The Ultimate Yankee Series: 1927 vs 1998
One of the great appeals of baseball is the history, and the comparisons that are made. Is this year’s Red Sox the best team in franchise history? Maybe. Is Mike Trout the next Mickey Mantle? We’ll see. What is the best Yankee team of all time?
I feel like I can address the last question, and do it in a fun way. I’ve decided to simulate my own Ultimate Championship Series, the 1927 Yankees vs. the 1998 Yankees, using the Strat-O-Matic game. Check out Strat at http://www.strat-o-matic.com/ .
The two iconic teams rank #1 and #2 in Yankee history wins, with 1998 going 114-48 and the ’27 team playing at a 110-44 clip. They were two of the three (1939 Yanks were the other) Yankee teams to play .700 ball over a whole season. Both teams swept the World Series over an overmatched NL squad.
So, who will win the Ultimate Yankee Series? Here’s a position by position breakdown:
First Base – Lou Gehrig vs. Tino Martinez A couple of good options, though Gehrig’s .373/.474/.765, with 173 RBI easily gives ’27 the advantage at this position.
Second Base – Tony Lazzeri vs. Chuck Knoblauch Lazzeri was a second year player on his way to a Hall of Fame career, and he batted .309 with 102 RBI in 1927. Knoblauch in his prime would make this a bit closer comparison, but his .265/.361/.405 comes up a bit short.
Shortstop – Mark Koenig vs. Derek Jeter Koenig was also a second year player and batted .285, but this is Jeter in his prime, and there’s no comparison on this.
Third Base – Joe Dugan vs. Scott Brosius Both Dugan and Brosius were talented glove men. Brosius gets the advantage due to his bat, as his .843 OPS dwarfs Dugan’s .683.
Right Field – Babe Ruth vs. Paul O’Neill This is the year when Babe ripped 60 home runs. While O’Neil is a great Yankee, Ruth gets the advantage here.
Center Field – Earle Combs vs. Bernie Williams Combs is a Hall of Famer who batted .356 and scored 136 runs from the leadoff spot in 1927. Bernie get a slight edge though due to his all-around game, as he combined his 1998 league-leading .339 batting average with a .575 slugging percentage and a Gold Glove.
Left Field – Bob Meusel vs. Chad Curtis Meusel batted .337 with 103 RBI and 24 stolen bases. Curtis was a good fielder with a bit of speed and pop, but slashed at .243/.355/.360. There’s certainly temptation to substitute Darryl Strawberry (.542 slugging pct. against righthanders, but defense in a short series is often preferred.
Catcher – Pat Collins/John Grabowski vs. Joe Girardi/Jorge Posada Perhaps the only weak spot of the 1927 team, both Collins and Grabowski were career backups splitting most of the catching at bats. Girardi was a solid veteran transitioning to a backup role to the emerging Posada whose bat took a significant step forward in 1998. Clear advantage to the ’98 Yanks. Starting Pitching The 1927 Yankee rotation consisted of two HOFers, Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock, along with Urban Shocker, who was an elite starter of the times. The Yankee top four of Cone/El Duque/Wells/Pettite went 66-26.
I’d call the starting pitching staffs a draw.
Relief Pitching It’s not that well known, but the 1927 Yanks had one of the first true relief aces. Rookie Wilcy Moore went 13-3, 1.81 in 38 games out of the pen. It was a different time, as he hurled 119 innings in those games, averaging about three innings a contest.
The 1998 squad counters with Rivera, who spun a 1.91 ERA and 36 saves on the season. Mariano gets the advantage here as perhaps the best reliever ever.
I’ll report on a game at a time, over a few weeks. Hopefully this can be a good read during the lag time between the end of the Yankee season, and the heating up of the hot stove season!