The Yankees are thankfully not at a shortage of fantastic teams throughout their history. From the teams of the Babe to the Jeter-led '90s dynasty, they have had a pretty incredible saga of success. Out of the past 50 years though, which is your favorite? I limited it to the past 50 years since it's hard to call teams from before then your favorite; with all due respect to our older readers, the majority of our audience probably did not watch the teams of Casey Stengel and Joe McCarthy play baseball. Here's a quick overview of some of the most popular teams:
The '76 squad didn't win the World Series, but in the first year at the remodeled Yankee Stadium, they brought the Yankees out of a 12-year playoff drought. They then surged to the AL pennant in an unforgettable five-game ALCS victory over Yankee killer George Brett's Kansas City Royals, capped by a series-ending homer by Chris Chambliss that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Fourteen and a half games behind the Red Sox, a team is distress, and a fired manager. That's where the '78 Yankees were in the middle of July. Suddenly they kicked it into gear under Bob Lemon in great part thanks to the sensational pitching of Ron Guidry. They caught fire and eventually swept the Red Sox in Boston to tie the division in September. In a one-game playoff at the end of the season, they rode Bucky Dent's shocking homer to a victory and went on to repeat as World Series champions. It was probably the most tumultuous title in team history, but it was also perhaps the most satisfying.
Even though the Yankees broke their 14-year playoff drought with a Wild Card appearance in '95, the team had a ton of holess entering the '96 campaign. Buck Showalter, Don Mattingly, Mike Stanley, and Jack McDowell were all gone, the starting rotation was full of question marks, the bullpen was a mess, and infielders Tony Fernandez and Pat Kelly were almost immediately non-factors due to injury. Although Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill, and sophomore starter Andy Pettitte were solid, not many people were confident about the Yankees' chances. Then along came Derek Jeter, a rookie shortstop with just 15 career games to his name, an unknown starter-turned-reliever named Mariano Rivera, Mariners import Tino Martinez, and New York City native Joe Torre, who had never appeared in a World Series game despite over 4,000 regular season games combined between his playing and managerial careers. The team came together to win the Yankees' first pennant since 1981 and overcame a 2-0 World Series deficit against the defending champion Braves to win the team's first World Series since 1978 and kick off a dynasty.
Arguably the greatest team in the history of baseball, the '98 Yankees simply had no problems. Their 965 runs scored, .825 OPS, and 3.82 ERA were the league's best, and they romped to a then-league record 114 victories. They dominated the playoffs with an 11-2 record to win the franchise's 24th World Series title and end their year at an insane 125-50. Combining talent-laden veterans like Williams, O'Neill, David Wells, and David Cone with young, burgeoning stars Jeter, Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Orlando Hernandez, the team was basically flawless. We might never see a team as dominant as the '98 Yankees ever again.
In 2008, the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993, and management reacted by going on a spending spree, splurging for CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira, who all made instant impacts with a combined 15.9 rWAR. They also made under-the-radar moves, like stealing Nick Swisher from the White Sox in exchange for the underachieving Wilson Betemit, and making young pitchers Phil Hughes, David Robertson, and Alfredo Aceves crucial bullpen arms. These decisions nicely complemented an already-strong core that featured numerous All-Stars of past, present, and future: Jeter, Posada, Rivera, Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera, and Robinson Cano. Former championship catcher Joe Girardi managed them to a MLB-best 103 wins, and thanks to postseason heroics from Matsui, A-Rod, Jeter, and Sabathia, they took down the Twins, Angels, and Phillies with an 11-4 record to capture the team's 27th title.
So which team was your favorite of the past 50 years? In lieu of documenting every single successful team they've had since then, I did not profile other beloved teams, like the '77, '95, '99, 2000, and 2001 squads, but they are of course eligible. Hell, if you fancied one-and-done playoff teams or even non-playoff teams, you'll get no shame from me. Which is your favorite?
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