Connect with us

All About Baseball

’98 Yankees v. ’07 Red Sox: Baseball’s Version of The Hatfields and McCoys

Embed from Getty Images

As in the title the Yankees and the Red Sox have been battling since the beginning of the American League. The 1904 game where Jack Chesbro of the Yankees threw a wild pitch allowing the Red Sox to score and win the American League pennant. Fast forward to the late 1920’s when the Yankees of Ruth, Gehrig and Combs would pummel the Red Sox team and many gray hairs ad years to the “Curse of the Bambino. In the 1940’s Joe DiMaggio vs. Ted Williams. The 1960’s would have the aging Mickey Mantle against Yaz and then it would be Pedro and Pedroia and Papi against Pettitte, Jeter and Rivera. Certainly, one of the classic rivalries of all-time.

New York would be managed by Joe Torre who had guided the Yankees to a World Series title in 1996 and the Red Sox would have as their skipper Terry Francona, he manager who led the Red Sox to the World Series title in 2004, breaking the “Curse of the Bambino”. Torre was later elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Francona certainly should be after his managerial career ends.

Interesting rosters and personalities were on both squads and fans certainly could look forward to some good baseball. The Yankees lineup for 1998 included at the catching position Jorge Posada, first baseman Tino Martinez and second baseman Chuck Knoblach. Derek Jeter and Scott Brosius made up the left side of the infield at the shortstop and third base position respectively. As for the outfield if left field for New York was Chad Curtis, with Bernie Williams in centerfield and Paul O’Neil in right field. Darryl Strawberry provided a potent bat as DH for the Yankees and that rounded out the 1998 Yankees who would go on to win their 25th World Series title. As for starting pitching there was Andy Pettitte, David Wells, David Cone, Hideki Irabu ad Orlando Hernandez. The indominable Marino Rivera was the closer for the 1998 team with Ramiro Mendoza playing an important role as well coming out of the bullpen with a record of 10 wins and 2 losses in 41 games.

The 2007 Red Sox had just won their 7th World Series title and the 2nd in 4 years after breaking the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004. Their lineup included Jason Varitek at the catcher’s position. Kevin Youkilis was the first baseman, Dustin Pedroia was the second baseman. Julio Lugo held down the shortstop position, with Mike Lowell at third base to round out the infield. Manny Ramirez was in left field, Coco Crisp in centerfield and J D Drew in right field were the Red Sox outfielders, with David Ortiz the DH finishing out the offensive lineup for Boston. The starting pitchers for the Red Sox were Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, Curl Schilling, Julian Tavarez and Jon Lester, with Jonathan Papelbon as the closer and Hideki Okajima as the set up man.

Embed from Getty Images

The manager of the Yankees, Joe Torre had a major league career that lasted 18 years in which he had never been to a World Series. As a player Torre finished second in the Rookie of the Year ballotin in 1961, made 7 All Star teams playing catcher, first base and third base. He would win the 1971 MVP Award as a member of the St Louis Cardinals after leading the league with a .363 batting average, 137 runs batted in and 230 hits. He managed for a total of 29 years winning 2326 games overall (Mets, Braves,Cardinals, Yankees and Dodgers), as well as 6 pennants and 4 World Series titles all with the Yankees. Terry Francona who managed the Red Sox, played for 10 years in the major leagues (Expos, Cubs, Reds, Indians and Brewers). He was a utility player who spent time in the outfield as well as first and third base. As a manger (He is currently manager of the Cleveland Indians and managed the Phillies as well as the Red Sox of course. He has won 3 American League pennants and 2 World Series titles (2004 and 2007 Red Sox). This matchup is close but the adavantage would go to Torre based on his experience as well as the experience of former Red Sox manager Don Zimmer who was Torre’s bench coach and right hand man in the Yankee dugout.

Catching is a tough choice with two very good catchers Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek matching up. Posada was in his fourth season as a catcher after playing in just 69 games the previous three seasons. He had taken over the catcher’s position from Joe Girardi and followed in a great line of Yankee catchers beginning with Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard and Thurman Munson. During the 1998 season Posada hit 17 home runs, had 63 runs batted in and a .268 batting average. In the field Jorge had 645 chances and committed just 4 errors for a .994 fielding percentage. He would go on to make 5 American League All Star teams and win 5 Silver Slugger awards as the best hitter at the catcher’s position. Varitek in 2007 had 17 home runs, 68 runs batted in as well as a .255 batting average. Later on Varitek would be a member of 3 All Star teams and during the 2007 season he would make 6 errors in 992 chances for a .994 fielding percentage. Varitek also holds the record for catching 4 no hitters during his major league career (Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester. Offensively Posada holds just a slight advantage but Varitek handled 300 more chances and made just 6 errors as opposed to Posada’s 4. Varitel wins the battle here based on his defense as well as the reputation he had for the way he handed the Boston pitching staff.

Tino Martinez, or as Yankees radio announcer John Sterling nicknamed him, “the Bamtino” was the Yankees first baseman in the 1998 season. In a total of 142 games Martinez had 28 home runs, 123 runs batted in and a .281 batting average. With the glove Tino handled 1,283 chances and made just 10 errors for a .992 fielding percentage. During his career, which had started with the Yankee fans booing him because he had taken over the position from Yankee great Don Mattingly, Martinez became one of New York’s most beloved players. Youkilis, in 145 games had 16 home runs, 83 runs batted in and a .288 batting average. Youkilis had 1,080 chances in the field (at first base) and 38 chances at third base). “Youk” as he was known did not make an error at first base and had a 1.000 fielding percentage. After looking over the numbers, Youkilis and Martinez are running neck and neck and this one ends in a tie with no clear cut winner.

Chuck Knoblauch was the Yankees regular second baseman in 1998 and during the season, the man who spent quite a bit of time in the leadoff position had a total of 17 home runs, 64 runs batted in and a .265 batting average. Knoblauch made 13 errors in 696 chances for a .981 fielding percentage. The next year Knoblauch began to have throwing problems and slowly morphed from a second baseman to outfielder. Dustin Pedroia was the Red Sox second baseman in 2007 and during the season he had 8 home runs, 50 runs batted in and a .317 batting average. In the field Pedroia made 6 errors in 625 chances for a .990 fielding percentage. On the field Pedroia gives 110% at all-times and based on that as well as his numbers advantage goes to Pedroia and the Red Sox.

Embed from Getty Images

Derek Jeter was the shortstop for the Yankees in the 1998 season and was also an integral part of the group of Yankees that included Posada, Bernie Williams Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. During the “98” season, Jeter, who would later be named the first Yankee captain since the late great Thurman Munson would have 203 hits, 19 home runs, 84 runs batted in and a .324 batting average. He also had 9 errors in 625 chances for a .986 fielding percentage. Julio Lugo for the Red Sox had 135 hits in 147 games as well as 8 home runs and 73 runs batted in and .237 batting averages. Defensively he made 19 errors in593 chances for a .968 fielding percentage. Given Jeter’s numbers and respect among his peers as well as his outstanding offensive and defensive numbers, Jeter wins this match-up in a landslide.

Scott Brosius was typical of the Yankee players on the 1998. He was not a big superstar but it always seemed he was a clutch performer. He had been traded to the Yankees from the Oakland Athletics and 1998 was his first year in the Pinstripes. In the 152 games he played that season, he had 19 home runs, 98 runs batted in and a .300 batting average. When he was on defense for New York at the hot corner, Brosius in 421 chances made 22 errors for a .948 fielding percentage. Mike Lowell had 21 home runs, 120 runs batted in and hit for a .324 average during the 2007 season. Lowell had 15 errors in 384 chances in 2007 for a .961 fielding percentage. The numbers here give the advantage and the win to Lowell and the Red Sox, and now it is on to the outfield.

There were no true superstars (ala Ken Griffey Jr) in the Yankees outfield during the 1998 season as in left field was Chad Curtis, who in 151 games had 10 home runs and 56 runs batted in as well as a .24 batting average. He made 5 errors in 318 chances during the 1998 season for a .984 fielding percentage. Center field for New York was the always steady member of the Yankee team Bernie Williams who had 6 home runs and 97 runs batted in to go with a .339 batting average. Williams while not having the strongest throwing arm in the league made only 3 errors in 305 chances for a .990 fielding percentage. In right field was the man the owner George Steinbrenner called, “The Warrior”, Paul O’Neil. O’Neil would hit 24 home runs, drive in 116 runs and have a .317 batting average. With the glove, O’Neil would make only 4 errors in 310 chances for a .987 fielding percentage.

The Red Sox left fielder would be Manny Ramirez who during the 2007 season would hit 20 home runs with 88 runs batted in and a .296 batting average. He would make only 2 errors in 192 chances for a .990 fielding percentage. The center fielder on the Red Sox that year was Coco Crisp who had 6 home runs, 60 runs batted in and a .268 batting average. With the glove Crisp made only 1 error in 416 chances for a .998 fielding percentage which is as close to perfect as one can get. Finally, the right fielder was J D Drew who hit for a .270 average with 11 home runs and 64 runs batted in. He would make 6 errors in 233 chances for a .974 fielding percentage.

Embed from Getty Images

The numbers are close and seem to give a slight advantage to the Red Sox, but, the focus of Curtis, Williams and O’Neil as well as the competitiveness gives the outfield advantage to the Yankees.

Darryl Strawberry versus David Ortiz in the role of DH. Both men tremendous hitters with Strawberry going 24 home runs, 57 runs batted in and a .247 batting average. Ortiz would hit 35 home runs with 117 RBIs and a .332 batting average and a reputation as one of the greatest clutch hitters of all-time. Clearly the Red Sox and Ortiz hold the advantage.

As for pitching, the Yankees could choose from, Andy Pettitte 16-11 4.24 ERA 146 strikeouts, David Wells 18-4 3.49 ERA and 163 strikeouts, David Cone 20-7, 3.55 ERA and 209 strikeouts, Hideki Irabu 13-9, 4.06 ERA, 126 strikeouts or Orlando “EL Duque” Hernandez with a record of 12-4, 3.13 ERA and 131 strikeouts.

Boston would have a choice of Daisuke Matsuzaka 15-1, 4.40 ERA and 201 strikeouts, Josh Beckett 20-7, 3.27 ERA, 194 strikeouts, knuckleballer Tim Wakefield 17-12, 4.76 ERA, 110 strikeouts, Curt Schilling 9-8, 3.87 ERA, 101 strikeouts, Julian Tavarez 7-11, 5.15 ERA, 77 strikeouts or Jon Lester at 4-0 with a 4.50 ERA and 50 strikeouts.

Here in putting all the numbers on a chart and looking them over and comparing, advantage here goes to the Yankees as all of their starters had the same type of consistency and again, the Yankees had as their ace in the hole Mariano Rivera, which makes the decision that much simpler.

If any Yankee pitcher got into trouble and they had to call on the bullpen, it would first be Ramiro Mendoza and then “the Sandman” Mariano Rivera who would later go on to be considered as one of the greatest relief pitchers of all-time. Jonathan Papelbon was the Red Sox closer in 2007 with either Hideki Okajima or Javier Lopez in the setup role. Papelbon would finish with one more save than Rivera (37-36) and a slighter lower ERA (1.85 to 1.91). Even though it was Rivera’s second season in the closing role, the pedigree was there and let’s face it, that he (Rivera) could throw a baseball in a thimble and not hit the sides. Clearly the Yankees and Rivera hold a distinct advantage here.

Both teams had some great players and possible Hall of Famers, but in the end because of the dominating fashion in which the Yankees took the AL pennant and the World Series they would win this one game matchup.

Kevin Larkin has been going to all kinds of baseball amateur and professional since 1969. When asked he says he is a baseball fan who likes the Yankees. He was a police officer for 24 years in his home town of Barrington Massachusetts and helped on investigating most major crimes including murder, plane crashes and automobile crashes. He was certified as an expert witness in accident reconstruction and investigated almost 90 fatal automobile accidents. After retiring from the police force he renewed a love for baseball and as of now has authored three books on the subject: Baseball in the Bay State, Gehrig:Game by Game and Baseball in the Berkshires. He has authored articles for SABR and helps out there with research whenever possible. He has a coloection of almost 700 baseball books and enjoys pre 1900 and post 1900 baseball as well as the Black Sox Scandal and learning about the Negro Leagues. He also writes a column for CNY Baseball and loves giving back to the sport which has given him so much.

More in All About Baseball