Randy, Bobby, and Derek join forces for Episode 6 of the Views From 314ft Podcast. We’re joined by artist and pop culture influencer Sophia Chang. Sophia was commissioned along with nineteen other artists and influencers to reimagine twenty iconic Topps baseball cards. Sophia’s first card to release is the 1992 Mariano Rivera card. We discuss how Sophia became a part of the Topps 2020 project, the process behind the design and the importance of MLB intersecting with pop culture.
Following our great conversation with Sophia, we discuss the potential MLB plans for starting the regular season in Arizona. We then jump into another plan for the season to take place in both Florida and Arizona. We end the show talking about MLB in…Japan?
We are adhering to the shelter in place guidelines of New York State and recording remotely. We will be doing so for as long as the “shelter in place” order remains. We’re talking on Skype so we apologize in advance for any sound quality issues.
The podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify so please subscribe, drop a five-star rating and spread the word. We hope this gives you some distraction from all the craziness in the world right now. Here are the episode notes:
[Introduction] We say hello to the blog brothers and meet Sophia Chang
[6:05] Arriving at Mariano Rivera as the choice for her first card.
[8:00] Exploring how storytelling influences Sophia’s specific visual approach.
[16:30] The intersectionality between pop culture, street culture and baseball.
[19:45] What went into the choice of choosing the Mariano quote featured on the card.
[21:00] The interesting dynamic of a vibrant and energetic baseball card to represent an era in Yankees baseball not known for their personality.
[25:00] Discussing Sophia’s Jackie Robinson card.
[26:56] What generations of baseball fans have given the most feedback on Sophia’s cards.
[29:30] Does baseball need to establish more partnerships with pop culture?
[38:59] We discuss MLB’s potential plan of holding the regular season in Arizona with the players under quarantine.
[50:23] Bob Nightengale suggested another regular season plan. This one calls for realignment according to team spring training site locations. We discuss the potential of this one sticking.
Again, we apologize for any sound quality issues. We’re making the most of a tough situation as all of you are. Please don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify and spread the word.
We hope you and your families remain safe and healthy. See you again next week.
“I don’t think you can play a 60-game season and you call yourself a champion…Anything can happen in 60 games. I don’t think it’s enough.”
Mo isn’t wrong. 60 games, or even 81, wouldn’t be enough for there to be a World Series champion that felt legitimate compared to other ones. But this season is not going to be completely legitimate, no matter when it begins. As Randy and Derek suggested, MLB should take advantage of this and experiment, do things differently. This is going to be a very different year, so why not make things different?
Randy and Derek suggested a geographic realignment, based on Grapefruit and Cactus League divisions and that would be pretty cool. It would foment new rivalries–even if just for a year–and would probably force a universal DH. Obviously this would eliminate traditional AL/NL alignment, but it’s worth it. MLB is the only league that still sticks to such division and, while charming and something I wouldn’t necessarily change, it is a touch antiquated and seeing it updated, even briefly, would be fun.
Another way to eliminate AL/NL and add a little bit of fun chaos could be to have the entire MLB play each other in a balanced schedule with the top-8 teams, regardless of league, making the playoffs, seeded 1 v 8, 2 v 7, etc. This could lead to some different, more exciting World Series matchups. Imagine a Yankees/Astros World Series? That would have a ton of juice.
Knowing MLB, they’ll likely play it straight. If they do, though, they’ll need to rework the schedule in some way. Given how late they’re going to start, given matchups, they’ll need to alter the original schedule to make it look like a normal season, even with fewer games.
It’s frustrating that there’ll be some form of chaos in a year in which the Yankees are poised to be so good. With a traditional schedule, they’d like win 95+ games and coast into the playoffs. An altered format adds some variability and unpredictability to the mix, but the Yankees are good enough to weather that.
If we get baseball this year, it’ll be unpredictable and that will be fun. Hopefully, a condensed season will get some attention and new viewers. There’s nothing wrong with hooking people in with a novelty for one time, then getting back to normalcy. I think that’s what everyone’s doing now anyway, right? We’re all trying out what works for our quarantined lives, waiting for normalcy to return.
In the last decade, the Yankees did not have an AL MVP. They didn’t have a Cy Young winner. They earned one Rookie of the Year, one Comeback Player of the Year and two Relievers of the Year.
For the team that produced the most regular season wins in the 2010s, that’s surprising. The Bombers still had an impressive collection of talent that rivals previous decades of the organization.
We decided to put together the Yankees’ best team of the last decade in two parts. First, in this edition, we’ve assembled a 25-man roster of the best players the team had in the 2010s, taking into account the whole of their accomplishments. In Part II, we’ll take a look at the individual seasons that stood out and merited inclusion here.
Let’s get to positions.
Catcher: Gary Sánchez
The Yankees have had good production from catcher in the 2010s, but it has come from a variety of players. Jorge Posada, Russell Martin, Chris Stewart, Brian McCann and Sánchez have all held down the job, with a healthy dose of Francisco Cervelli in-between. On the whole, pinstriped backstops have a 98 wRC+ and 40.8 fWAR, good for third and fourth-best in all of baseball in the span.
Of the aforementioned catchers, Sánchez has been the best of them this decade (2000s Jorge Posada would be a different question). In 3 1/2 full seasons, he’s bashed 105 home runs, more than any catcher in baseball since 2016. It’s four more than Yasmani Grandal, and 29 more than the next hitter. For his defensive warts, the Kraken is still a tremendous force.
First Base: Mark Teixeira
Teixeira’s best season in pinstripes was his debut in 2009, when he produced 5.3 WAR, finished second in MVP voting and won both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. His 2010s, particularly after 2011, were injury-filled as his steady switch-hitting bat was taken out of the lineup far too often.
For the first half of the decade, the Yankees went as Teixeira went. He was still productive from 2010-12, producing 11.3 bWAR and winning two Gold Gloves. When a wrist injury derailed both his 2013 and ’14 seasons, the Yankees’ offense lacked the necessary juice to reach the postseason. Then, when Tex regained All-Star form in 2015, he became the driving force to an unlikely wild card bid.
Second Base: Robinson Canó
Starlin Castro proved a fine stopgap and Gleyber Torres is going to man the middle of the Yankees’ infield for at least the next five years at least. However, Canó was the best Yankees second baseman in recent memory and his breakout season coincided with the turn of the decade.
From 2010 to 2013, Canó batted .312/.373/.533 (142 wRC+) and finished no worse than sixth in MVP voting every season while playing no fewer than 159 games. He slugged 117 homers and 176 doubles in that span and made up for his lack of walks (#KabakHat) by putting the ball in play with his line-drive swing. While Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter defined the 2009 World Series run on offense, Canó was the catalyst for the last gasps of that title window.
Shortstop: Didi Gregorius
This is the first one with two legitimate candidates, though Gregorius ultimately runs away with the honor. Jeter held down shortstop longer than he likely should have, yet he made four All-Star teams, somehow won a Gold Glove and was 2012 hit king, all 2010 or later.
Gregorius, meanwhile, had to come from underneath Jeter’s shadow, but he learned to excel in the Bronx and became a fan favorite in his own right. His defense kept him steady, yet it was his shockingly powerful bat that won the Bronx faithful over. He now owns the record for most home runs in a season by a Yankee shortstop (Gleyber nearly qualified to break it in 2019) and has more than a few memorable playoff homers to his ledger.
Third Base: Alex Rodriguez
By the end of the decade, A-Rod was in the broadcast booth. Before that, he was a DH. Before that, he was suspended for a year. And before that, injuries and age had sapped his production and turned him from MVP to mere All-Star.
Still, Rodriguez had back-to-back-to-back 4.0 WAR seasons from 2010-12 and launched 113 homers, including two 30-dinger years. I’m including his bounceback at DH under here, even though his 2015-16 seasons included all of 18 innings at the hot corner.
A-Rod had an eclectic group of successors. They include Chase Headley, the brief rise of Yangervis Solarte, Todd Frazier’s three months and Miguel Andújar, as well as the out-of-nowhere Gio Urshela in 2019. The last two are contenders for best season at third in NY this decade, but they don’t have the longevity of Rodriguez.
Left Field: Brett Gardner
The de facto Yankees captain of the last five years, Gardner is the longest-tenured Yankee for a reason. He started in center field for brief, non-congruous periods, but he became a Gold Glover in left field. It’s insane to think back to 2009 Gardner, who hit only three dongs, and then realize he hit 121 dingers over the following decade.
In addition to that, Gardner led the Bombers with 228 stolen bases in the 2010s and was successful on 80.5 percent of his steals. He’s not quite the spritely slap hitter of yesteryear, but he’s adjusted to the game and stayed in pinstripes all the while.
Center Field: Curtis Granderson
Aaron Hicks has an argument after usurping Jacoby Ellsbury in 2017 and playing well in center for the last three years. However, this is Granderson’s job, even with a move to left field by the end of his time in the Bronx.
Granderson hit 84 homers between the 2011 and ’12 seasons, leading baseball in runs scored and RBI in 2011. His weak arm made him a liability at times in the outfield, but he was a wrecking ball at the plate. His 2011 season, which was his second in New York, was a career year and the best from a Yankee center fielder since prime Bernie Williams.
Right Field: Aaron Judge
Judge transformed the Yankees in 2017. When he became an MVP-type player, the Bombers became contenders with him as their leader. If he were a one-hit (or 52-homer) wonder after 2017, dayenu. Yet he’s improved in some ways, becoming a more selective hitter and having his overall numbers only hampered by injury.
Nick Swisher deserves mention here as an All-Star and fan favorite in his own right. Funny enough, the compensation pick for letting Swisher go was the one the Yankees used to pick Judge. It all comes full circle.
Designated Hitter: Giancarlo Stanton
With A-Rod at third base, there’s no clear cut DH like a David Ortiz or Hideki Matsui to put here. Posada, Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Marcus Thames and Matt Holliday each had one good year with a host of a DH ABs, but Stanton gets the crown both with how he carried the team to the postseason in 2018 and how he stuck around for a second year.
Stanton will likely be one of the few players on this list that could repeat at his position in the 2020s, alongside Judge and Sanchez. Ideally, he’d play enough left field to earn recognition there, but his injury history makes that a debatable assumption.
If you’re putting these nine players into a lineup, weighing the player they were this decade, it’d go something like this:
Actual bench players: Cervelli, Andruw Jones, Chris Young, Ronald Torreyes
Next best to form bench: Martin, Gleyber, Swisher, Hicks or Jeter
You can go at building the bench in two ways: You can either use the actual bench players from the previous 10 years, or you can take the next best players that missed the list and try to back up each position. I give you both.
In the first one, Cervelli is listed as the starter in 2010 on Baseball Reference, but he was the primary backup for a few seasons. Jones and Young each had a great season as a platoon bat, while Torreyes was a steady utility man, never hitting all that well, but doing just enough to stay rostered.
In the second scenario, Martin or McCann could get the spot while Swisher is an easy choice as an outfielder and backup first baseman. Torres can backup the middle infield and third base in a pinch, which leaves it down to Hicks or Jeter. Either will do, I’ll take Hicks for an actual bench spot.
You can quibble with the order of the rotation as long as you put Sabathia at the top. There isn’t much you need to say about him. He was the heart and soul of the Yankees for 11 years and both served as an ace and a steady back-end starter.
Kuroda is one of the most underappreciated Yankees of the 21st century. He was only in the Bronx for three years, yet he outpaced his four seasons in Los Angeles in that time. It’s a shame he only got to pitch on one playoff team in New York.
Tanaka and Severino have been the Opening Day starters since Sabathia ceded the role in recent seasons and they’re both worthy of the honor. Tanaka looked like an ace before his Tommy John scare and has been a steadying presence with a knack for the big game since. Severino, meanwhile, is closer to actual ace-hood when healthy and his stretch from the start of 2017 to mid-2018 is about as good as any Yankee pitcher in the last couple decades.
The last spot was tough, choosing between Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda and Pettitte. The Bombers haven’t had tremendous starting pitching depth this decade and it shows in this. Pettitte got the spot because he was truly excellent, albeit in just 121 innings, in 2010, and was solid again in his final two seasons after his first retirement. An added bonus is how he helped Sabathia turn into a crafty lefty in his own mold.
Closer: Mariano Rivera Middle Relief: Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Andrew Miller, Chad Green Long Man: Adam Warren
There’s a legitimate case for Chapman or Robertson as the closer, but how could you not go with Rivera? He was still at the top of his game in 2010 and was excellent still over his final two full seasons. Over 193 2/3 innings after turning 40 just before the 2010 season, he had a 1.95 ERA (216 ERA+) with 167 strikeouts to 30 walks and a 0.929 WHIP.
The middle relief is a murderer’s row of potential or actual closers. Betances was the best reliever in baseball from 2014 to 2018. Chapman probably has the title since Rivera retired. Robertson and Miller were lights out and helped lead superbullpens that made the post-Mo years tolerable. Green, meanwhile, is a multi-inning stud and his 2017 season is up there with 1996 Mo and 2014 Betances for best New York reliever seasons of the last 30 years.
I figured, if we’re putting together an actual roster, we might as well put in a long man, a role that Warren fit like a glove. He was a great swingman in the Bronx and even did OK as a middle reliever. If you’re going with the next best reliever of the decade, Tommy Kahnle or Rafael Soriano are each worthy of inclusion.
Happy Monday, folks. The Yankees are off tonight after returning to the Big Apple for the final home stand of the season. Isn’t that wild? Anyway, the Yankees are tied with Houston for the best record in the American League, which means that they’re actually a game behind. Houston, which won the season series, owns the tiebreaker, remember. The Yanks will have to be one game better than Houston over the remaining 11 games to secure home-field advantage.
Anyway, with the off night, I figured I’d hold us over with a news post that covers the latest developments in Yankeeland. Here goes nothin’.
Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated had a fascinating piece about the Yankees’ plans for postseason usage. The piece offers some insight into the Yankees’ and Aaron Boone’s thinking about optimal bullpen usage and the way in which they will use their starters. Here is the money quote, in my opinion:
“We’re going to be a little untraditional. The only one we might use as a traditional starter is [James] Paxton.”
He even went on to say that he viewed Tanaka as a “floater” later on, which is something I find a bit strange. I’m not in the business of parsing words–I still think the most likely outcome is Tanaka starting a game, even if he’s limited to 5 innings–so I’m not even going to bother guessing what “floater” means. To me, there’s no chance Tanaka is anything but a “traditional” starter. He might not be allowed to go through the order three times, but that’s basically what’s expected these days.
There are plenty of other good nuggets in there–did you know that the last NYY starter to face 27 batters in a playoff game was Hiroki Kuroda? #HIROK–and Verducci has some good data in there about recent pitcher usage. I saw some folks on Twitter either mildly annoyed or surprised by this story, which surprised me. This is literally why the Yankees built the team they built, after all.
Giancarlo Stanton Returns This Week
Giancarlo Stanton is set to return to the Yankees during this home stand, remember. I haven’t seen a more specific update recently, but Judge spoke to the media about Stanton over the weekend and there’s nothing to suggest that those plans have changed. We should see Giancarlo back in action this week. That is good news.
I’m sure there will be a lot of bellyaching across the fandom once Giancarlo does come back and strikes out in his first at-bat or whatever, because that’s what we do now. A lot of folks have decided that Stanton is bad and makes the Yankees worse, but, dear reader, I trust you know that is baloney. It was baloney before the Encarnación and Stanton injuries and it is baloney now. The Yankees are simply a better team with literal MVP Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup. Controversial take, I know. I’m excited to see him back this week, though. If he returns tomorrow, and I hope he does, he’ll have about 40-45 plate appearances before October.
That’s not a lot, but it will hopefully be enough. Here is what Judge had to say:
“The biggest thing he has to realize is that these last 12 games are important, but what is more important to us and the team is him getting ready for the postseason.
Say you struggle the first couple of games, ‘Hey, forget about it, you just keep working on what you need to work on.’ We’ll still be fighting for the best record in baseball, and he is going to come out here to win every game, but don’t get frustrated if he is not getting hits. Make sure of your preparation. You are seeing the right balls, you are swinging at the right pitches.’ He is a big piece.
I know a lot of people might have said, ‘Why bring him in now? He’s missing the year, you got a good thing going on.’ But he is an MVP, he knows what to do. He’s come back from injuries before, he knows how to come back. We’ll be adding another guy who can leave the park at any time. Just do your job. And he has been around the team all year, it is not like he has been gone for six months and all of a sudden he is a new player coming in, he’s been around the team, vibing with us, hanging with us.
There will be no letdown. I know that. It will be a big relief for a lot of guys. ‘We got Stanton now, too.’ It makes that one through nine even tougher.’’
Aaron judge on giancarlo stanton
Have I ever mentioned that I love Aaron Judge? A captain in the making, for real.
The Return of Brett Gardner?
Brett Gardner, he of 25 home runs and a .249/.326/.500 (111 wRC+) triple-slash, is open to returning to the Yankees next season. No surprises there, really. The Yankees are the only organization Gardner has ever known–they drafted him in the 3rd round of the 2005 Amateur Draft–and he is the team’s longest tenured player.
He told Randy Miller of NJ.com that he would “love to be back next season” and that he’s “always been very honest about not wanting to play anywhere else.” Gardner went on to say that he is too focused on the team and 2019 to focus on next year right now, but we all know that’s not true. It’s only natural.
For what it’s worth (it’s worth nothing), I fully expect the Yanks and Gardner to come to another one-year deal this offseason. Probably right away, in the first week of November or something. It makes too much sense. Even if you believe that his stats are boosted by the juiced ball, Gardner is a capable MLB player.
Even if he regresses offensively next season, he’s still a plus defender and he’s the fastest Yankee regular. He hasn’t lost a step at all. Those are skills that make a player a perfect 4th outfielder at the worst. We’ve all seen what he’s done this year when playing every day. Plus, he is seemingly beloved in the clubhouse and he is a true leader. That stuff matters, too. I think we’ll see Gardy back where he belongs next year.
Baseball America’s MiLB All-Stars
Over the weekend, the good folks over at Baseball America named their 2019 MiLB All-Stars. Two Yankees made the list: Canaan Smith and Ezequiel Duran. You can see the full list here.
Nice to see those dudes get some love. Smith, who was drafted out of high school in the 4th round of the 2017 draft, had a real nice season for the Class Single-A Charleston RiverDogs, hitting .307/.405/.465 (154 wRC+) with 11 HR in 528 plate appearances. The 2o-year-old outfielder had a nice rookie campaign and then struggled last year, so this was a nice rebound season for him.
Duran, who was signed as an IFL from the Dominican Republic way back in 2012, was a standout for the Short-Season A-ball Staten Island Yankees. The 20-year-old second baseman hit .256/.329/.496 (143 wRC+) with 13 HR in 277 plate appearances. This was his third season with the organization and his first above rookie ball.
On Tuesday, I began a two-part series on the 1999 Yankees, remembering the 98-99 offseason and the regular season that followed. Now, here’s part II on the dominant postseason.
For most championship runs, there’s a moment of doubt. Time stands still as fans collectively hold their breath in a key moment, realizing that their team of destiny might be quite the opposite.
The 1996 Yankees had that in at least the first five games of the World Series. The ’98 Yankees, the best team in living memory, were down in the ALCS to the Indians.
Somehow, the ’99 Yankees never went through that. The Rangers were an afterthought within a few days. The ALCS was closer than the 4-1 finish would indicate and the Fall Classic had a few nailbiters.
However, in running roughshod to a repeat, the Yankees went 11-1 in the postseason with just a single loss to the league’s best pitcher.
A Forgettable Sweep
The 1999 Rangers exemplified the high-offense era; They had six players with at least 20 home runs and three with 35 (Pudge, Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro). At the same time, none of their five starters had an ERA below 4.79 (which was actually above-average). John Wetteland was their closer.
The Yankees took Game 1 of this ALDS in lopsided fashion as Orlando Herandez tossed eight two-hit innings. Ricky Ledee put the Yanks up with an RBI double in the second and the Bombers slowly extended the lead with Bernie Williams going deep.
Game 2 was the closest call with the Yankees trailing 1-0 through 4.5 innings. However, Scott Brosius and Ledee had RBI doubles over the next few innings to put the Yankees in front. Darryl Strawberry homered in the first inning of Game 1 as Roger Clemens shut down the Rangers in a 3-0 Game 3 win.
When I came up with ALDS MVPs at River Ave. Blues, I copped out and gave it to Royce Clayton for this series, as he went 0-for-10 for Texas. The Rangers had just three extra-base hits in 92 at-bats.
Pedro Martinez pitched the Red Sox into the ALCS, which pitted the long-time rivals against each other for the first time in postseason history. With Martinez unavailable until Game 3, the Yankees worked to the early advantage at home.
Fitting the rivalry, Game 1 was a nailbiter as Boston put up three runs in the first two innings. The Yankees tied it up on a Derek Jeter single in the seventh. After El Duque completed eight innings, Rivera took the ball through the 10th inning, where Bernie Williams came through as the hero on Rod Beck’s second pitch.
Williams, of course, had nearly signed with the Sox in the offseason, making his walk-off shot even more crushing for Boston.
The Sox rebounded in Game 2 as Ramon Martinez went toe-to-toe with David Cone. A Tino Martinez homer broke the tie before Nomar Garciaparra responded with a two-run homer off Cone to put Boston up.
The Yankees trailed with two outs in the seventh when Chuck Knoblaugh doubled home Ledee. Two batters later, Paul O’Neill smacked an RBI single as New York held on for a 3-2 win.
Game 3 belonged to Pedro and only Pedro. Martinez struck out 12 over seven scoreless innings at Fenway Park while the Red Sox beat up on Clemens and Hideki Irabu for a 13-1 victory, the only Yankee loss of the postseason.
While the Yankees won Game 4 by seven runs, it was close enough that Rivera got a five-out save in relief on Andy Pettitte. The Yankees went ahead for good on an error by Bret Saberhagen early and an error late led to a six-run ninth, capped by a Ledee grand slam.
Derek Jeter homered two batters into Game 5 while Hernandez tossed seven one-run innings en route to ALCS MVP. Ramiro Mendoza got out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning and closed out the series, sending the Yankees to their second straight World Series.
Team of the Decade
For most of the 1990s, the Braves were the bandied-about dynasty. They reached back-to-back World Series and finally won in 1995. Up 2-1 in the ’96 Fall Classic, they had their grasp on the heart of a decade and, one Jim Leyritz homer later, it slipped from their hands.
Even with the 125-win ’98 Yankees, the Braves had a chance to wrest control back of the decade in the ’99 World Series. They had the same Big 3 in their rotation and had the NL MVP with Hall of Famer Chipper Jones.
Game 1 pitted Greg Maddux against Hernandez and the duo gave fans at Turner Field a duel to remember. Jones broke the ice with a solo shot in the fourth inning and Maddux made it stand up … until the eighth.
The series pivoted on that eighth inning with the Yankees putting two runners on right away. Knoblauch bunted, but defensive replacement Brian JordanBrian Hunter misplayed the ball and loaded the bases for Jeter. Jeter singled and knocked Maddux out, tying the game.
Paul O’Neill then singled against John Rocker and a drawn-in infield as the Yankees went on to win, 4-1.
Hernandez struck out 10 and brought his postseason record to 5-0 at the time.
Six of the first seven batters reached against Kevin Millwood in Game 2 as the Yankees blew out the Braves, 7-2, behind a marvelous start from Cone.
Back at Yankee Stadium, Pettitte was shelled and the Braves took a 5-1 lead through four innings. The Bombers slowly chipped away against Tom Glavine with convicted awful human Chad Curtis, who didn’t even play Game 2, hitting a solo shot. Then Tino added one.
Bobby Cox allowed Glavine to start the eighth, which was a mistake. Joe Girardi singled and Knoblauch came through with a game-tying two-run shot to the short porch (Read: Our blog title) that snuffed out the Braves’ title hopes.
Rivera tossed two scoreless frames to bring back up Curtis, who led off the bottom of the 10th inning with a walk-off homer.
A forgotten performer in Game 3? Jason Grimsley. The right-hander relieved Pettitte and worked around four baserunners to keep the Braves at five through the sixth, paving the way for Jeff Nelson and Rivera. Without his sterling long relief, the comeback wouldn’t have been possible.
From there, it was simply a matter of whether it’d be another sweep. After a tough first season in pinstripes and a bad ALCS start, there were plenty of doubters for the 36-year-old Clemens. He put those doubts to rest when he touched Babe Ruth’s plaque before Game 4 and proceeded to shut down the Atlanta, providing the perfect culmination to his first title.
Rocket held Atlanta scoreless for the first seven innings. Meanwhile, the Yankees got all the runs they needed in the third inning. They loaded the bases off John Smoltz and brought up Tino Martinez with one down. Martinez hit a grounder which could have been double play fodder. Instead, it went off Ryan Klesko’s glove and into right field for a two-run single. A Jorge Posada single made it 3-0, which it’d stay until a lone run crossed in the eighth.
Aided by an insurance run, Rivera closed down a four-out save without issue. He forced Keith Lockhart to fly out to Curtis, and the celebration was on in the Bronx.
Rivera tossed 4.2 scoreless innings and had two saves to go with a win, earning MVP honors. For the unanimous Hall of Famer, it was a plaque-worthy accomplishment.
The 1999 Yankees remain mostly a footnote to the ’98 team for many, but I hope my long diatribes have shown some of the value hidden in remembering this great and worthy champion.