The Boston Red Sox are without question the team of the last decade. They're won three World Series titles in the last 10 seasons. However the Bosox haven't matched the dynastic run of their their most ferocious rivals, the Yankees, who won five Fall Classics between 1996 and 2009 in seven tries over a run of 14 seasons.
The most amazing part of that run occurred between 1996 and 2000 when they won four times in five years. The genesis of this run began in 1994, when the Yanks had the best record in the American League going when the season was shut down in August due to a labour dispute that wasn't settled until the following April. In the slightly shortened '05 season, they made the post-season.
After going 95-67 under Joe Torre, the Yanks were knocked out by the Angels in the division series. But that was only the beginning. Though their record fell off a bit in 1996 to 90-72, New York was the top team in the American League and ultimately beat Atlanta 4 games to 2 to win their first World Series title since 1978. Four constants in their everyday line-up would emerge in Tino Martinez at first, Derek Jeter at short, Bernie Williams in centre field and Paul O'Neill in right.
The Yankees' starting rotation in '96 was largely made up of star pitchers culled from other teams, such as Kenny Rogers, Jimmy Key, Dwight Gooden and David Cone. The two homegrowns were Andy Pettitte and Ramiro Mendoza. That would change over the next few years as the Yankees developed some of their own and made some big international signings.
In their glory years, the Yanks' bench was always populated with veteran stars. In 1996, it was the likes of Tim Raines, Darryl Strawberry and Cecil Fielder. Their depth was extraordinary.
Though they stumbled in 1997, the Yankees bounced back with their greatest season of this five-year run going 108-54 and sweeping San Diego in the 1998 World Series. By this time Jorge Posada had replaced Joe Girardi as the starter behind the plate, and Chuck Knoblauch had taken over as the second baseman. But Martinez, Jeter, Williams and O'Neill were still driving the engine and Mariano Rivera had emerged as a star closer with 36 saves this particular season. The bench was populated with the likes of Chili Davis, Raines and Strawberry and the rotation featured three men who pitched over 200 innings in Andy Pettitte, David Wells and David Cone. They were augmented by Hideki Irabu of Japan and Cuban Orlando Hernandez. In '98, the Yanks had two players who drove in over 100 runs, another with 98 and yet another with 97. This team was loaded in every sense of the word.
In 1999, the Yanks' win total fell off from 108 to 98. But they were no less of a force. There was only a little bit of tweaking to the every day line-up, with Ricky Ledee supplanting Chad Curtis in left and Chili Davis taking over the bulk of the DH duties. Roger Clemens, who was searching for that first World Series victory, was the new face in the rotation. The Rocket had been picked up in a package deal with the Blue Jays that sent David Wells, Homer Bush and Graeme Lloyd to the Jays. Rivera chalked up 45 saves, and the big four of Martinez, Jeter, Williams and O'Neill each drove in over 100 runs. The Yankees swept to a second straight World Series victory, taking out Atlanta for the second time in four years.
In 2000, the Yankees were bidding to become the first team since the Oakland A's from 1972-74 to win three straight World Series. Outside of Shane Spencer taking over the bulk of the DH duties, the Yankees' starting line-up was basically unchanged.
The starting pitching was starting to fade a bit though. Three of the starters finished .500 or below. David Cone was nearing the end of a fantastic career and finished 4-14. Lefty Denny Neagle strugged in the Big Apple, going 7-7 and Orlando Hernandez was only 12-13. Twenty starts had to be made by plug in pieces including nine by swingman Mendoza and five by Dwight Gooden. The Yankees as always had that power-laden bench. David Justice and Glenallen Hill combined for 36 homers and 89 runs batted in, with Jose Canseco nearing the end of his career and adding six homers and 16 RBI.
The Yankees still had enough left in the tanks to get back to the World Series for a third straight year, where they defeated their cross-town rivals the Mets 4 games to 1.
No team has even won back-to-back World Series since the Yankees scored their trifecta, though the Giants did win in 2010 and 2012. I've just got a feeling with the ever-increasing local TV deals and the parity in the game, it will be a very long time if ever, before we see another three-peat.
This is purely speculation and wishful thinking by the New York media, but Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York wondered aloud over the weekend if there was some way the Yankees could acquire Jose Reyes from the Blue Jays after the coming season to replace the retiring Derek Jeter. The theory being, if the Jays have another rocky season, they just might swing into rebuild mode and be willing to deal Reyes for a package of younger players. Reyes greatly admires Jeter and still makes his off-season home on Long Island, but trading him to the Yankees doesn't make much sense.
If Reyes has a great season, you keep him. If he gets hurt again, or simply has a lousy season, his market value would be low and the Yankees wouldn't want or need him anyway. But as I said, stranger things have happened.
Yankees skipper Joe Girardi has left the door open for Masahiro Tanaka to start either the third our fourth game of the regular season. If it is the third, it's against the Houston Astros. However, if it is the fourth game Tanaka would make his Major League debut in the Blue Jays home opener at Rogers Centre.