The 1998 Yankees were probably the best team I ever saw (and sorry Seattle Mariners fans, your 116 wins of 2001 is GREATLY diminished by losing to the Yankees—in only FIVE games, no less—in the 2001 ALCS. Not only that, they had to go to the limit against Cleveland in the ALDS. The 1998 Yanks went 11-2 in the postseason). If the 1998 Yanks weren’t the best I ever saw, then they were one of the best.
Now the 1927 Yankees have Huggins, Gehrig, Lazzeri, Ruth, Combs, Hoyt and Pennock in the HOF. The 1961 Yankees have Mantle, Berra and Ford. The 1975 Reds have Anderson, Bench, Morgan, Perez (and should have had Rose if Pete didn’t screw up).
But how many players from that 1998 Yankees team will get into the Hall? It may be a short number for a team that won 114 games and who won four, and almost five world series in a six year span (1996-2001).
Here are the major stars from that 1998 team. Stats from that year.
Posada (C): .268-17-63, OPS+ 115. Not eligible for the HOF ballot until after the 2016 season. .273 career hitter, 275 HR. A solid 121 lifetime OPS+. 2x top 10 MVP voting. 5x All-Star, 5x Silver Slugger. HOF standards: 40 (average HOFer 50). HOF Monitor: 98. Likely HOFer 100. JAWS ranks him #19 among all catchers. A close call, but he probably misses out.
Tino Martinez (1B): .281-28-123, OPS+ 124. .271 career hitter, 339 HR. OPS+ 112. Runnerup for the 1997 MVP. 2x All-Star. Got 1% of the vote in 2011 and dropped off the ballot. HOF monitor 41/100, standards 26/50. JAWS ranking 88th among all 1B.
Bernie Williams (CF): .339-26-97 OPS+ 160. 7th in MVP that year, GG, All-Star. Led AL in batting average. 2x top 10 for MVP. 5x All-Star. 4 GG awards. .297, 287 HR, OPS+ solid 125. 1996 ALCS MVP. 22 postseason HR. Got 9.6% of the vote in 2012 but only 3.3% this year and drops off the ballot. HOF monitor 134/100 (way above “likely HOFer”). HOF standards 48/50 (just short). JAWS ranks him #26 for CF. Bernie deserved more love. Maybe not to get in, but a much greater vote total.
Paul O’Neill (RF): .317-24-116, OPS+ 130. All-Star, 12th in MVP vote. 5x All-Star. 1 top-10 MVP year. .288 hitter, 281 HR. OPS+ 120 (solid). 2.2% of the vote in 2007, and dropped off the ballot. JAWS 60th for RF; HOF monitor 71/100 and HOF standards 37/50. Good but not great.
Darryl Strawberry (OF/DH): We all know the story. He should have hit 500 HR in his career and messed himself up with the dope. He doesn’t deserve to get in, but screwed himself. .247-24-57, OPS+ 132. Great year for a part-timer. 8x All-Star. ROY in 1983. Runnerup for MVP in 1988, 3rd in 1990. 4x Top 10 MVP. .259, 335 HR, OPS+ 138 (fabulous). HOF monitor 56/100, HOF standards 30/50. JAWS has him ranked 41st for RF (above O’Neill). What could have been. Got 1.2% of the vote in 2005 and dropped off the ballot.
Tim Raines (OF/DH): I think he should already be in the HOF. Overshadowed during his career by Rickey Henderson (the greatest leadoff man ever), Raines deserves to get in. In 1998 he was a backup, hitting .290-5-47, OPS+ 107. But his career shows .294, 2605 hits, 808 SB and an OPS+ of a solid 123. 7x All Star. 3x top 10 MVP finishes. Black ink 20/27. HOF monitor 90/100. HOF standards 47/50. JAWS has him ranked 8th among all LF. Led league in runs scored twice, doubles once, SB 4x, batting average and OBP once. Slowly gaining support. This year, his sixth on the ballot, he got 52.2% of the vote. But he’s still far short of that 75%.
David Wells (LHP): 18-4, 3.49. ERA+ 127. Perfect game. Led league in winning pct., shutouts (5), BB/9, WHIP and K/BB. 3rd in CYA that year, 16th for MVP (two years later, 3rd and 17th in those categories for Toronto). 3x All-Star. 239 career wins, but his 4.13 ERA (ERA+ 108) hurts him. 10-5, 3.17 in the postseason. 1998 ALCS MVP. 1x 20-game winner. This year got 0.9% of the vote and now he drops off the ballot. HOF monitor 88/100, standards 40/50. JAWS 125th (starting pitcher).
David Cone (RHP): 20-7, 3.55, led majors in wins. ERA+ 125. 4th in CYA. Perfect game in 1999. 5x All Star. Won CYA in 1994. 2x top 10 MVP. 194 wins, ERA+ 121, ERA 3.46. Probably needed to get over the 200 win plateau to have more of a shot. 8-3, 3.80 in postseason. Got 3.9% of the vote in 2009 and dropped off the ballot. HOF monitor 103/100 (higher than “likely HOF”), standards 39/50. JAWS 62nd for starting pitcher. 2x 20-game winner.
Now for the actives:
Andy Pettitte (LHP): 16-11, 4.24, ERA+ 104. Career 245 wins to date, ERA 3.86, ERA+ 117. The ERA probably hurts him. CYA runnerup in 1997. 3x All-Star. 2x 20-game winner. 2001 ALCS MVP. HOF monitor 123/100 (more than “likely HOF”). HOF standards 42/50. JAWS 92nd for starting pitcher (below Cone, above Wells). 19-11, 3.81 in the postseason. Close call. See Posada.
Derek Jeter (SS). A first-ballot, no-doubter. .324-19-84 with 30 sb, 3rd in the MVP vote that year. 3304 hits and counting. .313, 255 HR, OPS+ 117. 13x All Star. Runnerup for the MVP in 2006, 3rd in 1998, 2009. 8x top 10 for MVP voting. Led majors in runs scored once, hits twice. 348 SB. ROY 1996. 158 postseason games, .308 average. 20 postseason HR. 2000 ASG MVP, WS MVP. HOF monitor 334/100 (is there any doubt?) standards 67/50 (is there any doubt?). JAWS 10th all-time for SS.
Mariano Rivera (RHP): 3-0, 1.91, 36 saves, ERA+ 233. 2.21 career ERA. ERA+ 206 (all-time leader). 608 career saves and counting (all-time leader). All-time leader in games finished. Runner-up for CYA in 2005, 3rd in 1996, 1999, 2004. 12x All-Star. Two top-10 MVP finishes. 8-1, 0.70(!) ERA in the postseason with 42 saves. 1999 WS MVP. 2003 ALCS MVP. Five Rolaids relief awards. A first-ballot, no-doubter. HOF monitor 251/100 (is there any doubt?) Standards 29/50 (it’s low because he is a closer). JAWS #2 relief pitcher (behind Eckersley, who was a starter for half of his career; almost all would agree on Mo as the greatest closer ever).
Then we come to Joe Torre, who while managing the Yankees won four WS in five years (1996-2000) and narrowly missed another in 2001. He led the Yanks to the postseason in each of the twelve years he managed the team, and to another WS in 2003. He won 2326 games as manager, and had a .538 winning percentage. He led the Braves to the 1982 NLCS and the Dodgers to the NLCS in 2008 and 2009. But it’s the Yankees’ years (.605 winning percentage) that define Torre and his probable induction into the HOF.
So what do we have from a team that won 114 games and was 11-2 in the postseason? What do we have from probably the greatest single season team I’ve seen in my lifetime?
Two sure-shot, first-ballot Hall-of Famers in Jeter and Rivera. A manager who will probably get in.
One other player in Tim Raines who has an outside shot.
Two players who are borderline in Posada and Pettitte.
And a bunch of good players who got little support and who will never get in (unless some Veterans Committee puts them in years after I depart this earth).
A team that was greater than the sum of the parts.
And at least one player (Bernie) who deserved more support than he received.
Note: Roger Clemens is not written about here. He joined the Yanks and was with them 1999-2003 and 2007 but the article is on the players who were on the 1998 team.