Thinking about favorite Yankee teams and there are a lot of obvious contenders. Even though I'm a big fan of history, I can't say a team like the 27 Yankees or any of the DiMaggio era teams as a team I've actually watched will hold more sway in my memory. Even there, several easy contenders with the 96 and 98 Yankees. 1996 is the first year I followed my team to the World Series and I still think the 98 team is one of the best of all time but let's go outside the box and pick a non World Series year.
I thought I'd go with 1985 since Rickey, Donnie and Winfield are 3 of my favorite all time players and they all had great years (well good for Dave, excellent for Donnie and Rickey) but even then I was too young to appreciate this and more of my memories of this team come from reading magazines and baseball digest. So I'm going to pick 2017.
The Yankees were coming off a bunch of very mediocre seasons. mid to high 80s win totals hid the fact that this team was ancient with no young blood to really replace any of the high priced stars of yesterday. In 2013 the Yanks lineup boasted the likes of Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youklis, Travis Hafner, Jayson Nix and other has beens and never was. After losing Cano and coming back with a retooled team shaped around Tanaka, Ellsbury and McCann but it was Gardy and Betances who were the Yanks two best players (and while I like those two guys, this wasn't a good thing). 2015 had a little false hope that old man Tex and Arod could get the Yanks back to the playoffs but a one game Wild Card loss felt very insubstantial. 2016 had the hopes of RUN DMC out of the bullpen and while Delin, Miller and Chapman were probably the 3 best relief pitchers in the same pen at the same time, the best part of this season was trading away Miller in Chapman in looking forward to the future.
and that future immediately showed up the next season. What was supposed to be a rebuilding year turned into something pretty special (just ask Brian Cashman). Didi stepped out of Jeter's shadow and became his own fun loving Yankee favorite. Gary showed 2016 wasn't just a flash in the pan couple of months and he was a top catcher (well, for one year at least). Sevy stepped up and became one of the top 5 starting pitchers in baseball. But of course, most importantly was a young man who wore the number 99. Mr. Judge started at the bottom of the lineup but it wasn't too long before you realized this guy was always on base and wow could he smash the ball!
So maybe it was just the excitement that I found in that team that was missing in the previous years. Maybe it was a new batch of young guys that I thought would be the new core 4 (Judge, Gary, Sevy and don't forget Bird is the word was supposed to join those guys) but whatever it was, that was the most fun I've had with a Yankee team for quite a while. Just making the playoffs felt special and the wild card game felt like it was going to be a massive disappointment as Sevy got knocked out in the first inning but Didi had the game tied an inning later. After falling behind to Cleveland (who I think were heavy, heavy favorites) 0 to 2 and that includes the grand slam after Girardi should have challenged the foul ball and had the fan base feeling deflated, they came back to win 3 straight with two shellackings of Corey Kluber including the decisive game 5.
Of course Altuve and the cheating Astros were waiting and even then, it still feels like any break in the first two games (like Gary Sanchez catching a simple throw from the outfield to tag out Altuve 5 feet in front of the plate) and the Yanks could have made it to the World Series. Oh well. It was a fun season and had me believing in the Yankees again.