The Bomber’s hot first half of the season (we’re seven games from the halfway point) has everyone drawing comparisons from the current team to the 1998 team, who had a historic season 20 years ago, winning 114 games and a World Series that took the minimum amount of games to win.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at the teams player by player and break them down side by side, and see who had the advantage at each position on the field.

Catcher

1998: Jorge Posada and Joe Girardi

2018: Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine

The ’98 team was in the middle of a transition period from Joe Girardi to Jorge Posada. It was Posada’s first time playing as a starter, while Girardi’s career was winding down. Both were on opposite ends of their prime. While Gary Sanchez has struggled this season, Austin Romine earns the 2018 team some extra bonus points by being one of the best backups in the game. Sanchez’s shortcomings defensively are nullified by the fact that Posada was never a good defensive catcher at any point in his career. The ’98 team may have had better leadership with Girardi appearing in 78 games, but I’m not going to let a bad first half for Gary make me forget that the Yankees have an All-Star catcher right now.

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Advantage: 2018 Yankees

1st Base

1998: Tino Martinez

2018: Greg Bird

The idea is that Greg Bird will someday be our 2018 version of Tino Martinez. That day is not today. Tino was the Yankees main slugger and run-producer during the Yankees golden era. He batted .281 with a .355 OBP, smashed 28 HR, 123 RBI, scored 92 runs. Tino did it all. Today’s Yankees fans would be ecstatic if the first base spot in the lineup could yield anything that looks remotely like what Tino was doing in 1998.

Advantage: 1998 Yankees

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2nd Base

1998: Chuck Knoblauch

2018: Gleyber Torres

The Yankees traded for Chuck Knoblauch in the 1998 offseason. For people who weren’t baseball fans 20 years ago, Knoblauch was a good to very good 2nd baseman in the late 90s and early 2000s who eventually retired early after coming down with the worst case of the yips I’ve ever seen. The 1998 season was before all of Knoblauch’s throwing issues, but at no point was he as good as Gleyber Torres. Knoblauch hit 17 home runs in the 1998 season, which both then and now was solid power production from the 2nd base spot. Regardless of how the game has changed, Gleyber Torres hitting 14 home runs in the first 53 games of his career is ridiculous.

Advantage: 2018 Yankees

3rd base

1998: Scott Brosius

2018: Miguel Andujar

This is the first difficult decision of the post. The ’98 team was trotting out Scott Brosius at third, where he had arguably the best season of his career, hitting an even .300 and driving in 98 runs (you could argue 1996 was his best season in Oakland, but does anything you do out there really count?). Like Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar has come out of the gate at an incredible pace. Unless something unforeseen occurs, Miguel Andujar will definitely be a better player than Scott Brosius. Andujar may very well be better than Brosius ever was for the next 15 years. Not this year though, as 1998 was the year of Scott Brosius. Miggy is a rookie who’s playing incredible baseball for the Yankees in 2018, but Scotty B was on fire that season. The deciding factor is the incredible October that Brosius had that season. Miggy could play great this October, but you really can’t do better than winning the World Series MVP, which Brosius did. He batted .381 with 4 home runs and 15 RBIs in 13 postseaon games, and won the highest honor in a four game sweep of the Padres.

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Advantage: 1998 Yankees (slightly)

Shortstop

1998: Derek Jeter

2018: Didi Gregorius

I would take the April 2018 version of Didi Gregorius over anybody on either of the two teams, however, Derek Jeter gave you consistent, solid play from April to October (or November) for the better part of 20 years. I love me some Didi Gregorius, but I’d have to be crazy to take Didi over el Capitan-1998 version. Jeter had over 200 hits, batted .324 and scored 127 runs. To put that in perspective, the most Mike Trout has ever scored was 129. Jeter even had one of his best power seasons, hitting 19 dingers and driving in 84 runs. Jeter was third in the MVP voting that season as 1998 was the true beginning of Derek Jeter’s prime.

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Advantage: 1998 Yankees

*Side Rant

Hold up. Upon going down the rabbit hole that is studying Derek Jeter’s amazing career stats, can someone tell me how Jeter IMPROVED on his statistics from 1998 to 1999, but went from third in MVP voting in ’98 to sixth in ’99? Jeeeez what kind of steroids were these guys on back then? Must’ve been the fallout from the ’98 bomb fest between Sosa and McGwire.

Here are Jeter’s stats from ’98 to ’99 via baseballreference.com. Sorry about the unclear picture.

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Seven more runs, 16 more hits, 12 more doubles, one more triple, five more homers, 18 more RBI. Less stolen bases, but 34 more walks, and a .349/.438/.552 line? Not to mention that he was doing all of this for a 98 win team that year. An unreal season, and he was only sixth in the MVP voting. That’s CRAZY. I’m going to guess without looking who the five were ahead of him for fun, then find out who it actually was. I’ll probably be way off but here goes…

My guess

Pedro Martinez, Albert Belle, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra (in thick Boston accent).

The real Top 5 (I was way off)

  1. Ivan Rodriguez
  2. Pedro Martinez
  3. Roberto Alomar
  4. Manny Ramirez (Manny was tied for third, but autoformatting is messing with me, also he had 165 RBIs, nine less RBIs than hits. That’s unreal.)
  5. Rafael Palmeiro

Nomar was seventh, Ken Griffey Jr. was 10th despite hitting 48 HR with 134 RBI (what?!), A-Rod was 15th, and Albert Belle was nowhere to be found despite hitting 37 HR with 117 RBIs that year. If you like yourself some wild baseball stats, go and check out the MVP voting results in the late 90’s. Everybody was batting .320 those days, hitting 40 home runs, or both.

Outfield

1998: Paul O’neill, Bernie Williams, Darryl Strawberry, Chad Curtis, Tim Raines, Shane Spencer

2018: Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Clint Frazier

Wow. It was almost impossible to decide who to go with for this one. On one hand you have multiple Yankees legends on the 1998 team. On the other hand, you have legends in the making on the 2018 squad. It almost feels like choosing a side means that’s the era of baseball you prefer. When looking at seasonal stats the 1998 team is full of guys with great averages and respectable but not eye-popping power numbers, while the 2018 squad is full of guys hitting between .240 and .280 while hitting nearly as many home runs as the 98 guys in half of a season. I finally settled on the 1998 New York Yankees because at that time, Paul O’neill and Bernie Williams (won the ’98 batting title) were experienced and in their prime, Darryl Strawberry was solid for the role he was in which was as a DH/LF, and Chad Curtis, although almost forgotten by everyone, actually had a solid year in 1998 with a .355 OBP. You can talk stats all day with these two groups of guys, but at the end of the day the 1998 guys proved time and time again that they could get it done for all 162 games as well as the ones in October. You’re not crazy if you think that the 2018 team has the advantage, though. They certainly have more upside than the 98 team ever had.

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Advantage: 1998 Yankees

Starting Pitching

1998: Andy Pettitte, Orlando Hernandez, David Cone, David Wells, Hideki Irabu, Ramiro Mendoza

2018: Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, Domingo German, CC Sabathia, Jordan Montgomery

Advantage:

When I first was looking through the pitching statistics side by side, I was forgetting one very important variable. After going through numerous 1990’s batting statistics it dawned on me how much more dominant hitting was in those days for numerous reasons, such as steroids, the lack of infield shifts, less in-depth scouting reports, etc. In 1998 there were 13 players who hit 40+ home runs, in 2017 there were only five. In 1998 there were 42 players with 100+ RBI, in 2017 there were 23. The RBI leader in 2017, Giancarlo Stanton, had 132 RBI, while seven players in 1998 had 144+ RBI.

You see where I’m going with this. Severino may be the best pitcher of the two groups, but from top to bottom, the ’98 Yanks take this one. No one on that staff had higher than a 4.24 ERA in an era where hitters were dominant. There were only two pitchers in the AL that had a 3+ERA, there are currently 10 this season in 2018.

David Wells had a career year that included a perfect game despite probably still being drunk, David Cone went 20-7 with over 200 Ks. Pettitte was consistent as always, Hideki Irabu was way overhyped but was decrde that year. The hype-train for Orlando ‘El Duque’ Hernandez was real, performing at a high level in both the regular and postseason, and the spot starter Ramiro Mendoza was very effective that year as well, going 10-2 with a 3.25 ERA in 14 starts and 27 relief appearances.

All anyone talks about these days is how the Yankees need to beef up their starting pitching this year at the deadline. I’m not quite sold on that idea just yet. If you looked at the names of those pitchers in April of ’98, it didn’t look like a staff that was going to be part of a 114 win team. I believe the 2018 Yanks can still find a way to emulate the ’98 staff without selling off a piece of the future. Someone just needs to volunteer to be the drunk guy who throws a perfect game…

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Advantage: 1998 Yankees

Bullpen

1998: Mariano Rivera, Mike Stanton, Jeff Nelson, Graeme Lloyd, Ramiro Mendoza

2018: Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Adam Warren

The bullpen and the outfield are by far the two hardest to determine. The ’98 team had Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all-time, and an underrated group of relievers. Ramiro Mendoza, Jeff Nelson, and Graeme Lloyd were all very solid in their day. With the best closer in the history of baseball, and three solid guys behind him, I think I’m still going to have to do the unthinkable.

Chapman has been great, so has Betances since about May 7th or so. Chad Green is rock-solid, and Robertson, Warren, and Holder are all really good in their own right. This Yankees bullpen is the best in the league right now, and top to bottom one of the best of all-time. Just like how the 2018 team has the best starter of the two, the 1998 team has the best reliever. LeBron James didn’t win the championship. It takes a whole team.

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Advantage: 2018 Yankees

Bench/Utility

1998: Tim Raines, Joe Girardi, Luis Sojo, Chili Davis, Ricky Ledee, Homer Bush, Shane Spencer

2018: Austin Romine, Ronald Torreyes, Neil Walker, Clint Frazier, Tyler Austin,

After Tim Raines and Joe Girardi, who were both at the end of their careers (so was Chili Davis), the rest of the Yankees bench were best-known for “being on the 98 team’s bench.” Although Shane Spencer had a September that made Gary Sanchez’s entrance to the majors look pedestrian, the five players listed from the 2018 team all have the talent to be starting on a lesser team in the majors.

Advantage: 2018 Yankees

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Final Tally- 5-4 in favor of the 1998 Yankees

1998 Yankees with the edge in 1B, 3B, SS, OF, and Starting Pitchers

2018 Yankees with the edge at C, 2B, Bullpen, and Bench/Utility spots.

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Photo Credits:

www.riveraveblues.com

www.brooklyndigest.com

www.abc7ny.com

www.nj.com

www.thenewstribune.com

www.pinterest.com

www.sports.yahoo.com

www.1045theteam.com

www.gettyimages.com

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