Lyrics from the Fabolous song “Pain” go, “I’m old enough to know better, young enough to not give a f—.” The lines are something of a battle cry for these Baby Bombers. Leading the way on that front is catcher Gary Sanchez. On Twitter, Sanchez opined how these New York Yankees may be young enough to not know any better and good enough to prove the experts wrong. Sanchez, who hit his sixth home run of the season, in a 5-1 Yankees victory against the Los Angeles Angels, may be onto something.
It’s a cool confidence, which rings somewhat true in the Bronx. When you’re homegrown and all you know is the bright lights of the big city, not much else is going to phase you. As “Old Blue Eyes” once sang, “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”
While the homegrown core of the 90’s weren’t without some growing pains along the way, when they did make it on the big stage of October, they shined. Even after the title years, the homegrown players thrived when some of the high priced mercenaries fizzled.
As a rookie in 1996, Derek Jeter hit .412 in the ALDS and .417 in the ALCS. At age 26 or the average age of the current Yankee roster, Jeter hit .409 and won World Series MVP. When most of the players were gone from those title teams and barely hitting the Mendoza line in the postseason, Jeter batted .333 in the 2005 ALDS and .500 in the 2006 ALDS.
In his first ALDS in 1995, an age 26 Bernie Williams batted .429 with two home runs. During the following ALDS in 1996, Williams batted .467 with three home runs and took home ALCS MVP honors by hitting .474. Beyond the dynasty years, Bernie Baseball posted his best World Series numbers in 2003, batting an even .400. When the Yankee bats, save for Hideki Matsui and Williams, disappeared in the 2004 ALCS collapse, Williams kept battling to a .306 clip.
At age 26, Jorge Posada batted .333 in the 1998 World Series. A still 29-year-old Posada gave the Yankees some young legs and jump with a clutch home run in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS and by hitting .444 during the series. Like Jeter in the post dynasty years, Posada batted .500 during the 2006 ALDS. Even on his last legs and enduring a tough final season, Posada remained unfazed by October, batting .429 during the 2011 ALDS.
When the rest of the bullpen faltered, a rookie Mariano Rivera fired 5.1 innings of scoreless ball, fanning eight, during the 1995 ALDS. At 26, Rivera pitched to a 1.59 ERA during the 1996 World Series. Rivera would go on to earn 1999 World Series MVP and 2003 ALCS MVP. Even at 39, where other flash in the pan closers with higher velocity failed, Mo was cool as a cucumber, pitching to a 0.00 ERA in the 2009 World Series.
Andy Pettitte made his first postseason start at age 23, during the 1995 ALDS. By age 26, Pettitte had two titles under his belt and won the Game 4 World Series clincher in 1998. Pettitte earned ALCS MVP honors in 2001 and would win 19 postseason games in his career.
Jim “The King” Leyritz was a bit older by the time of his first postseason appearance. Yet, like Williams, Leyritz had postseason experience, winning an Eastern League crown in 1989 with the Double-A Albany-Colonie Yankees. In 1995, Leyritz hit a clutch, extra inning, walk-off home run in Game 2. Leyritz batted .375 during the 1996 World Series and his home run in Game 4, shifted the momentum of the entire series.
A rookie Ricky Ledee hit .600 in the 1998 World Series.
Also a rookie in 1998, Shane Spencer hit .500 in the ALDS and .333 in the World Series.
Another rookie, Alfonso Soriano batted .400 during the 2001 ALCS and hit what was almost a World Series winning home run in Game 7 of the World Series at Arizona.
Ramiro Mendoza was also a solid postseason contributor with the Yankees out of the bullpen.
Although they were already international stars, one could also make the case for Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez in 1998 and the aforementioned Matsui in 2003.
All proof that when it comes to pressure, these young Yankees may already know all they’ll need to know.