Fox Networks, is owned by Rupert Murdoch. This makes it a pack of lies which sometimes includes an interesting sports section. I wouldn’t believe a word it says.

According to, on the “Hall of Fame Monitor,” in which a “Likely HOFer” batter is at roughly 100, Ruth is a stupendous 422 (and a 42 as a pitcher), Gehrig a shocking 352, DiMaggio a superb 256, Mantle a whopping 296, Berra a solid 226, Jackson a much lower 168, Mattingly an interesting 134 (yet he’s never gotten close to HOF consideration), Jeter a surprising 274 (and this is without being a big power hitter), Rodriguez an enormous 349. On their “Hall of Fame Standards,” in which an “Average HOFer” is at 50, the Babe is at 79 (and a 34 as a pitcher), Lou 72, Joe 58, Mickey 65, Yogi right there at 50, Reggie 54, Donnie 34 (and that’s why he’s never gotten serious consideration), Derek 64, Alex 73.

Interestingly, Robinson Cano is already at 46 and 20; Mark Teixeira, though he’s only had one year in Pinstripes, 74 and 26. Mike Piazza, 205 and 62; Jose Reyes, 38 and 15; David Wright, 62 and 29.

Based on individual performance, team achievement, and where they stand in the public mind, here’s my Top 10 Yankees: 1. Babe Ruth, 2. Lou Gehrig, 3. Mickey Mantle, 4. Joe DiMaggio, 5. Yogi Berra, 6. Derek Jeter, 7. Phil Rizzuto, 8. Whitey Ford, 9. Mariano Rivera, 10. Bill Dickey. Unfortunately, this forces Reggie Jackson and all my other 1976-81 Yankees off the list, but they only won 4 Pennants and 2 World Series. (Or, to put it another way, as much in 6 years as the Mets won in their first 48.) I had to rank the Scooter up there because of his dual, 40-year career. But even he would rank Jeter ahead of himself.

Now, if you want to talk about pop culture, the movies about Gehrig, Mantle/Maris, and Jackson and his '77 teammates were a lot better than the movies about Ruth. But Reggie is still making great commercials, witness his new one for DirecTV.

Lisa Swan said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone. Rob, you raise some great points. Like about the freak accidents/injuries. If it weren't for him being in the hospital in 1961, he could have been the one beating Ruth's single-season record.

And if they're looking for pop culture significance, putting Phil Rizzuto in the top 10, as Uncle Mike suggested, would make sense. Generations who never got to see him play heard him on the radio. Holy coq!

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