More often than not, we find ourselves wondering about the things that went wrong in life. When it comes to the New York Yankees, the 2003 team ranks among them. It was a 101-win team that defeated its archrivals in the Championship Series in dramatic fashion. Why didn’t they win? And, more interestingly, how does that club compare to today’s Yankees?
|C||J. Posada||G. Sanchez|
|1B||N. Johnson||L. Voit|
|2B||A. Soriano||DJ LeMahieu|
|SS||D. Jeter||G. Torres|
|LF||H. Matsui||M. Tauchman|
|CF||B. Williams||B. Gardner|
|DH||J. Giambi||G. Stanton|
|Bench||J. Flaherty||K. Higashioka|
|Bench||E. Wilson||M. Ford|
|Bench||R. Sierra||M. Andujar|
|Bench||D. Dellucci||T. Wade|
|Bench||E. Almonte||A. Hicks (INJ)|
|Bench||T. Zeile||C. Frazier|
At first sight, the 2003 team was more on the veteran side, which is to be expected because back when George Steinbrenner ran the show, he used to prioritize winning at the moment without looking so much at the future.
The best players on the team were Jason Giambi (32), Jorge Posada (31), Derek Jeter (29), Hideki Matsui (29), and Bernie Williams (32.) Only Alfonso Soriano (27) and Nick Johnson (24) were on the younger side when it comes to hitters.
In contrast, today’s stars are significantly younger. Here are them, with their 2019 age in parentheses: Aaron Judge (27), Gleyber Torres (22), Gary Sanchez (26), Gio Urshela (27), Mike Tauchman (28), and Miguel Andujar (24.) Only Giancarlo Stanton (29), Brett Gardner (35), and Aaron Hicks (29) are on the older side.
If it weren’t for the Minnesota Twins, the 2019 Yankees would have set a single-season home run record, with 306, and that core will return this season—it there is one. This means the 2020 Yankees are an offensive powerhouse and compare favorably to the 2003 unit, although it may be closer than you think.
The 2019 Yankees had a 118 OPS+, and the 2003 edition had a 114 mark. They were both pretty good, the latter being led by underappreciated slugger Giambi, a dynamic Soriano, the immediate impact of Matsui, and a career-season by Posada. Jeter had to miss the early portion of the season with an injury, but returned to be his usual self - an asset at the top of the lineup.
Robin Ventura started the 2003 season as the third baseman, but was replaced around the trade deadline by Aaron Boone. The current Yankees manager had an .808 OPS with the Reds in 106 games, a number that decreased to .720 in 54 games with the Bombers. However, you’ll likely remember his 2003 for the walk-off, ALCS-clinching home run against the Red Sox in Game Seven. That’ll do.
Raul Mondesi was the starting right fielder when the season began, but he was also traded near the deadline. That led to a revolving door in the position, which was covered by the likes of Juan Rivera, Karim Garcia and David Dellucci. Todd Zeile received considerable playing time before being released in August.
Now, to the pitching:
|SP||R. Clemens||G. Cole|
|SP||M. Mussina||J. Paxton|
|SP||A. Pettitte||M. Tanaka|
|SP||D. Wells||J.A. Happ|
|SP||J. Weaver||J. Montgomery|
|RP||M. Rivera||A. Chapman|
|RP||J. Nelson||A. Ottavino|
|RP||J. Contreras||Z. Britton|
|RP||F. Heredia||L. Cessa|
|RP||G. White||C. Green|
|RP||C. Hammond||T. Kanhle|
|A. Osuna||J. Loaisiga|
The 2003 rotation is also full of veterans and Hall of Fame candidates: only Mike Mussina made it, but the team also boasted Roger Clemens, David Wells and Andy Pettitte. Don’t get me wrong, the 2020 is awesome, even more when you consider that it will be missing Luis Severino and Domingo German (for a portion of the season, at least) but that 2003 foursome was good. Very good, weighing in the fact that all four had at least 200 innings and an ERA lower than 4.15 in the steroid era.
In my view, the 2020 unit is significantly deeper than the 2003 one. Jeff Weaver (5.99 ERA in 2003) was the fifth starter, while the current unit has Gerrit Cole, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery as starters if the season started today. Severino and German will return at some point, and Mike King, Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt could all be ready to contribute soon.
The 2003 bullpen didn’t have too much depth either, but man, it had Mariano Rivera. Chris Hammond only pitched two innings in that postseason after putting a 2.86 ERA from April to September. Jeff Nelson was still around (he came late in the season in a trade for Armando Benitez) and Jose Contreras had a good year.
Meanwhile, the 2020 bullpen has a lot of names to choose from. Of course, the game is different now: teams have embraced relievers and starters aren’t the workhorses they were in 2003.
Now, the Yankees need all the contributions that they can get from the likes of Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle, Luis Cessa, Adam Ottavino, Jonathan Loaisiga, Chad Green and company.
In hindsight, it was such a bummer that the Yankees couldn’t win the World Series that year. I remember running and screaming around the house at midnight after Boone’s home run, only to be stunned a few days later when they couldn’t defeat the Marlins, led by the youth of Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis, Brad Penny and Miguel Cabrera and the grit of veterans Ivan Rodriguez, Jeff Conine and Mike Lowell.