Every team that wins a World Series seems to follow a relatively similar formula. They usually have some of the best players in baseball and key role players that help push them to the top of baseball.
Looking back at the Yankees championships in the late 90s and in 2009, the top players that come to mind are Jeter, Rivera, Clemens and A-Rod with help from guys like Scott Brosius and Brett Gardner. However, the one extra piece that is needed for a championship are the players who seemingly come out of nowhere and play an instrumental role.
This article will look back on some of these players on the more recent Yankees World Series teams and who can fill that role this year.
In 1996, the Yankees pitching staff was led by Andy Pettitte, David Cone, Jimmy Key, John Wetteland and a young Mariano Rivera. But one guy who was pivotal during the postseason was David Weathers.
Acquired around the trade deadline, Weathers struggled down the stretch for the Yankees, appearing in only 17 innings and having an ERA north of 9. In the ALDS against Texas he appeared twice, pitching five innings of shutout ball while only allowing one hit. Notably, he threw three innings and earned the win in the series clinching Game 4.
In the ALCS, Weathers was again asked to bail out Kenny Rogers who left after surrendering four runs. Weathers was dominant again, earning his second win of the postseason as the Yankees stormed back to win the game 8-4. Weathers would also pitch twice in the World Series where he let up his only postseason run. While he was never Mariano or Wetteland, he did finish with a playoff era of 0.82 and was critical in winning the World Series.
The 1998 Yankees saw two no name outfielders play a crucial role for the team. Starting in the regular season was Shane Spencer who quickly became a fan favorite when he blasted 10 home runs in only 67 at-bats. His three grand slams were a then-rookie record, and while he did struggle slightly in the postseason he still managed to hit two more home runs.
While Spencer was great in the regular season, the other Yankee rookie, Ricky Ledee, did his damage in the World Series.
After hitting only .241 with one homer, Ledee came alive against San Diego. His Game 1 RBI double, off Padres ace Kevin Brown, were the first runs to score in the World Series. Eventually, he would reach base in eight consecutive plate appearances and hit .600 with four RBI.
1999 saw a very similar roster to the 1998 team, and while their seasons were similar to their entire Yankees careers, two very important players were Luis Sojo and Ramiro Mendoza. Starting with Sojo, the former utility infielder was a critical piece for the Yankees. His ability to play all infield positions usually made him one of the first names off the bench and his veteran presence always led to great at-bats.
Mendoza played a very important role in Joe Torre’s bullpen. His main role was to save the rest of the bullpen in potential blowouts. This season, the Yankees could use a guy like Mendoza instead of wasting Chad Green and Adam Ottavino when up four-plus runs.
It is impossible to recap the 2000 Yankees without mentioning Jose Vizcaino. Having signed as a utility infielder, Vizcaino’s .276 was a pleasant surprise during the regular season. However he became a hero for his actions in game one of the Subway Series. In 6 at-bats he had four hits including the walk-off single in the 12th inning.
The 2009 Yankees greatly benefited from a surprisingly dominant Damaso Marte in the World Series. Marte, who struggled during the regular season, faced 14 batters in October without surrendering any runs. He was especially dominant in the World Series when no Phillies reached base against him.
If the Yankees are going to win their 28th championship, they’ll need a new unsung hero to step up. With DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres both on the IL, there is a golden opportunity for Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada to seize the opportunity. Likewise, Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman and Miguel Andujar will battle over at-bats with the injury to Giancarlo Stanton.
The one area where someone can really step up this year is in the pitching department. With James Paxton’s newest injury and JA Happ’s declining performance, the Yankees rotation is in shambles. Could the Yankees transition Nick Nelson or Jonathan Loaisiga back into a starter? Could Miguel Yajure or Luis Gil get the call up, or will the Yankees finally get Clarke Schmidt on the 40-man roster? Or could the Yankees flip one of these young players for an external option?
Personally, I’ve got my money on Johnny Lasagna, but who do you think has the best chance of playing a key role on this team?