Monday, October 26, 2009

(Something Profound About 1999 Goes Here)

When we talk of the Yankees' dynasty at the end of last century, three teams consistently enter our mind:

The 1996 squad, a combination of pure grit and utter youth, of the waning days of the likes of Cecil Fielder, Doc Gooden and Jimmy Key, and of the coming out of the likes of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera (Jorge Posada would debut later).

The 1998 team, sheer and utter domination. Wells and Cone, Duque and Pettitte, and an offense that always found a way to win. A team that won 125 games over all, lost only fifty and is considered by many to be one of the best teams in any sport of all time.

The 2000 team, Subway Series champions that survived more on luck--winning the World Series with just 87 wins--than anything else. This was a team that got their game winning hits from Jose Vizcaino and Luis Sojo, and the team whose pitching staff was anchored by the Rocket Roger Clemens.

The one team, it seems, that we never pay any mind, is the 1999 squad.

Why is it? The 1998 team may have been more dominant in the regular season, but the 1999 team lost just one game in the postseason--a one-hitter against the Red Sox and a Pedro Martinez in his prime.

Maybe it has to do with the regular season being, well, regular. There was the death of Joe DiMaggio in Spring Training, and David Cone's perfect game in July--neither of these events insignificant, but in 1999 that the Yankees would go on to win the World Series seemed simply a given, that there was no one there who could rightfully challenge them.

Much of the 1999 team boasted the same roster, just a year older than the 1998 team, and so perhaps we saw that team as a continuation of 1998, a comfortable plateau of hey-we're-the-best-and-no-one-is-even-close.

You see, that's what happens when a dynasty reaches its zenith: nothing is there to challenge it, and so, for the moment its successes seem inevitable and unremarkable.

It is only after the dynasty has fallen that we realize just how impressive the dynasty has been.

By the end of 2001, there were teams to challenge the Yankees: a 116-win team in Seattle and the eventual World Champions in Arizona, and the dynasty would come to an end.

Followed by years of disappointment, first round exits, and The Great Evil of Which We Do Not Speak, the Dynasty Years quickly accrued a glory usually reserved only for the greatest of our moments.

In 2009, the Yankees have a chance to give rebirth to that pride that makes us Yankees fans in the first place.

All that remains to be seen is which team the similarities are most drawn: is it the gritty 96ers? The dominant Team of the Century? The dynasty's least-written about 99ers, or the 00 squad?

The answer is probably a little of all four.