Who were the best Yankees players between 2001-2010?
The MLB lockout rolls on, and so do we with another trip in the DeLorean to look at the best New York Yankees players by decade.
In this series, we’ve been looking back at Yankees teams by decade and ranking the top ten players based on WAR (per Baseball-Reference).
We kicked off with the best players from 2011-20. Now, we go back a decade further to 2001-10.
1. Alex Rodriguez — 45.9 (2004-10)
In a trade that seemed almost too good to be true, A-Rod delivered despite only winning one World Series in 2009. He won two of his three MVP trophies in pinstripes and hit his 400th, 500th, and 600th career homers as a Yankee. Throw in that magical 2009 playoff performance, and it’s a reminder of how special a talent Rodriguez was despite his steroid ties.
2. Derek Jeter — 41.2 (2001-10)
Hail to the Captain, who probably would own the top spot on this list if he weren’t such a great pure contact hitter. Jeter also made eight All-Star teams and won all five of his Gold Gloves this decade. Even sharing a field with his longtime friend/foe Rodriguez, the man embodied, nay, was the New York Yankees.
3. Mike Mussina — 35.1 (2001-08)
Moose did pretty well in eight years in the Bronx, especially considering he pitched during the Steroid Era. Mussina posted a 3.88 ERA as a Yankee and had his sole 20-win season in 2008, when he was 39 years old. The Hall of Famer also won three of his seven career Gold Gloves in the Bronx.
4. Jorge Posada — 33.2 (2001-10)
Jorge Posada had some big-name teammates throughout his New York Yankees career, but was a blue-collar star in his own right over the course of this decade. The switch-hitter had a career-high 30 home runs in 2003 and finished third in AL MVP voting, and also hit a career-best .338 in 2007.
5. Mariano Rivera — 32.9 (2001-10)
There will never be another closer in baseball history who even touches Mariano Rivera. 394 of his 652 career saves were notched in this particular decade, and Rivera twice led the majors with 50 and 53 saves in 2001 and 2004. Rivera also appeared in eight All-Star games and three World Series from 2001-10, taking home his fifth and final ring in 2009.
6. Robinson Cano — 23.5 (2005-10)
Cano debuted in May of 2005, and the Rod Carew comparisons only escalated from there. He finished second behind Huston Street in Rookie of the Year voting and hit .309 in his first six MLB seasons. Cano also did the Yankees proud when he set then-career highs of 29 home runs and 109 RBI in 2010 and finished third in MVP voting.
7. Jason Giambi — 22.0 (2002-08)
Say what you want about steroids tainting the latter half of his Yankees career. Jason Giambi was the most exciting free agent signing of his era and still proved a reliable power bat in New York. The Giambino turned in two 40-home run seasons in the Bronx and also won the Home Run Derby in 2002, his first as a Yankee.
8. Andy Pettitte — 21.7 (2001-03, 2007-10, 12-13)
As Bon Jovi once said, who says you can’t go home? Andy Pettitte’s signature stare took a brief sojourn to his native Houston before returning where it all began. He even came out of retirement for two more stints at the end, and is still the all-time leader with 19 postseason wins.
9. Hideki Matsui — 20.4 (2003-09)
Matsui might not have been Godzilla incarnate, but he might as well have been during his time with the Yankees. He wasn’t just a baseball player, but a cultural phenomenon as the first true power hitter to move from Japan to MLB. Matsui hit .292 and slugged 140 home runs with the Yankees, and hit .615 in the 2009 World Series en route to earning MVP honors. Matsui was also a .312 career hitter in the posteason.
10. Johnny Damon — 14.4 (2006-09)
Every Yankees fan cheered when the former favorite son of Red Sox Nation drove down I-95 to New York. Damon never really stood out in the Bronx, but was still a great teammate and reliable defensive outfielder. Most importantly, his bromance with teammates Nick Swisher and AJ Burnett in 2009 was a driving force towards winning the World Series.