Pinstriped glory, the greatest moments in Yankee history part four: The ’98 Yankees’ magnificent season
There are a few things about the Yankees that I’m very stubborn about, things that no matter how hard you debate with me I’ll just never change my mind on. For instance, Joe DiMaggio is the greatest baseball player the world has ever seen, if I ever have a son, I want him to grow up to be the man Lou Gehrig was, and the 1927 team is the greatest that baseball will ever see. However, while I am of the mindset the ’27 team is the greatest, there will never be a season more impressive than 1998. The team won 114 games in the regular season while losing only 48. They won the AL East by a mind boggling 22 games and went 11-2 in the playoffs sweeping the San Diego Padres in the World Series for the club’s 24th overall championship. Their win total regular season and postseason combined was 125 which is still a major league record to this day.
There was something special about this group of guys, they really bought into manager Joe Torre’s scheme that the group was more important than the individual. They played for the name on the front rather than the one on the back (yes, I know the Yankees don’t have last names on the back of their jerseys). Apart from up and coming stars on the team like 1996 Rookie of the Year Derek Jeter, the team also had veteran stars like the “warrior” Paul O’Neill and the sensational outfielder Bernie Williams. In the off-season, the Yankees went out and made two very important trades.
The first was on November 18, 1997 when the Oakland Athletics traded Scott Brosius to New York as the player to be named later in a deal that sent Kenny Rogers to the Bay Area. Brosius would go on to be a key cog of the 1998-2000 championship teams and came up with clutch hit after clutch hit. In 1998, he hit .300 with nineteen home runs, and drove in a career best 98 runs in his lone All-Star selection. Needless to say, Brian Cashman knocked it out of the park with that one.
The next vital move the Yankees GM made happen was on February 6, 1998, the Bronx Bombers hooked up with the Minnesota Twins for a deal. They sent Brian Buchanan, Cristian Guzman, Eric Milton, Danny Mota, and cash considerations to the twin cities for infielder Chuck Knoblauch. Knoblauch like Brosius was a key contributor for the Yankees in their World Series years before he inexplicably forgot how to throw the ball to first base. Batting mostly in the lead off spot for the Yankees Knoblauch hit .265 with 17 home runs and 64 runs batted in. Another deal that seemed minor at the time was the free agent signing of Chili Davis. Davis, Brosius and Knoblauch brought the team first attitude to the Bronx and complimented the already stellar core the team had.
On the field the Yankees were led by Tino Martinez, he led the club with 28 home runs and 123 runs driven in. Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill and Darryl Strawberry joined Martinez in the twenty plus homerun club. In fact, every regular Yankees starter had above fifteen home runs as they had a potent but balanced offensive attack.
On the pitching side of things, the Yankees had one of the better rotations in baseball. Their wins leader for the season was ace David Cone who won 20 games. Orlando Hernandez won 12, David Wells 18, Andy Pettitte 16, and Hidek Irabu 13. One of the gems of that season was thrown by the big lefty David “Boomer” Wells. On May 17th, Wells threw a perfect game, the second in team history after Don Larsen’s in the 1956 World Series. Ironically, Wells and Larsen attended the same high school in California (albeit decades apart). The Yankees won the game over the Twins by a score of 4-0. Wells’ teammate David Cone threw a perfect game the year after. Wells was a huge part of the ’98 team’s success, and though he was traded in the 1998 off-season, he was still a fan favorite. In fact, Wells was traded in a deal that brought Roger Clemens to the Bronx, Clemens led the Yankees to World Series wins in 1999 and 2000, so in a small way, Wells had a hand in all three championships.
In the bullpen was the greatest of all time, Mariano Rivera, who notched 36 saves and posted a miniscule ERA of 1.91.
Very few teams have had such a great balance on both offense and pitching, that’s what made the ’98 Yankees so formidable. There may have been teams before them with more talent, perhaps teams after them with more as well, but no team in baseball history had the depth and tenacity that this group of guys had. It’s been twenty years since that magical season, I know the fans would like to see it again in 2018.
Article by Fave RuggieroFollow @BronxBomberBall