The New York Yankees' 98 Season
As anyone on the face of the civilized world knows by now , the New York Yankees have just completed one of the most dominating seasons in the history of professional sports. In the process, as many phemomenoms before them , sports or otherwise, they have captivated not only a city and a nation but much of the planet as well. I have seen Pakistani and Korean tourists visiting New York for the first time buying and proudly wearing Yankee caps and T-shirts. These people , obviously, know little or nothing about the game and are not truly baseball fans but are testimony to the Yanks compelling accomplishments.
But the full appreciation of what this team has done in 1998 belongs mainly to the dyed in the wool baseball fan. The guy who's been following baseball as a religion , collecting cards , reading box scores and fantasying about being a big league hero long before his puberty began. It is among this elite group where now, in the afterglow of the success and celebration , that the endless debate over whether this is the greatest team of all time will rage in every locker room, bar room and office for most of this offseason.
Many of the self proclaimed baseball gurus from all of the radio and TV talk shows and web sites have decided to take the politically correct approach and say that you cant really compare this team with the great ones of eras past. They say it's an "apples and oranges" comparison. I say this is a load ! You can , and if you're a true fan , should compare them. And you can draw definitive conclusions.
I agree that the debate over the "greatest" in most arenas is hopelessly subjective. Who was a greater president , Lincoln or Roosevelt? If you ask who was the sexiest female screen star ever , depending on who you talk to and what their tastes were , you'd be as likely to hear Jean Harlow or Lana Turner as Sharon Stone.
The key difference here is that these qualities cannot really be quantitatively measured. The fundamentals of being a great leader or being sexy have not really evolved over the centuries. Our interpretation of these things may have but not the fundamental qualities themselves. So comparing these qualities from different eras would be very very subjective.
Baseball is different however. The game has evolved greatly over the decades and will continue to evolve. So I propose when comparing the 1998 Yankees to the legendary teams of eras past you cannot do it based solely on on-field accomplishments or winning percentages or even number of hall of famers on their roster. The comparison must be made on the teams ability to play , compete in and win the game of baseball.
So where does that rank this years World Champions ?
Lets consider some of the great teams you have heard mentioned on the other side of this debate. First of all , lets immediately eliminate the 1906 Cubs or 1909 Pirates or any other teams prior to say 1920. The game of baseball was still fledgling back then and did not have even a percentile of the popularity it has now. Suppose some marketing genius decided to create a new sport with new rules and involving new skill sets. And lets say that this sport had instant fan appeal and drew a considerable number of participants and leagues were formed and fans paid to watch. Even with no prior history , this game in its initials years would have dominant teams. There would probably even be teams that won 70-75 % of their games and swept their way to a championship. This would be more of a result of the initial recruiting process , payroll and luck of a given team over another. As time went by and the sport grew in popularity and revenue potential , more athletes would become involved in this sport. Secondary leagues would be formed and children would start playing. The number of years of experience and skill sets of the players would grow exponentially each passing year, and thereby the level of competition would be