League Leaders Reminiscent of 1998 Super Team
11 years ago, the New York Yankees steamrolled through the regular season, playoffs and World Series to win their 24th championship. A totally dominating 114-win summer was punctuated by a four game sweep of the San Diego Padres in the Fall Classic, bringing up comparisons to the 1927 squad that included the famous Murderer's Row.
With an 86-48 mark, the Yankees will most likely not eclipse their '98 win total but they do lead Major League Baseball in that category, with the Joe Torre-led Los Angeles Dodgers next with 80 victories.
Most importantly, the Yankees are running away with the American League East. After overtaking the Boston Red Sox, they now are up by seven and a half games. Their division rivals have had injury problems and the Yankees have been able to take advantage of that by winning six of their last seven meetings after dropping the first eight.
A four-game sweep at Yankee Stadium in early August set the tone for a three-game set up at Fenway Park. The Bombers blew out the Sox, 20-11, then lost by a score of 14-1. New York was able to take the rubber game, 8-4.
The Yankees have swept their last two series at home versus the Chicago White Sox and at Baltimore against the Orioles. They have 16 home games remaining, including three against Boston. 100 wins is more than attainable and should happen sometime around the third week of September.
The big three free agent signings during the offseason have all been highly profitable. Southpaw CC Sabathia is 16-7 with a 3.48 ERA and will eclipse 200 innings in his next start. The former Indian and Brewer ace also has 167 strikeouts and only 50 walks. Righthander A.J. Burnett has not been as consistent but still has 10 wins in 18 decisions and 155 strikeouts.
First baseman Mark Teixeira is a candidate for the American League Most Valuable Player Award, hitting .281 with 32 home runs, 35 doubles and 101 runs batted in. He also has played a Gold Glove caliber defense.
Looking back at the '98 team, the two top arms were a lefty-righty combo, too. David "Boomer" Wells went 18-4 and David Cone 20-7. Tino Martinez manned first base and batted .281 while hitting 28 long balls and driving in 123 runs. Wells led the league in win-loss percentage (.818), WHIP (1.045), bases on balls per nine innings (1.218), strikeout/walk ratio (5.621) and shutouts (5). Cone was tied with Roger Clemens and Rick Helling in leading the league in wins.
This season, Teixeira is leading the AL in RBI while Sabathia is in front in the wins and starts (29) categories. He also won the AL Pitcher of the Month for August, going 5-0 with a 2.64 ERA during the dog days. A year ago, Sabathia accomplished the same mark and accomplishment, albeit in the National League for Milwaukee.
Home field advantage throughout the playoffs is a key element to advancing and the Yankees are heading in that direction. "We're trying," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said to reporters. "That's the idea. "You try to do that in September and that's why you try to win every game.
"You worry about that day," he continued. "You don't do anything crazy and you don't push people too hard, but you worry about that day."
Johnny Damon added, "We're going to keep plugging and we have the depth right now that we can keep guys fresh," the outfielder told reporters. "There's still a lot of games that we need to win."
28 to be exact, if they are to match that magical season that seems not as long ago as it did last year.