Love them or hate them, no one can deny that the New York Yankees were the dynasty of the 90’s. Many people have made many judgments on the reasons the Yankees became the team to beat in that decade. The explanations range from the money they spent, to the hiring of Joe Torre. Although there may be some true to those explanations, the fact is that some things go overlooked when assessing the strength of the Yankees in that decade.
The Farm System
Say what you will about the money the Yankees spent, but the fact is that the reason the Yankees won 4 World Series Championships in the 90’s had to do with their farm system. Not too many teams could claim to have come up with so many stars in such little time. The Yankees brought up players like Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada. You can make a Hall of Fame argument for every single one of them. Mariano Rivera is the best closer in history, Andy Pettitte has 19 post season career wins, Posada without a doubt one of the best catchers in history, Bernie Williams and his .314 post season batting average and Derek Jeter is… Derek Jeter. There were some more notable players out of the Yankee farm system in the 90’s but do you need any more than that?
The Signing of Jimmy Key
Jimmy Key was a star when he signed with the Yankees in 1992, and that is often overlooked by analysts. The fact is that before Jimmy Key signed with the Yankees, New York was having trouble attracting big time free agents. They were mostly intimidated by the NY media market, or by a bigger than life owner in George Steinbrenner. Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens both passed on joining the Yankees back then. The signing of Key is what led to the Yankees signing David Cone and others that made the Yankees pitching staff the one to fear.
They Spent Money… Right
The Yankees did not just throw money to free agents left and right. It can be said that none of the players in the team during the dynasty years was the best at their position, not even the mighty Jeter who was eclipsed by the short stop Alex Rodriguez. What they did have is an above average player at every position. They were above average with the bat and with the glove. Some were entering their prime, and others were on their last years but trying to win that one ring that had eluded them. Wade Boggs is the best example of that.
The rotation was great. The names that went through the Yankee rotation since 1996 to 2000 included David Cone, Andy Pettitte, David Wells, Kenny Rogers, Jimmy Key, Roger Clemens and others. None of which you could say you wanted to face. But in baseball you can have a great rotation and have them lose because of the bullpen. The Yankee bullpen had one star after another. Of course when it came to the last few outs they first had John Wetteland, and then the great Mariano Rivera.
Sure the Yankees had George Steinbrenner for a long time, but something happened to George in the mid 90’s. He came down. Through the years Steinbrenner had issues with managers and players, but after the arrival of Joe Torre he seemed to be more relaxed. The attitude of the owner who was larger than life actually got the players playing harder and even got Yogi Berra’s return to the stadium. Once George started playing like a team player, the team rewarded him with 4 World Series rings.