An Underrated Era of Yankees Baseball
As a Yankees fan who grew up in the Yankees’ dynasty and early 2000 years this is the first bad Yankees team that I have experienced in my lifetime. Watching the team this year has been very painful at times and certainly not as fun as it was during those years. I would look forward to the Yankee game that night all day back then when I was in school. That has certainly not been the case this year. I have always said to spoiled Yankees fans how we should appreciate the Yankees teams from 2001-2012, and this year has cemented that.
Andrew Mearns of Pinstriped Bible, wrote an excellent piece on this topic that inspired me to write about this subject. The Yankees dynasty years from 1996-2000 put unreasonable expectations into the heads of many Yankees fans. Win the World Series or the season was a failure. That is just not the case.
This 2013 Yankees season is what you would call an utter failure, assuming it ends the way it looks like it’s going to. The Yankees are 25th in MLB in home runs, 27th in runs, 29th in wOBA and 29th in wRC+. That is an utter disaster. A Yankees team that wins over 95 games and the AL East, but loses in the ALDS or ALCS is not.
For any other franchise making the playoffs 10 out of 11 seasons, with nine division championships, a World Series championship and two other World Series appearances would be considered one of the greatest decades in franchise history. Yet, somehow with the Yankees it is looked upon as a failure. The Yankees won over 95 games an incredible 10 times over that span and over 100 games four times. Those were some really fun teams to watch.
The 2002 Yankees are a great example of this. That team had one of the most dominant regular seasons in Yankees history. They scored almost 900 runs and hit 223 home runs.
They were lead by a near 40-40 season from Alfonso Soriano and Jason Giambi, who had an incredible 1.034 OPS that season. Nick Johnson and Rondell White, who were probably the two worst regular hitters that season, would be two of the better hitters on the 2013 Yankees for most of the year.
The starting pitching was also stellar, led by Mike Mussina, David Wells, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Orlando Hernandez. Despite all of this, they are remembered as chokers because they lost the ALDS to the eventual World Series champion Angels. Four games overruled 162.
The 2003 season is remembered a little more fondly because of the epic Aaron Boone game winning home run in Game 7 of the ALCS vs. Boston. However, there are some fans who remember that year more for blowing the 2-1 World Series lead to the heavily underdog Marlins.
2004-2007 featured more really awesome teams that did not reach the ultimate goal of a championship. Those teams won three division titles and had some incredible moments and performances. They averaged 904 runs a year over those years, including approaching 1,000 in 2007, with an incredible 968 runs.
We witnessed two of the greatest seasons in Yankees history from Alex Rodriguez in 2005 (.321/.421/.610/1.031 with 48 home runs and 130 RBI) and 2007 (.314/.422/.645/ 1.067 with 54 home runs and 156 RBI. I remember being just mesmerized watching A-Rod in those years. We may never witness seasons like that from a player in a Yankees uniform ever again. Yet, they are just glossed over because A-Rod’s Yankees did not win championships.
In the 2005 season the Yankees made an incredible comeback from eight games under .500 to 29 over by season’s end. They had an incredible murderers row of Rodriguez (1.031 OPS), Giambi (.975 OPS), Gary Sheffield (.891 OPS) and Hideki Matsui (.863 OPS). Cano’s OPS of .860 this year would be fifth on that team! But, hey who cares right they lost in the ALDS.
The 2006 team won 97 games, had four hitters with an OPS over .890 (Jeter, Cano, Rodriguez and Giambi). Melky Cabrera, who had the lowest .OPS among regulars with a .752 OPS, would rank 2nd on the 2013 Yankees! Of course they are only remembered for the disaster against Detroit in the ALDS when Joe Torre hit Rodriguez 8th.
That dominant 2007 team that I mentioned is only remembered for Joba Chamberlain and the midges in the ALDS against Cleveland. Who cares that it was one of the greatest offenses in Yankees history and that it was eight games under .500 in late May and came back to win 97 games. Again, Cabrera was the least productive Yankee regular (.273/.327/.391.718), but his numbers would make him the third best hitter for the Yankees this year.
A playoff less 2008 season should have humbled fans, although an 89 win season with a mountain of injuries was not even a terrible season. Then, the championship in 2009 made everybody cocky again that nothing less would be expected.
2010-2012 was very similar to 2004-2007. They won 95 games all three years, won the AL East twice and advanced to the ALCS twice. Yet, it just wasn’t enough for some people.
Now, here we are in 2013 with a team that is an egregious offensive team, has only two starting pitchers performing well and they might not even finish above .500. There have been very few fun games and exciting moments, very few individual performances that wowed you and very few players that you have looked forward to watching. This team pales in comparison to those teams, yet those teams are somehow looked upon in a negative light?
Obviously, it sucked watching the Yankees lose in the playoffs all those times. That does not change the fact that those were excellent baseball teams, with some outstanding players, and they were an absolute joy to watch. They should be remembered upon as a great time in franchise history and not a time of disappointment.
Hopefully, this season will make those spoiled fans remember just how good those years were. With the current state of the franchise who knows how long it will take for them to get back to that level. I know that I am longing for those days right now.