The Yankees and their four greatest teams that almost were

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images) /

Yankees history is filled with some of the all-time great teams. That has as much to do with luck as skill and planning, which is why we celebrate those iconic teams. But even with all of their success, the Bronx Bombers have had a few teams that were good but not all-time great. Here is how close the Yanks came to adding four other teams to the list of the best ever.

The 1927 Yankees. Three short words that make up one big sentence. Just the mention of that team, the GTOAT (Greatest Team of all Time), conjures not just thoughts of that team’s excellence, but of the other all-time great Yankees teams over the decades.

But I am not talking about all the teams that won World Series’. That makes the team great, but not all-time great. No, I am talking about the ‘39 Yankees team, as well as those of 1961, 1998, and 1932; those teams that are among the best to play this game.

I have used as my reference source Baseball Almanac. While I used the “Top 10 Rankings” box, you should take a peak at the next box down: Teams Post-1920 Only.

Those are all legendary teams. The Yankees have had more than their fair share of them; just ask the Red Sox. I say fair share because it takes a lot of disparate factors to produce that type of club, luck being perhaps foremost among those factors. The Yankees have had a lot of luck over the years.

What If?

This year will serve as an acceptable example. The offense has been great and the starting pitching has been pretty good. But it is still likely that the 2017 New York Yankees do not have enough talent to be one of the greatest, or even very good. The point of this article is that they have the talent to be better, but luck has not been on their side.

Greg Bird, for instance, is on the team. He has had success at the big league level and looked like the best player in baseball in spring training. But flukey injuries have kept him off the field the entire season.

Gleyber Torres has not had any time in the Bronx, but he has more talent that even Bird. Remember that Joe Girardi has already compared him to a young Miguel Cabrera. And Joe should know because he managed the Marlins and Miggy when Cabrera was 23. He came in fifth in the MVP voting that year; that’s a comforting comparison.

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Imagine this team with Bird at first for the season and Torres at third by the middle of June. That might make them one of the best offenses of all time.

And let’s imagine for a moment that Tanaka had pitched up to his potential, as is reasonable. Those two factors, increased offense, and defense would add six or seven games to their win total.

That would still not make them a great team and certainly not an all-time team. The point, though, is they have everything they need to be a better club and could be if they had had better luck, but it just hasn’t worked that way.

Pure Yankees Speculation

There are four Yankees teams, better than the current one, that were good or even great but could have been better than that, could have been contenders for best team of all-time. My criteria, however, is very narrow. I never suggest a team could have been better by adding another great player. Any team can do that. And I do not look at short-term injuries, like missing the playoffs. That also happens to most teams.

And I am not going to get into the lost war years for Joe Dimaggio. Most of the teams lost their best players so any analysis would have to include the entire AL. I’m not doin’ that.

No, the teams discussed had all the pieces, but something major prevented them from reaching their potential. Whether it was injury, bad luck, or even death, these Yankees teams almost had it all. And we start with the 2009 World Series Champion New York Yankees.