Who Had The Best Season By A Yankee Shortstop? Hint: Not Derek Jeter

ALSO: DAN SCHLOSSBERG PREDICTS THE 2021 BASEBALL SEASON

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Pregame Pepper

Did you know ...

David Wells won more games after Tommy John surgery (212) than any other pitcher ..

Rafael Palmeiro was the only member of the 500 Home Run Club who never led his league . . .

Marquis Grissom was one of 16 children . . .

As author Doug Lyons explains in Short Hops & Foul Tips, Mookie Wilson – yes, that Mookie Wilson – is Preston Wilson’s stepfather. Mookie married Preston’s mother, who had been his sister-in-law. That made him Preston’s uncle and stepfather. Get it?

The Aaron brothers homered in the same game three times in one season (1962) even though Tommie hit only 13 home runs in his entire career . . .

Mike Lum traveled on the road with trained doves who were part of his magic act.


Leading Off

Which Yankees Shortstop Had the Most Amazing Season?

By Paul Semendinger, Ed.D.

Throughout the history of the Yankees, there have been some amazing shortstops who have enjoyed some very special seasons. Yankees shortstops have led their teams to world championships and along the way, those shortstops have won all sorts of awards, including an MVP. There have also been Rookies of the Year, Gold Glove winners, and Silver Sluggers.

Two of the Yankees shortstops even found themselves in baseball's Hall-of-Fame.

And yet, believe it or not, the greatest season for a Yankees shortstop came when the team was barely known as the Yankees and the individual who had the greatest season for a shortstop in Yankees' history (at least in one regard) was a player most fans today have never heard of -- even though he also won an MVP award years after this greatest season for a shortstop in the history of the Yankees.

Before we get to that greatest season, let's reflect on some of those great Yankee shortstops and their accomplishments.

Everett Scott was a great shortstop who was one of baseball's first "iron men." After starring with the Boston Red Sox, he played shortstop for the Yankees from 1922 to 1925. He was the shortstop on the team's first World Championship team in 1923. It was his consecutive games streak that Lou Gehrig eventually passed.

Frank Crosetti manned shortstop for the Bronx Bombers from 1932 to 1940 and then stayed as a player with the club through 1948 in more of a reserve role. He didn't hit much (a lifetime .245 average), but he solidified the position and helped the team to seven World Series, with six of them ending in Yankees glory.

Phil Rizzuto starred for the Yankees from 1941 to 1956 (missing three seasons for World War 2). Rizzuto's greatest season was 1950, when he won the American League MVP and batted .324. Rizzuto was on seven World Championship teams, played in five All-Star games, and eventually reached the Hall of Fame.

Gil McDougald was a less-famous core Yankee in the 1950s. He moved around the infield a lot, but was the team's primary shortstop on 1956 and 1957, two World Series seasons (the Yankees won it all in 1956). He was an American League All-Star both seasons and, in 1956, placed seventh in the league's MVP voting after batting .311.

Tony Kubek was another star Yankee shortstop. In 1957, he was the American League's Rookie of the Year. A three-time All-Star, he held down the position at short through the end of that dynasty era.

Bucky Dent is remembered for his famous home run in the one-game division title playoff against the Red Sox in 1978, but after that blast, he continued his hot hitting and was the MVP of the ‘78 World Series.

Derek Jeter won five rings and a World Series MVP award while playing a record 20 years with the Yankees but another shortstop was more impressive for a single season.

Derek Jeter was one of the greatest shortstops in baseball history. His accomplishments are legion: Rookie of the Year, five Gold Gloves, five Silver Sluggers, and five World Series championships. The 14-time All-Star won an All-Star Game MVP and a World Series MVP and collected 3,465 hits. His career was a highlight film of greatness. Jeter was not only voted into the Hall of Fame but came within one vote of unanimous selection (achieved only by his long-time Yankee teammate Mariano Rivera).

Didi Gregorius followed Jeter and promptly put up three consecutive 20+ home run seasons at shortstop -- the only Yankee ever to do that. Ever.

That is an impressive list of great players, great accomplishments, a ton of winning and almost a century of success. But, the greatest season for a Yankees' shortstop, one could argue, came in 1914.

The shortstop who played there put up some rather pedestrian numbers (he batted just .223 that year), but in that season, he did two of the most remarkable things that have ever happened in big- league history.

First, the shortstop who did these things was the only shortstop other than Derek Jeter to be named the team's captain. But then, he did some things that Derek Jeter never did – and no shortstop in Yankees history ever did.

This is the story of Roger Peckinpaugh, who primarily played from 1912 to 1927. In his career, they did not give awards as they do today. One might assume he might have won some Gold Gloves. He might have been the MVP of the 1924 World Series, when he batted .417 for the World Champion Washington Senators, but that's all speculation. It was a different time back then.

What is not speculation is the fact that he did win the 1925 American League MVP Award when he led the Senators to their second consecutive World Series appearance. But even that season pales in comparison to the two things he accomplished in 1914.

In 1914, at just 23 years old, Peckinpaugh was named manager of the New York Yankees. With 20 games left in the season, he replaced the legendary France Chance (of Tinkers to Evers to Chance) as manager. Peckinpaugh is still the youngest manager in baseball history. He took the team that was 60-74 and led it to a 10-10 record over the season's final 20 games. He did that while playing shortstop and doing one other thing that no shortstop for the Yankees has ever also done -- or likely will never do again.

In that 1914 season, Roger Peckinpaugh played in 157 games. Despite his .223/3/51 stat line, he earned enough MVP votes to rank 23rd in the league. He must have been doing something right. And what he did seems amazing today, even bewildering: that season, Roger Peckinpaugh played shortstop in every single inning of every single game for the young Yankees. No other player played shortstop. The position was his, entirely, from the season's first pitch until the last.

In 1914, Roger Peckinpaugh was the only shortstop to ever play shortstop exclusively for the Yankees. For that reason, and also because he was the team's manager, that 1914 season ranks as the single most impressive season for a shortstop in the long, cherished, and amazing history of the New York Yankees.

Paul Semendinger, Ed.D. is an elementary school principal in Ridgewood, NJ. The founder and editor-in-chief of Start Spreading the News, a Yankees blog that puts out original content daily, Paul is also the award-winning author of Scattering the Ashes. Paul's unique history of the Yankees, The Least Among Them, is already drawing rave reviews. This great and unique book will come out in October 2021. Paul can be reached at drpaulsem@hotmail.com.


Cleaning Up

Here’s How 2021 Season Will Play Out

By Dan Schlossberg

With the 2021 season starting Thursday, it’s time to post predictions – realizing of course that injuries, trades, red-hot rookies, veterans rescued from oblivion, and even the lurking threat of Covid can wreak havoc with this forecast long before October.

The three best teams in the majors are the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and Atlanta Braves. Since the Padres have never won a world championship and the Braves have only one since moving from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966, a win by either of them would bring fresh headlines to compete with this year’s fall foliage.

The Dodgers have the biggest payroll but also have an aging team (Justin Turner, Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, et. al.). Their depth and versatility help, along with their off-season signing of Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer, but the Padres are meaner, leaner, and younger – which makes them hungrier to win their first title. By adding Blake Snell and Yu Darvish in winter deals and signing veteran closer Mark Melancon, the Padres will dethrone the Dodgers in a tight divisional race, ending the eight-year L.A. grip on the NL West. San Diego sluggers Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, and Eric Hosmer will provide plenty of support for the new pitchers.

A much-coveted free agent brings his big-game pedigree to the Atlanta Braves as they search for their first NL flag since 1999 and first world title since 1995.

An even tighter race will take place in the East, where the Braves will also ride new starters [Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly] to a fourth straight crown – still far from the record 14 straight Atlanta won from 1991-2005. No team can match the top of the Braves lineup: Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, and Marcel Ozuna. Any of them are capable of winning the MVP Freeman captured last year, though Mookie Betts of the Dodgers has a chance to join Frank Robinson as the only player to win the award in both leagues.

The Braves could even have a double award winner if Ian Anderson, a 2020 postseason stud who still qualifies as a rookie, pulls twin victories in the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award voting. Fernando Valenzuela, in 1981, was the only other player to do that.

After adding eight free agents – but none of the top tier – the Mets will give the Braves a battle even with Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard out for the first two months. Newly-acquired Francisco Lindor, another MVP contender, leads a team that is much better at the plate than it is in the field. But any team with Jacob deGrom can’t be counted out. He’s already won two Cy Youngs and had a lights-out spring training.

Washington will also be a formidable threat even after tying the Mets for last place last year. Juan Soto and Trea Turner, two of the NL’s top talents, head a lineup that will be better with Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber, while newly-added pitchers Jon Lester and Brad Hand boost a staff that is somewhat suspect because of age (Max Scherzer) and injuries (Stephen Strasburg). Lester is no spring chicken either.

A long shot again, the Phils remain respectable after keeping J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius. Bryce Harper is always a home run threat, especially in the bandbox Philly ballpark, but the team’s defense is suspect and pitching is shaky after Aaron Nola, their top starter, and new closer Archie Bradley.

That leaves the Miami Marlins, whose best off-season additions were slugger Adam Duvall, who had a pair of three-homer games last year, and general manager Kim Ng, the first female to occupy that post. Derek Jeter, deprived of the adoration his outdoor Hall of Fame induction would have provided, will also be deprived of a return trip to the postseason despite his team’s good young rotation.

Like the Marlins, the teams of the NL Central are weak sisters in a league with lots of tough customers. Only the St. Louis Cardinals will remain standing, thanks to the arrival of Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado. He won’t be such a formidable threat outside of Colorado but he’ll team with Paul Goldschmidt in a mighty 1-2 punch. Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, probably in their final years, will at least make the playoffs. No other NL Central team will, though the Brewers are banking heavily on a comeback by former MVP Christian Yelich.

In the American League, where change was the name of the game for almost everyone, look for new leaders in all three divisions. The budget-conscious Tampa Bay Rays will miss veterans Blake Snell and Charlie Morton and fall well behind the Toronto Blue Jays, fortified by the signings of George Springer and Marcus Semien. The biggest challenges for Toronto will be finding a date they can return to the Rogers Centre and finding a closer to fill the void created by Kirby Yates’ season-ending elbow surgery.

Even if they keep Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge healthy, the Yankees have question-marks at shortstop, catcher, and on the mound – after Cy Young Award candidate Gerrit Cole. DJ LeMahieu’s batting prowess and versatility help but don’t expect another hitting title. Don’t expect much from Boston or Baltimore either, though the Bosox will be better when Chris Sale returns and Eduardo Rodriguez proves himself healthy.

A powerful Latin quintet powers the Chicago White Sox, whose biggest challenge will be meeting the expectations of recycled manager Tony La Russa, at 76 the oldest pilot in the game. Jose Abreu heads a lethal lineup that also includes Yasmani Grandal, Luis Robert, and Yoan Moncada but don’t be shocked if Tim Anderson emerges as the club’s top MVP contender. Minnesota has its own candidate in Josh Donaldson, provided he rebounds from a year lost to injuries. The team’s best new additions are smooth-fielding shortstop Andrelton Simmons and closer Alex Colome.

Cost-cutting Cleveland has defending Cy Young recipient Shane Bieber, sluggers Jose Ramirez and Eddie Rosario, and the lowest payroll in the majors. They could drop all the way from second to the cellar in a division where the moribund Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals could be on the comeback trail. No matter what happens, the Motor City will focus on the debut of disgraced manager AJ Hinch and the approach of future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera to 500 home runs and 3,000 hits – both within his grasp this season.

Another player on a path to Cooperstown is Albert Pujols, who has 662 home runs but a birth certificate that lists him at 41 years old. With Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and a now-healthy Shohei Ohtani on the same team, look for Los Angeles to have a heavenly summer – especially now that Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb have fortified the rotation. Ohtani can pitch again too. And Raisel Iglesias, obtained from the cost-cutting Reds, will provide closure in the ninth inning.

Trying to keep its AL West title will be a tough task for the Oakland A’s, who lost shortstop Semien to free agency but added closer Trevor Rosenthal. The Houston Astros, second last year, kept Michael Brantley but lost Springer (free agency) and starting pitchers Justin Verlander (Tommy John surgery) and Framber Valdez (fractured finger). Dusty Baker doesn’t have the pitching behind aging ace Zack Greinke and also faces the postseason free-agent losses of Carlos Correa and other key players. He’ll need big years from Alex Bregman and comeback candidates Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez.

Seattle’s ship will sail if Mitch Haniger gets healthy, Kyle Lewis keeps improving, and Kyle Seager returns to his 2019 form. Evan White and Jarred Kelenc could also help, along with returning southpaw starter James Paxton. The M’s will lean hard on staff ace Marco Gonzalez, who went 7-2 during the shortened season and is one of four left-handed starters.

If the Texas Rangers want to escape last place, they’ll need solid seasons from erstwhile All-Stars Joey Gallo, whose resume features two 40-homer seasons, and Mike Foltynewicz, who fell from grace – and the majors – quickly with the Braves. No Texas starter won more than two games last season.

How They’ll Finish

NL East – Braves, *Nationals, Mets, Phillies, Marlins

NL Central – Cardinals, Brewers, Cubs, Reds, Pirates

NL West – Padres, *Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Rockies

AL East – Blue Jays, *Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Orioles

AL Central – White Sox, *Twins, Indians, Royals, Tigers

AL West – Angels, Athletics, Astros, Mariners, Rangers

(*) wild-card winners

NL Wild Card One-and-Done: Dodgers over Nationals

NLDS: Braves over Padres; Dodgers over Cardinals

NLCS: Braves over Dodgers

AL Wild Card One-and-Done: Twins over Yankees

ALDS: Blue Jays over Twins; White Sox over Angels

ALCS: Blue Jays over White Sox

World Series: Braves over Blue Jays

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is weekend editor of Here’s The Pitch and author of 38 baseball books. He also writes for forbes.com, Latino Sports, Sports Collectors Digest, and USA TODAY Sports Weekly. Dan’s e.mail is ballauthor@gmail.com.


Timeless Trivia

Casey Daigle’s wife was a better pitcher than he was: Daigle is married to 2005 Olympic Gold Medalist Jenny Finch . . .

Otherwise-durable Cal Ripken Jr. suffered a broken nose when inadvertently smacked by 1996 All-Star teammate Roberto Hernandez. While posing for a team picture, the pitcher lost his balance, tried to break his fall with his arm, and punched Ripken in the face . . .

Once in a Blue Moon Odom: Vida Blue’s first game for the A’s was overshadowed in the Oakland paper by Neil Armstrong. It coincided with the first lunar landing on July 20, 1969 . . .

John Smoltz pitched in a record 73 straight games that his team won . . .

Mike Hargrove is better known by his nickname – the Human Rain Delay – than he is by his real first name – Dudley.


Know Your Editors

HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [bchrom831@gmail.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [nymfan97@gmail.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [ballauthor@gmail.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.

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