The Rockies just finished off a series with the mighty New York Yankees, winning the first game, and dropping the last two.
So as the Rockies leave the bright lights of the NYC to return home to the friendly confines of the Rocky Mountains (after a brief stop in Chi-town for a makeup game), I thought a juxtaposition was in order.
Let us take a deeper look at these two baseball franchises, and contrast the pinstriped Yankees with the purple pinstriped Rockies. While their histories, payrolls, fan bases, and all-star teams may differ, their common goal is the same – the pursuit of winning, whether it’s the Yankees pursuing their record 28th World Series crown or the Rockies looking for their first title.
The New York Yankees have been around for more than one hundred years. Their franchise came into existence in 1903, when they were known as the New York Highlanders. They switched their name to the “Yankees” in 1913, and have been more or less a successful powerhouse since then. They have won 27 World Series crowns, by far the most championships of all time, most recently winning it all in 2009. They have also appeared in 40 World Series, taking part in over a third of all the fall classics since their inception.
Compared to the Yankees, the Rocks are the new kids on the block. The Colorado Rockies inaugural season was in 1993. Early in the 1990s, Major League Baseball expanded; the Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins were the two additions. The Rockies have yet to garner a division title in their 19 years of existence, although they made it all the way to the World Series as a wild card team in 2007. The entire city of Denver was captivated by the unprecedented run the Rockies made to capture the NL pennant. But they were swept by the Boston Red Sox and have not made it back to the big dance since.
The Yankees garner a reputation as an evil empire, mostly because they have always spent more money than everyone else, thus attracting the biggest stars in the game. More stars means better teams, and better teams means more wins. It’s a pretty simple formula. There is no salary cap in baseball, so teams can spend what they please, and the Yankees spend aplenty. They aren’t the only financial bully in the league, but they are the pre-eminent force. This season, the Yankees payroll is an astronomical $196,854,630. (according to ESPN.com). ARod’s contract alone ($32 million) is just below the entire payroll of the Kansas City Royals ($35,712,400.) Between A-Rod ($32 million), Sabathia ($24.3 million), Teixeira ($23.1 million), and Burnett ($16.5 million), the Yankees pay four players more than the Monforts pay the entire Rockies team.
And the Rockies aren’t exactly penny pinching either, with their $87,998,071 payroll ranking 14th in the league. The Rockies spend money, but they are forced to be more economical, because it’s impossible in a smaller market to create as much revenue as the Yankees. How is this for economical? The Yankees pay Boone Logan (who’s that) $1.2 million this year while the Rockies only pay Cargo $1.4 million. Cargo’s contract, however, is set to rise dramatically over the next few years, as the Rockies have locked up Gonzalez for the foreseeable future. It’s refreshing for Colorado fans to see the Rockies shell out the big bucks for their stars (Helton, Tulo, Cargo), even if their pockets are not as deep as that of the Yankees.
The nucleus of the Yankees fan base is in New York City, but Yankee Nation stretches across the entire United States. There are Yankees fans everywhere. Whenever the Yankees play their road games, they are always thousands of Yankees fans in attendance. Some of these people are diehards, and have been Yankees fans their whole lives, while some “fans” have jumped on the bandwagon, because it’s easy to root for a team that’s always good. Either way Yankees Stadium is always packed, and the Yankees road games are always exciting for the host team.
While the Yankees do have a massive bandwagon, the Rockies fan base is more akin to a horse and buggy. Rockies fans are generally limited to the Mountain Time zone, with some transplants living across the country. But what Rockies fans lack in sheer numbers, they make up for with great passion. The Rockies are consistently in the top ten in attendance despite their small market size, and Lower Downtown Denver has become an oasis for baseball viewing in the summer. And with the Broncos falling on tough times of late, coupled with the Rockies recent run of respectability, there have been whispers that Denver might be transitioning into a baseball town.
All – Star Teams
Now for the fun part! After much deliberation and research, here are my all-star teams for both franchises.
C – Yogi Berra – Although one can make a strong argument for Bill Dickey, the Hall of Fame catcher who preceded Berra, I still gave Yogi the nod. Dickey’s career average was notably higher, but Berra was a Yankees catcher for almost 20 years, a 15-time all-star, a 3-time MVP, and holds the record for the most memorable quotes of all time.
1B – Lou Gehrig – Baseball’s all-time ironman until Cal Ripken came along, he played in 2,130 consecutive games. He is best known for his famous “luckiest man in the world” speech, but he should be revered as the greatest Yankees first baseman of all time. He played 17 years in pinstripes and his career .340 average is amazing.
2B – Bobby Richardson – When compiling this team I confided with a die-hard Yankee fan who made a strong case for Robinson Cano to make the team, based on his batting skills and above average defense. I almost included him, but he’s only been a Yankee for 6½ years; Bobby Richardson roamed second base for the pinstripes for 12 years, won three World Series, and was a superb fielder. He was World Series MVP in 1960 and earned 5 Gold Gloves.
SS- Derek Jeter – An easy choice. Jeter has won five World Series rings, capturing four in the first six years of his career. He is the current captain of the team, been at or near the top of the Yankees lineup his entire career, and once he comes back from injury, will be the first Yankee ever to eclipse 3,000 hits. He is an 11-time all-star, won the SI Sportsman of the Year in 2009, and had dated some of the hottest chicks on the planet.
3B – Alex Rodriguez – It’s weird to think that ARod has almost been a Yankee for the majority of his career, but it’s almost true now. (He’s been a Yankee for 8 of 18 seasons. Combine his outstanding numbers and the absence of another truly premier Yankee third baseman, and ARod becomes the natural choice. His has a .303 lifetime batting average and has hit 626 home runs. Pretty good for someone who came into the league as a shortstop, and was forced to switch positions to fit in with the Bronx Bombers.
OF- Joe DiMaggio – The owner of perhaps the most untouchable record in baseball history, he recorded a hit in 56 straight games. But the Yankee Clipper was known for much more than that record. His defense was magnificent and his offense was superior. He batted .325 for his career, was a 13-time all-star, and 3-time MVP.
OF- Mickey Mantle – One of the best raw talents to ever lace up baseball spikes. He would show up to games hung-over and still hit 450-foot homeruns. (He is believed to have hit the farthest home run ever at 565 feet.) He was a five-tool player, a triple-crown winner, and an incredible switch-hitter. And if he didn’t injure himself fielding early in his career, he could have been ever better, which is a scary notion to grasp. He went to the all-star game 16 times and hit 536 career home runs.
OF- Babe Ruth – The Great Bambino. The Sultan of Swat. The most influential player in the history of the game. In an era where steroids weren’t even invented yet, Ruth still posted historical power numbers, transcending the sport, and transfixing an entire nation of baseball fans. He played for 22 years (15 with he Yankees), and hit 714 homeruns. And remember, the Boston Red Sox traded him to the Yankees early in his career. Good one Boston.
SP- Whitey Ford – The winningest pitcher in Yankees history. Barely beating out Andy Pettite, Ford was a masterful pitcher and was known for pitching his best in pressure packed situations. For a pitcher with more than 300 career decisions, his .690 winning percentage is the best of all time. He was an 8-time all-star, a World Series MVP, a Cy-Young winner, and had a career ERA of 2.75.
RP – Mariano Rivera – Mr. Lights Out. Maybe the best closer of all time. Definitely the best post season closer ever, with all-time records of 42 postseason saves, 0.71 ERA, and 341/3 consecutive scoreless innings. And he has accomplished this with basically one pitch: the cutter. He has been cutting down opponents for 17 seasons, and is the last player ever to wear Jackie Robinson’s number.
C- Yorvit Torrealba – I know what you are thinking. How in the world did Torrealba make this team? Well, the pool of successful Rockies catchers is rather meager, and Torrealba was one of the main magicians of the Rockies magical run back in 2007. He gained a reputation as being very clutch. He only hit 8 home runs all season, but every one came at a pivotal moment. Current Yankee skipper Joe Girardi is the best all-around catcher the Rockies ever had, but his impact of the team was less significant than Yorvit’s.
1B – Todd Helton – Although Andres Galarraga is a close second, Todd Helton deserves the start at first. In his 15th season, he is the most professional hitter the Rockies have ever had, and he holds most Rockies hitting records. His career batting average is a lofty .323 and he is a 5-time all-star. He has 2,305 hits, 342 home runs, and 541 doubles. During the prime of his career he was an outstanding defender (3 gold gloves), and in the twilight of his career, he is still producing in the number 3 spot in this lineup.
2B – Eric Young – The face of the Rockies franchise during the Rockies early years. In the first home game in Rockies history, EY blasted a homerun to lead off the game. Talk about starting the franchise off with a bang. He also stole bases for a living and was the smoothest defensive second basemen in the history of the club. In his all-star season in 1996, he hit .324 and swiped 53 bases.
SS – Troy Tulowitzki – Another easy choice in the shortstop department. If Tulo stays healthy, he should win the Gold Glove every year. That’s how ridiculously good his defense has become. His range is fantastic and his arm is a howitzer. His batting numbers and slugging percentage are above average for the shortstop position, and he an unquestionable leader in the Rockies clubhouse. He is on pace for another 20 home run season (rare for a shortstop), and he is leading all shortstops in fielding percentage.
3B – Vinny Castilla – A bona fide power hitter and one of the most popular Rockies of all time. He was one of the main cogs of the Blake Street Bombers and patrolled third base for the Rockies for eight seasons. He was a 2-time all star, ended up slugging a respectable 320 home runs, and drove in 1,105 runs. In 2004, Castilla led the majors in RBI as a member of the Rockies.
OF –Dante Bichette – The quintessential Rockies power hitter and 4-time all-star. Bichette made his name in this league by crushing the baseball, far. Rocking one of the most stylish mullets in the history of the league, Bichette dropped absolute bombs for the Rockies year in and year out. He hit 20 plus home runs every year he was a Rockie, and averaged over .300 as well. In 1995, Bichette went bonkers, and led the National League in hits, homeruns, RBI, and slugging percentage.
OF- Carlos Gonzalez – Cargo has only been a Rockie for 2 1/2 seasons, but he might be the most gifted Rockie ever. He literally is a 5-tool player, and is still very young. He can scald the cover off the ball and make a diving catch look effortless. He is a legit franchise player and the potential of his greatness has yet to be reached. In 2010, he was in the hunt for the triple crown and won his first gold glove.
OF- Larry Walker – Although Walker received criticism for shutting it down at the end of the season and he was not always perceived as the best teammate, Walker could be the most accomplished Rockie of all time. He hit for power, hit for average, fielded his position beautifully (7 gold gloves), and went to the all-star game 5 times. He is the only Rockie ever to win the Most Valuable Player award (1997), and he flirted with batting .400 in 1999. He finished at .379, one of three years he won the Silver Slugger award.
SP – Ubaldo Jimenez – Coors Field is not a haven for pitching, so you are not going to find any Hall-of-Fame hurlers wearing Rockies purple. Aaron Cook, Jason Jennings, and Mike Hampton have all made the All-star game, and Cook leads the Rockies in career wins, but Ubaldo still probably has the best stuff of any Rockies pitcher ever. Even with his massive struggles this season, he is still the only long-tenured Rockie starter who has a career ERA below 4.00, and his 53 career victories are already fourth on the Rockies all-time list.
RP – Brian Fuentes – Even though Fuentes loved to make it interesting, he’s probably the best relief pitcher in Rockies history. Although Huston Street continues to produce, Fuentes body of work is a little more impressive. He kept the closer job in Coors Field for four seasons, made the all-star game twice, and he currently has the best ERA in Rockies history at 3.38. Street is close, but he also cuts its too close sometimes, which forced me to choose Fuentes.
So if you pitted these two All-star teams versus one another, it would obviously be no contest. There is no comparison, but it’s still fun to make lists, and now we can let the debate begin. The best part of these all-star teams is they can engender considerable discussion, and many questions can be proposed.
Did I have any glaring omissions?
Is Fuentes really better than Street?
Has Cargo done enough to deserve an OF spot, or should it be Ellis Burks or Matt Holliday?
Is A-Rod deserving, even though he started his career with two other teams?
Should Pettite get the nod because of his post-season production?
Let us know your thoughts.