The Yankees Were Great in ’98


 

This afternoon, the New York Yankees are honoring their 1998 World Series winning team on their 20th anniversary. Several of the players from that special team will be there for a ceremony at Yankee Stadium prior to this afternoon’s Yankees game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

In ’98, the Yankees began that season on a west coast road-trip, losing four of their first five games. In those four losses, they were outscored 29-6. I’m sure it was safe to say the late George Steinbrenner was not happy. After losing in Seattle on April 6 to drop to 1-4 on the season, a team meeting was held (as discussed today on YES Network’s pregame with Ryan Ruocco, David Cone and Jorge Posada), with manager Joe Torre and several veterans speaking. The next day, the Yankees whipped the Mariners, 13-7. They went on to win 14 of their next 15 games and 34 of their next 40.

I find it apropos that the Yankees organization is honoring the team on this day, August 18, 2018. Exactly twenty years ago on this very day, the Yankees beat the Kansas City Royals, 3-2 in 13 innings to reach the high water mark of their impressive 1998 campaign. With that wain, the team had a record of 92-30, a mindblowing 62 games above .500 with a winning percentage of .754! This machine of a team didn’t simply beat their opponents, they often obliterated them. They played 27(!) games where they scored ten or more runs, many of those games came in consecutive games.

Needless to say, the Yankees were the talk of baseball, and talk on the streets. Prior to their 1996 World Series win, there were lean years. These late 90’s teams got the public excited again. As a fan, it was so much fun to talk with co-workers and friends (there was no such thing as social media, and the internet was in it’s infancy) about this exciting young team. The last Yankees teams that were dominant were the late 70’s teams that featured Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Ron Guidry, etc.

Why was this 1998 team so good? There are many reasons. First of all, they got on base. Let’s take a look at a screenshot of the lineup manager Joe Torre penciled into his lineup on that August 18, 1998.

Screenshot (222)

As you can see, from top to bottom of this day’s lineup, everyone has an OBP of .357 or better. Cleanup hitter Bernie Williams’ was an eye-popping .446! It doesn’t hurt that your numbers two, three and four hitters are absolutely RAKING. It also doesn’t hurt that seven regulars in the Yankees lineup hit 17 or more home-runs on the season. No one hit thirty homers on this team that season. Tino Martinez hit the most, with 28 home-runs. Bernie Williams was second with 26, and Paul O’Neill tied with Darryl Strawberry for third-most with 24.

The starting rotation was anchored by their dynamic-duo of David Cone and David “Boomer” Wells, who won 20 and 18 games, respectively. Young Andy Pettitte, who was in his fourth season with the team, added 16 more wins. And who can forget Orlando Hernandez? “El Duque” joined the team at the beginning of June, and went on to win 12 games and became known as a clutch pitcher in the postseason. And of course they had Mariano Rivera in the bullpen to slam the door shut, saving 36 games.

 

Another thing that added to their success was that they stuck up for each other. On May 19, the Yankees played a home game against the Baltimore Orioles. New York was ahead 7-5 in the bottom of the 8th inning. Tino Martinez dug in against O’s reliever Armando Benitez, who drilled him right between the shoulder blades. All hell proceeded to break loose.

 

While no one wants to see players get hurt, this team wasn’t about to stand by and let Benitez’s needless cheap shot go unanswered. Teams would rather not have brawls for obvious reasons, but these things DO build unity and cohesiveness in a clubhouse, and this is essential for overall success.

Two days prior to the Orioles/Yankees melee, starting pitcher David Wells pitched a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins. Boomer struck out eleven over his 120 pitch day of perfection.

 

From a perfect game to a perfect season, the 1998 Yankees were a joy to watch.

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Trade Deadline Winners & Losers – American League

The non-waiver trade deadline passed two days ago, and dust is beginning to settle. Contending teams added some depth to their teams and the sellers added young prospects in hopes of building for the future. Today we’ll take a look at the winners and losers in the American League, and in a future entry we will assess the senior circuit.

 

Winners

 

Seattle Mariners – Seattle GM Jerry DiPoto, who may well win MLB Executive of the Year, was busy working the phones in July. He added depth to the Mariners bullpen, adding righty relievers Adam Warren and Sam Tuivailala from the Yankees and Cardinals, respectfully. DiPoto worked a deal with the Minnesota Twins for lefty Zach Duke, and brought in outfielder Cameron Maybin from Miami to add depth to Seattle’s bench. Earlier this season, the Mariners swung a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for reliever Álex Colomé and outfielder Denard Span. The M’s are poised for a run for the pennant and gave up so little in return for these players.

 

New York Yankees – The Yankees needed to add a starter and got one when Brian Cashman swung a trade with Toronto for veteran lefthander JA Happ, in return for surplus infielder Brandon Drury and minor league outfielder Billy McKinney. Cashman made a deal with the Baltimore Orioles for lefty power reliever Zach Britton for three minor league prospects, and landed veteran Lance Lynn from the Twins for 1B/OF Tyler Austin and minor leaguer Luis Rijo. Austin was deemed expendable after the Yankees acquired Luke Voit from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for lefty reliever Chasen Shreve. Lynn was originally slotted for the bullpen, but he has since replaced Sonny Gray in the Yankees rotation going forward.

 

Losers

 

Baltimore Orioles – Will the last person to leave the clubhouse turn out the lights? This franchise needed a reboot and they are definitely doing that after they traded away everyone but the beer vendors. Zach Britton was shipped to the Bronx for three young pitchers who project to soon be major league ready. Darren O’Day, Kevin Gausman and Brad Brach were all sent to the Atlanta Braves for prospects and future considerations. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop was sent to the Milwaukee Brewers for fellow 2nd baseman Jonathan Villar and two minor leaguers. The granddaddy deal came almost two weeks before the deadline when Manny Machado was sent to the west coast with the Dodgers for five prospects. The Orioles also had a deal in place to move long-time fan favorite Adam Jones to the Philadelphia Phillies, but it was shot down by Jones himself, who has a full no-trade clause as a “10/5 player” (10 years MLB service time with past five seasons with the same team). While the O’s will continue to be abysmal in the short term, they overhauled their minor league system, which will hopefully be worth it in the long run for Orioles fans.

 

Cleveland Indians – Wait a minute. How can a team handily leading it’s division possibly be considered losers at anything? Follow along. The only additions the Tribe made before the deadline was adding OF Leonys Martin from Detroit and lefty reliever Brad Hand from the San Diego Padres. Hand is a good addition for the team, but it came at a significant cost with 22 year old blue chip prospect C/OF Francisco Mejía going to the Padres. I think GM Mike Chernoff overpaid for him, and I feel Mejía will be a star eventually. Hand will help the bullpen, but the rest of their relief corps have been anything but reliable. Andrew Miller’s return will help make the pen better. The addition of Martin adds to the mix in Cleveland’s outfield, but he’s not a difference maker. Barring a disaster, the Tribe will win their division, but they may not have enough horses to make a deep playoff run, especially with a leaky bullpen. If any of their stars like Lindor, Ramirez, or Corey Kluber go down, it will leave them much more vulnerable.

 

Check back soon as we will assess the trade deadline winners and losers in the National League.

 

All-Star Snubs – American League

The 2018 baseball season is more than half over. Major League Baseball’s All Star Game is next Tuesday in Washington, D.C. (on FOX) and the rosters for the All Star Game were announced Sunday evening. Yesterday, we took a look at some National League players who were snubbed for the mid-summer contest. Today we’ll get a glimpse at a handful of guys who should have initially made the squad in the American League, but were overlooked.

Blake Snell – (Rays) Since Snell is our featured image above, we’ll start with him. He’s sporting a 12-4 record with a miserly 2.09 ERA and somehow he didn’t make the cut. I am sure Snell will end up an alternate since Justin Verlander is scheduled to start for Houston on Sunday, thereby eliminating him from pitching the the all star game. But how he didn’t make it on his own is just ridiculous.

**UPDATE** 7/13 – Added to AL All Star team, replacing Corey Kluber.

Andrelton Simmons – (LA Angels) The Angels shortstop is having an excellent season (.213/.372/.442), hitting 40 points higher in batting average and OBP than his numbers in 2017, but Manny Machado and Francisco Lindor got the All Star nods. Simba is also providing his typically excellent defense with only five errors this season as of this writing.

Nick Castellanos – (Tigers) With young 3rd baseman Jeimer Candelario joining the team out of spring training, the Tigers switched Castellanos to right-field this season. So far it’s worked out well for Nick. His slash-line (.306/.359/.523) are at all time highs for him, and he is roughly on pace to match his career highs of 26 home runs and 101 RBI, set last season.

Whit Merrifield – (Royals) Not much has gone right in Kansas City this season, but young Merrifield has been a diamond in the rough. He can play most positions in the field except catcher. he’s hitting .306 and boasts an OPS of .810. He has only five home-runs, which says he’s adept at driving balls into the gap. I’ve heard his name mentioned in trade-talks, so it remains to be seen if he will be dealt. Any team who deals for him will be getting a spark-plug kind of guy who hustles and is fun to watch. Also, Whit just has a cool baseball name — don’t ask me why, but he does.

 

Eddie Rosario – (Twins) – He doesn’t get all the press that guys like Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper and many others get, but Rosario is quietly putting together a good season up in Minnesota. Currently he has 18 HR’s to go along with a slash-line of .300/.341/.530. His defense has slipped a bit from 2017, as he currently has six errors in left field, compared to four all of last year. Nonetheless, the 26 year old Rosario is an exciting young player who’s been flying under the radar up north.

Charlie Morton – (Astros) How Morton was left off the All Star Team is beyond my comprehension. After his career high 14 wins last season for the World Champion Astros, “Ground Chuck” is on pace to obliterate his numbers from last season. Morton is boasting a record of 11-2, with an ERA of 2.83. He is striking out just a shade under 12 per nine innings. Morton has indicated that he may retire after this season to spend more time with his wife and kids. Hopefully he will make the squad as an alternate in what could be his last chance to play in an All Star Game.

UPDATE: 7/13 – Charlie Morton added to All Star team, replacing Aroldis Chapman.

**Late Addition**

Andrew Benintendi – (Red Sox) Somehow I overlooked one of the more obvious guys who should have been on the AL team to begin with. The young Benintendi has been somewhat streaky in 2018, hitting .242 in April. However, he ramped things up in May batting 100 points higher (.349), and has hovered around .300 since. Benintendi has 14 HR’s on the season and 17 steals to go along with 57 RBI. In the field, he runs down everything hit at him and also has six assists on the season. The 24 year old outfielder lost out on the “Final Vote” to Seattle’s Jean Segura, and has since been put on the Bereavement List due to a death in his family.

Assessing the Market for Manny

The upcoming free-agent class of 2019 has been one of the most highly anticipated classes in a number of years, with the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Dallas Keuchel, among others. As MLB teams start to reveal themselves for who they are, whether GM’s deem themselves buyers or sellers, there is always speculation among the media and fans as to who could be traded to other teams who want to bolster their chances of reaching the playoffs.

Today, we’ll take a look at Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles. As of this writing, the Orioles are firmly embedded in the AL East basement, have lost eight of their last 10 games, and look ready to be dismantled and fired into the sun. The O’s are an aging team, and their farm system is almost bereft of prospects who legitimately have a chance of reaching the bigs. It would only make sense to trade Machado and start to re-stock their farm system.

Let’s take a look at a few teams who could could make a deal for him:

— The Los Angeles Dodgers: With regular shortstop Corey Seager out for the rest of 2018 with TJ surgery, the Dodgers are in a good position to make a trade with Baltimore for two or three months of Manny. I can’t see LA parting with the likes of Walker Buehler or Alex Verdugo for a “hired gun” of sorts, but Baltimore could easily have their pick of several B or C-rated prospects to help replenish their farm system.

— The Arizona Diamondbacks: The 1st place Dbacks are a very talented team with an excellent second year manager in Torey Luvullo. But they could use a strong bat at short because Nick Ahmed, slogging along with a .211 avg/.261 OBP just isn’t getting it done. I think Baltimore could get the best haul in this deal because Arizona would have reason to keep Manny for the long-term. There are several top prospects in Arizona’s system who the Orioles could make good use of, with the likes of Jon Duplantier, Pavin Smith, Jasrado Chisholm and Taylor Widener. Lastly, acquiring Machado would send a message to Dbacks players, telling them management believes in this team to get to the promised land.

 

— The Washington Nationals: Wait……what? No, I haven’t been drinking. This might be more of a hired gun situation like the Dodgers, but adding Manny for the stretch run could make for a lethal lineup along side Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and rookie Juan Soto. The idea here is to play Machado at short, shift regular shortstop Trea Turner to 2nd base (he does have experience there) and move Howie Kendrick to 1st base, replacing aging Ryan Zimmerman, who isn’t batting his weight (.217/.280/.409). With the lineup the Nats would have, coupled with their pitching, you have the class team of the National League.

The Nationals have a good number of prospects who could be sent to the O’s in return. OF Victor Robles, SS Carter Kieboom and RHP Erick Fedde come to mind.

— The New York Yankees:  There is no shortage of folks on my Twitter timeline who think the Yankees should acquire Manny, either now or over the winter when he will be a free-agent. I think that would be foolish, as the Yankees already have their infield set for the next generation (barring injury) with Miguel Andujar, Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres and Greg Bird. But yeah, for some folks enough is never enough.

 

I’ll assess more upcoming free-agents in future articles. 😎

Yankees Youth Movement is in Overdrive

After the New York Yankees played their 60th game of the season, the team was on a roll with five consecutive wins and sported a 37-23 record. In those five straight wins, against the Red Sox and Orioles no less, they outscored them by a mind-numbing 55-9. Aaron Judge went 4-4 in that 60th game of the season and crushed a 496 foot home-run that you most certainly have seen by now, unless you are living under a rock.

Everything was going right with the Bronx Bombers, right up until the team boarded the plane for California. The Yanks beat the Angels in Anaheim to start the road-trip and promptly lost the next two games. They traveled north and were swept by an Oakland A’s team that is currently 35-43. Making things worse, Yankees players started dropping like flies. Since the beginning of the road trip, they have lost Adam WarrenCC SabathiaAaron HicksStarlin Castro and Matt Holliday to injuries and in Holliday’s case, illness. Greg Bird had been on rehab assignments in Tampa and Scranton, but pain has returned in his problematic right ankle and hasn’t responded well to a cortisone injection.

With all the injuries, a number of kids we saw in Spring Training have been promoted. Tyler Austin, who himself was injured, was recalled from Scranton. Young pitchers Tyler Webb, Ben Heller and Ronald Herrera were called up to help in the bullpen. Tyler WadeMason Williams and Miguel Andujar (who had a big night in his Yankees debut) have already made contributions. Dustin Fowler is reportedly headed to Chicago to join the Yankees today.

Not only have these kids been called to New York to fill the void of injured players, they have contributed and excited Yankees fans and management alike. The Yanks are still only 5-11 since June 11, but the kids are playing well enough to give Yankees fans optimism now and for the future.

See you next time!

Charlie

Not a Good Night for MLB Umpires

Last night was not a banner night for MLB umpires. The ongoing abomination that is the Baltimore Orioles vs. Boston Red Sox series continued to provide more drama last night. In the bottom of the 2nd inning, Kevin Gausman hit Xander Bogaerts in the fanny with a 77 mph curveball and was quickly ejected by home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook.

I am not sure what Sam Holbrook was thinking, because he’s been an umpire for many years and he wasn’t made a crew-chief by accident. There’s no question him and his crew needed to be on “high alert” (as Holbrook claims) given the recent animosity between the two clubs, but ejecting Gausman without so much as a warning is absurd at best.

Unfortunately, there was more to come for umpire Holbrook. In the top of the 5th inning, Adam Jones was tossed out of the game for voicing his displeasure with a called strike on a high curveball from Boston starter Drew Pomeranz.

Given everything Jones endured during this series, I think Holbrook should have just let him have his say, and he was already walking back to the dugout when he ejected him. Holbrook should have just let it go, given the circumstances.

Meanwhile, shoddy umpiring wasn’t confined to Fenway Park last night. In the Bronx, home-plate umpire Bill Welke didn’t have his finest night. It wasn’t as rough a night as Sam Holbrook, but it’s enough to warrant mentioning.

Throughout the game, Welke’s strike-zone was inconsistent and roughly the size of a postage stamp. He heard from both New York Yankees players as well as the Toronto Blue Jays.

The normally very mild-mannered Brett Gardner took exception to a called strike by Welke and destroyed a dugout recycling bin after his 6th inning at-bat.

 

Yankees manager Joe Girardi got the boot for voicing his displeasure over Welke’s inconsistency. All in all, the evening of May 3rd, 2017 wasn’t the finest day in baseball history for MLB.