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’98 Yankees Overrated?

By Mike Silva ~ April 9th, 2012. Filed under: New York Yankees, NY Baseball Memories.

The Yankees 0-3 start is reminding everyone of the ’98 squad that won a then American League record 114 games. Allen Barra of The Village Voice points out various reasons why this group isn’t anywhere near the class of that historic team.

The good folks at Baseball Think Factory linked up this piece and provided their usual pithy comments. One in particular stood out to me:

 TomH Posted: April 09, 2012 at 10:54 AM (#4100962)

I think an article entitled “1998 Yankees - most overrated team ever?” would be great fodder for discussion. A few basic points would be1) It was an expansion year. You can’t count “most wins” in expansion years the same as others; look at 1961, 62, 93, and others as examples of how very good teams win a LOT of games when you introduce a few lousy teams.2) There were two other MLB teams whose pythag records were virtually as good as (within 2 games) of the Yanks; Atlanta and Houston. And both of those might have whupped NY in a Series (but both were upset by the Padres). The Astros, who had picked up the Big Unit down the stretch, looked truly formidable. Lastly, the Yankees did not have a scary 1-2 starting pitcher punch you would think would be needed for a playoff. With their lineup, it was enough to dispose of Texas and Cleveland and SD though.

For those that don’t know, a team’s Pythagorean record uses the final runs scored and runs allowed to build what their actual record should have been. Anything above means the team was lucky, while below indicates some bad luck. The ’98 Yankees Pythagorean Record was 108-54, still a tremendous accomplishment but not quite in the all-time historic record category. Atlanta and Houston both had 106 wins as their Pythagorean record, with Atlanta mirroring their record in real life and Houston winning 102 games. Both would fall to an inferior San Diego team in the postseason.

On paper, both these National League opponents appear superior to the Yankees. Beating Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz and Millwood in a 7-game series would never be easy. Their bullpen was a bit better than the ’96 version since it included John Rocker and Kerry Ligtenberg, who had a career year. Of course, the Yanks would play Atlanta in ’99 and handily beat them in 4-games. Perhaps the Mets doing a number on them in the NLCS had something to do with it.

The real dangerous team in 1998 was the Houston Astros. The foursome of Jeff BagwellCraig BiggioMoises Alou and Derek Bell made for an offense that averaged nearly 5.5 runs per game, despite playing half its games in the Astrodome.

Randy Johnson, a noted Yankees-killer, was acquired from Seattle mid-season and went 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA. Beating him 3-times in a 7-game series wouldn’t be easy. Mike HamptonShane Reynolds and Jose Lima backed him up. Not great, but good enough with that offense.

I do think the expansion point made by TomH is somewhat valid. The Yanks were 11-1 versus the expansion Tampa Bay Rays, and won another 10 games (without a loss) against a Kansas City team that lost 89 games. That’s a combined 21-1 against extremely inferior opponents. With that said, most good teams should beat up on weak opponents. The Yankees just did what was expected of them.

I guess the misconception of the ’98 Yankees is they were this All-Star laden team that couldn’t be beat. What they were was a lineup that had good balance, took pitches and got on base. They also had a deep veteran bench, outstanding bullpen and solid starting pitching. It might have been the best Yankees team from top to bottom; maybe not the version with the most stars or individuals with career seasons, but certainly a solid roster from 1 to 25. Staying healthy didn’t hurt, either.

If that means they are overrated, then guilty as charged.

I don’t know, however, if that is a fair statement.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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4 Responses to ’98 Yankees Overrated?

  1. Chuck Johnson


    The ’78 Yankees would have wiped the floor with them.

    Amongst others.

  2. sunny vuda

    Why am I even reading this clown’s bias article….haters hate, Go Yankees..

  3. Mike Silva


    Did you even read what I said? I didn’t support the author’s claim; a little comprehension, please

  4. Raul

    Lack of big names or big seasons is what haters of the 98 Yankees dwell on.

    Bottom line is, they won games. You don’t win games on paper.

    Who knows? Maybe that 78 team would have beaten the 98 team. Maybe that Astros team would have beaten them. Maybe the Big Red Machine would have beaten them.

    But life doesn’t operate on maybes. And simulations aren’t facts.

    The 98 team was great and when the time came to cement their legacy, they came through. The same can’t be said about the 1998 Atlanta Braves or Houston Astros or 2001 Seattle Mariners.

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