Every Friday we will be taking a look back at the construction of past New York Yankees World Series rosters. With 27 World Series championships, the Yankees have built teams through the draft, free agency, and trades. As the Yankees look to capture No. 28, we can see how this roster stacks up to the previous champions.
Today we will be looking at the Yankees’ three straight championships from 1998 to 2000. These teams, led by manager Joe Torre and the Core Four remain the most recent repeat champions in baseball. With big-name pitchers and clutch hitting, these teams featured the winningest team in Yankees’ history while losing a total of one World Series game.
Led by Joe Torre, the Yankees were looking to replicate the success of the ’60s and ’70s. Torre served as a calming presence and helped to develop the younger players. Meanwhile, he was joined by veteran coaches Don Zimmer and Mel Stottlemyre.
From 1998-2000, the Yankees were led by their emotional leader Jorge Posada behind the plate. Over the three seasons, Posada hit .269 with 57 home runs and made his first All-Star game in 2000. Having initially joined the team through the 1990 MLB draft, Posada replaced Joe Girardi as the number one catching option on the team.
For the first two years, Girardi served as the primary backup to Posada. Girardi was originally drafted in 1986 by the Cubs and came to New York when the Rockies traded him for Mike DeJean. While serving as a mentor for Posada, Girardi was still a key piece on the team and caught David Cone’s perfect game during the 1999 season. Girardi would head back to the Cubs following the 1999 season and was replaced by Chris Turner for 2000. Turner played in 37 games for the Yankees in his final season and finished his career with a ring.
Like catcher, the Yankees had one primary first baseman during their dynasty, Tino Martinez. Tino started his career with Seattle and came to New York with Jeff Nelson in a deal that saw Sterling Hitchcock and Russ Davis head to the Pacific Northwest. Tino crushed 72 home runs during the 3 World Series seasons and hit a memorable Grand Slam against the Padres to win Game 1 of the 1998 World Series.
During the three-year stretch, the Yankees penciled in Chuck Knoblauch as their second baseman and leadoff hitter. The speedy Knoblauch was a former Rookie of the Year winner who was traded to the Yankees in a blockbuster deal for Eric Milton and Christian Guzman. While the wheels would fall off for Knoblauch later in his Yankees career, he played a key role during the dynasty years. Notably, he hit a game-tying 3-run home run just four batters before Tino’s Grand Slam in 1998.
Prior to the 1998 season, the Yankees were at a crossroads. Big contract pitcher Kenny Rogers was melting in the New York limelight and was looking for a fresh start. The Yankees sent the struggling pitcher to Oakland in the first trade made by A’s GM Billy Beane. Meanwhile, the Yankees received light-hitting third baseman, Scott Brosius, who had just finished last in batting average during the 1997 season for qualified hitters. The fresh start proved to work wonders for Brosius who made the 1998 All-Star game and would earn the 1998 World Series MVP honors when he hit .471 with 3 home runs.
From 1998-2000, Derek Jeter was one of the very best players in baseball. Since being drafted in the first round of the 1992 draft, the Yankees had high expectations for their shortstop and during these three years, he more than delivered. Jeter hit .337 during the three-year stretch. He made every All-Star game, winning the All-Star and World Series MVP awards in 2000. During this time, Jeter transitioned from being a baseball player to being a rockstar.
For all three years, Right Field was held down by the Warrior Paul O’Neill. O’Neill was traded to the Yankees in 1993 for fellow outfielder Roberto Kelly. O’Neill became a fan favorite due to his firey passion and he could be seen taking out his frustrations on water coolers in the dugout. During the three-year stretch, O’Neill hit 61 home runs while batting .295 as the Yankees 3 hitter. He memorably played in Game 4 of the 1999 World Series just hours after losing his father. His passion made him a beloved teammate and a critical piece in the clubhouse.
Meanwhile, the Yankees had Berne Williams patrolling center field. During the late 90s run, Williams made All-Star games every year while also winning three Gold Gloves. Williams hit an outstanding .329 and 81 home runs batting in the heart of the lineup. In 1998, he became the first player to win a Gold Glove, a batting title and a World Series championship in the same season. Bernie had originally signed with the Yankees as an International Free Agent in 1985.
Finally, the Yankees had a few different Left Fielders during their run. Chad Curtis, who came to the Yankees in a trade with Clevelad, served as the main option in 1998. However, his platoon partner Ricky Ledee entered Yankees history for his heroics in the 1998 World Series, when he reached base in eight consecutive plate apperances.
Perhaps the bench player that best described the Yankees run was outfielder Shane Spencer. Spencer did not break into the majors until 1998 when he was 26, but 10 September home runs quickly made him a fan favorite. 1998 and ‘99 were also the final two seasons of Darryl Strawberry’s career. Meanwhile, Chili Davis, Luis Sojo and Jose Vizcaino could always be counted on for a clutch hit.
The Yankees had quite a few aces in the late 90s. For starters, David Cone won 20 games in 1998 and player a role for the following two seasons. Joining him in 1998 was David Wells and the duo would throw a perfect game (Wells in ’98 and Cone in ’99). Cone joined the Yankees in 1995 via a trade with the Blue Jays while Wells signed as a free agent in 1997. After 1998, the Yankees shipped Wells to Toronto for then-5x Cy Young winner Roger Clemens who cemented himself as the ace of the team.
Joing them was Core Four member Andy Pettitte who was originally drafted by the team in 1990. Meanwhle the team was bolstered by the addition of Cuban-escapee Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. Both pitchers provided the Yankees with an edge as the Padres, Braves and Mets were unable to keep up with the depth of the Yankees rotation.
Perhaps the best player in all three World Serieses was none other than Yankees Hall of Famer closer Mariano Rivera. Rivera joined the Yankees in 1990 and was in the process of cementing his status as the best relief pitcher in baseball history as he outpitched John Rocker, Trevor Hoffman and Armando Benitez.
Joining him in the pen were reliable relievers Jeff Nelson and Mike Stanton. Nelson came in a trade with the Mariners while Stanton was at a crossroads after struggling with the Braves and Red Sox. Additionally, the team relied heavily on Ramiro Mendoza to keep them in games and to save the bullpen.