1998-99 Season Recap
Big Apple Bliss
Is there really anything left to say about the Yankees of the late nineties that hasn't already been said. Quite simply, they're good. Very good.
The best ever? Well that's just impossible to say, given the sheer amount of challengers they have and the generational differences that have altered the game over the last 100 years. It is safe to say, however, that any list that discusses the best baseball teams of the century and doesn't include this version of the Yankees is not a list worth reading. In 1998, the Yankees reeled off a record 125 wins (playoffs included) and rolled through the playoffs like it was a Sunday walk through Central Park. It was a tough act to follow, but somehow, they managed just fine.
The 1999 season wasn't all roses for the Yankees. Still reeling from Darryl Strawberry's battle with colon cancer, they also had to play the beginning part of the season without manager Joe Torre who waged his own battle with prostate cancer. They endured the deaths of three players' fathers, Scott Brosius, Luis Sojo and Paul O'Neill, with O'Neill's father dying before the start of Game 4 of the World Series.
But in the end they wouldn't be denied. They won 11 of their 12 playoff games for their 25th championship, with their only playoff blemish coming from the Red Sox and Pedro Martinez. Future hall of famer Roger Clemens, acquired in a controversial off-season trade for fan-favorite David Wells, put the final nail in the Braves' coffin in Game 4 of the World Series to finally acquire his coveted ring.
A little further north in Queens, the Mets turned themselves into the 1999 version of the cardiac kids and threatened to end the nineties with a “Subway Series.” They ultimately bowed out to the Braves in six games but gave us the best game of the year in Game 5, as Robin Ventura kept his team alive for one more game with his “grand slam single” in the bottom of the 15th inning.
While they didn't get half of the attention they got in 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were back at it in 1999, blasting 65 and 63 home runs, respectively, to become the first two players to swat 60 in consecutive seasons. Sure the ballparks are a little smaller, the balls are wound a little tighter and the pitching can be downright awful, but the fact that no other player even had 50 in 1999 shows how special these two individuals really are.
The season was chock-full of notable individual achievements. In one memorable week in August, McGwire slugged his 500th home run, Tony Gwynn smacked his 3000th hit and Wade Boggs became the first player in history to reach 3000 hits with a home run.
Martinez won the pitching “Triple Crown” and turned in one of the most dominant pitching years in history and on the senior circuit, Randy Johnson (364) threatened to break Nolan Ryan's hallowed mark of 383 strikeouts in one season. Minnesota's Eric Milton and St. Louis rookie Jose Jimenez tossed no-hitters. And on Yankees old-timers day in June, with Don Larsen and Yogi Berra in attendance, David Cone threw the major leagues' 16th perfect game.
The season simply belonged to the Yankees, like it has for most of the century. It was nice to see small market teams Oakland and Cincinnati take a run at the postseason but in the end, no one else really had a chance.