The New York Yankees are a wagon. What more can you say at this point? The narrative that they’ve only dominated lesser competition has been dead for weeks, though some haters like to think it’s still alive and well.
Entering Sunday’s series finale against Toronto, New York has taken five straight over the Blue Jays and Rays; teams that were prominently picked to finish ahead of them in the AL East standings prior to the season.
While we’re all for enjoying this ride, sooner or later the season is going to be labeled World Series or bust for Aaron Boone’ side if it hasn’t already. With a roster as talented as this and that refuses to give an inch, the campaign will ultimately be judged by how the club performs in the playoffs.
That might seem unfair, but former Yankees great Tino Martinez doesn’t see it that way. In fact, the four-time World Series champion sees a lot of similarities between the current Yanks and the world-beating 1998 squad.
Tino Martinez sees parallels between the current Yankees and the famed 1998 team.
"“There’s a different aura about this team than the last few years,’’ Martinez told the New York Post. “They seem like they can win every game even when they’re down in the seventh, eighth or ninth. That wasn’t the case last year. This team always makes something happen. You expect it. That ’98 team had the same attitude and it wasn’t one or two guys. It’s not just [Aaron] Judge and [Anthony] Rizzo. It’s guys like [Jose] Trevino, like we had with [Luis] Sojo.”"
Martinez is simply echoing what fans have been preaching all season, but it feels different coming from a former great who has a plaque in Monument Park.
Though most of the core is the same, the 2022 Yankees are different for all of the right reasons. The entire starting rotation could make the All-Star team and what they lack in team batting average they more than make up for in coming through in the clutch.
The biggest difference, though? New York isn’t resting on its laurels. In previous years, you could almost foresee a multi-week tailspin whereas the ‘22 Yanks continue churning out wins regardless of performance. Sounds familiar, right?
"“They look like they’re on a mission,’’ Martinez added. “We had the same mindset that year. It didn’t matter if we were up 20 games or whatever in July. We wanted to go up 30 [games]. We knew we had to keep pushing and not just cruise to the end of the regular season.”"
Speaking of being on a mission, Josh Donaldson made sure to send Yusei Kikuchi a message by pimping a go-ahead two-run home run on Sunday after the Blue Jays starter plunked him in his first-inning at bat.
Much like the ‘98 Yankees, the current Bombers built an 11-game lead in the AL East before the end of June. Similarly, both squads got off to slow starts. The 1998 team lost three of four to start the year before winning 14 of their next 15. This year’s squad started 7-6 before winning 13 of their next 15.
Now, they’ve won nine in a row, including 15 of 16 overall, and haven’t lost at Yankee Stadium since the last week of May.
Do they have what it takes to break the 114 regular-season wins record set in ‘98? Will they waltz their way through the playoffs (the 1998 team lost just two games) before sweeping their way to a World Series title?
There’s still a long way to go, but the parallels between the two teams are quite apparent as we approach the final week of June.