Monday, September 12, 2005

September 12th, 1979

Carl Yastrzemski Recods 3,000th Hit

"Yaz" got the landmark hit on a single off then Yankee (and current Orioles' co-GM) pitcher Jim Beattie at Fenway Park. This made him the first American Leaguer with three thousand hits and four hundred home runs and was another notch on Yaz's Hall of Fame belt. But here's an amazing thought: As great as Yaz was--and he was--he might end up as neither the greatest nor second greatest player to patrol under the shadow of the Green Monster for the Red Sox.

Truthfully, the statement that Yaz is not the best BoSox left fielder ever is hardly a controversial one. The greatest Sox left fielder is the man who might also be the greatest hitter of all time, Ted Williams. Williams' shadow over Sox left fielders is nearly as long as that of the Green Monster, and he is clearly the finest man to play the position, not only for the Sox, but also of all-time.

But Yaz, number eight in your scorebooks, is generally enshrined at number two in the Sox left field history. But what of the man who occupies that spot currently? Manny Ramirez will obviously never be able to attain the same place in the hearts of Sox fans that Yaz has; he isn't a lifelong member of the team for one, and for another, well, let's just say no Sox fans ever owned a t-shirt with this sentiment about Carl. Offensively however, there is almost no comparison between the two. To this point, "Man Ram" (his nickname isn’t as good as Yaz’s either) has a career line of .313/.409/.596, which is ahead, well ahead in average and slugging, of Yaz's .285/.379/.462. Of course, that's somewhat unfair as we have all of Carl's career and only part of Manny's--notably without his decline phase.

But looking at it even on a year-by-year basis, it's hard to give Yaz the nod. He had the edge at age twenty one and twenty two, before Manny became a regular. At age twenty-three, they posted identical 148 OPS+, but after that, through to Manny's last full year Manny has posted a superior OPS+ in seven of nine years, including every year from age twenty-eight going forward. Moreover, while Yaz had some good seasons in that time (three over one seventy, including a one ninety-five), he mixed them in with some poor ones (four of less than one hundred twenty five). In comparison, Manny was remarkably consistent, never posting an OPS+ less than
one forty. Manny Ramirez, whatever else you can say about him, is a fantastic hitter.

But can you say he's better than Yaz? Well, he's not yet. And his Sox time only marks five years of his career, with more looking tenuous at best. But if he stays in
Boston, and keeps hitting, chances are by the time Manny retires, Carl Yastrzesmki will be the greatest man to be the third best player at a position in any franchise.

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