So the 2009 Yankees have the best record in baseball at 91-50. It struck me that 50 losses was the total for the 1998 team throughout the playoffs! At this point, the 'Greatest Team of the Post-Free Agency Era' was 100-41, nine games ahead of the current Yankee squad. They proceeded to go 25-9 the rest of the way, including 11-2 in the playoffs.
I remember listening to 770 WABC during that season, and Michael Kay (back when he shared the airwaves with John Sterling) was expounding the virtues of the Yankees, saying how a baseball team doing that was a once in a generation occurrence. Being only in high school, I naively thought it wouldn't be that seldom. After all, why couldn't the '99 Yankees do similar, as long as they fielded virtually the same team?
The 1999 Yanks were not as good (though they did have an even better playoff record of 11-1) despite trading for future first ballot (at the time) Hall of Famer Roger Clemens.
What was it that made the '98 team so special? The only major personnel difference was trading David Wells for Clemens, who was coming off consecutive Cy Young winning seasons in Toronto. But for whatever reason, he didn't match Wells' '98 year (18-4, 3.49 ERA) or live up to his lofty expectations (14-10, 4.60).
But it was more than just one pitching change. The lineup lacked a superstar but was solid all the way through. 10 players hit 10 or more homers; eight hit 17 or more, yet none topped 30.
The '09 squad has a chance to put up similar numbers. Through 141 games, nine players have at least 10 homers (Eric Hinske is sitting on seven), and a ridiculous seven have at least 20 homers. Unlike the 1998 team, the current lineup does have a legitimate superstar (guess who) and a border-liner in Tex.
On the pitching side, there's no contest - of the '98 team's six starters, not one had an ERA over 4.24; of '09's six main starters, only one has an ERA under 4.10.
Do the '09 Yankees have a touch of the '98 team in them? Yes, but we should hope for more than a touch.