Were The 1998 New York Yankees The Best Team Ever?
The 1998 Yankees were not the most talented team ever, but they were the most complete team.
Each of the 25 guys on the team had a role, and they each executed it. The 1998 Yankees had a great combination of youth and experience, power and speed, and right-handed and left-handed pitching.
That balance showed when the team had different leaders in batting average, home runs, hits, total bases, and walks.
1998 was the season of home runs, with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa both breaking Roger Maris’ record by hitting 70 and 66 home runs, respectively.
No one on the 1998 Yankees hit more than 28 home runs that season, but they still managed to lead the league in runs.
The 1998 Yankees pitching staff that was comprised of David Cone, Andy Pettitte, David Wells, Orlando Hernandez, and Hideki Irabu combined for a 79-35 record during the regular season.
The bullpen—anchored by Mariano Rivera—was lights out as well, going 28-9 in the regular season. Rivera was such a force at the end of games that opposing teams felt the anxiety of needing to have a lead after seven innings, because they knew Rivera was coming in after that.
The bench was key as well, and even had a higher on-base percentage (.370) than the starters (.364).
The 1998 Yankees were a team that had no individual agendas. They cared about wins and not individual stats. They were driven by a desperation to win. They were supposed to win, and they knew that, and it showed in the playoffs when they flat out dominated.
In the Divisional Series against the Texas Rangers, the 1998 Yankees surrendered only one run and 13 hits all series.
They lost a little steam against the Cleveland Indians in the League Championship Series when they were down two games to one, but a first-inning home run by Paul O’Neill in Game Three gave the Yankees the lift they needed, and they won the next three games to advance to the World Series.
They faced adversity again in Game One of the World Series against the Padres, trailing 5-2 in the seventh inning before a Chuck Knoblauch three-run home run and a Tino Martinez grand slam catapulted the Yankees to a win.
The Yankees came back once again in Game Three, when Scott Brosius hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning off Trevor Hoffman to give the Yankees the lead.
The Yankees won the next game, finishing the sweep and the postseason with a record of 11-2.
That gave the Yankees a total of 125 wins for the season, which is an MLB record that still stands today.
Going by that stat alone, you could claim the 1998 Yankees were the best team ever.
And even the boss, George Steinbrenner, agreed. He said the 1998 Yankees were “as good as any team [he's] ever seen. There’s never been anyone better.”
But the 1998 Yankees were more than their record.
They were a group of unselfish, tough, ferocious guys who trusted each other and wore teams out, but did it all with class.
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