After gimmes at catcher (Yogi Berra), first base (Lou Gehrig), second base (Jackie Robinson), third base (Alex Rodriguez) and shortstop (Derek Jeter), MSG’s The Lineup lost all credibility last night when they picked Dave Winfield as New York baseball’s all-time best left fielder.
First of all, Winfield didn’t play much left field in New York, just 339 games out of 1172; most of the time he was here, he played right field, 714 games. Remember how close he played to the wall because he liked to make those leaping home run-stealing grabs, and remember the criticism of Winfield as a right fielder? How many soft singles dropped in every 10-12 games while trying to rob home runs?
Rickey Henderson, the other leading candidate for left field, only played 244 games at the position. Clearly, there’s a shortage of great left fielders in New York baseball, but if Henderson’s 244 games weren’t enough to win him the designation as best, then why was he in the running to begin with? Henderson was a better player than Winfield — not by much, as they are both legitimate Hall of Famers — but Henderson was better.
All of this, though, is academic. Since Babe Ruth is obviously going to take the right field spot in next week’s show, would anyone besides Reggie Jackson argue that he was better than Babe? Why not simply choose the two best remaining outfielders to fill the two remaining positions? When they choose he best center fielder in two weeks — and it will be Willie Mays, remember that I said so — it means that Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle are going to get squeezed out of New York baseball’s all-time best lineup for no better reason than an arbitrary selection process.