I loved the Yankees of the late 1970′s. As I was introduced to the Yankees in 1973, this was the team of my youth and the first one to capture my love. That was some bunch: A young George Steinbrenner, Gabe Paul, Billy Martin in his prime, Bob Lemon, Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, Ron Guidry, Roy White, Sparky Lyle, Chris Chambliss, Lou Piniella, Bucky Dent, Mickey Rivers, Catfish Hunter, a young Willie Randolph, Goose Gossage, Reggie Jackson, Dick Tidrow, Chicken Stanley, Ed Figueroa, Rudy May, Cliff Johnson, Mike Torrez…what a cast. Just about everyone who was part of the Yankees at that time has a special place in my heart.
I also enjoyed the ringless Yankees of the 1980′s. Sure, rotating in managers and G.M.’s left and right was crazy during this time. But, of course, you still had Don Mattingly, Rickey Henderson, Dave Righetti, Dave Winfield, Mike Pagliarulo, Rick Cerone, Oscar Gamble, Ron Hassey, and Tommy John to root for on these teams – along with an interesting supporting staff that included players such as Mel Hall, Ken Griffey Sr., Bobby Meacham, Butch Wynegar, Jerry Mumphrey, Wayne Tolleson, Claudell Washington, Joe Cowley, Gary Ward, Phil Niekro, Bobby Brown, Bob Shirley, Alvaro Espinoza, Dennis Rasmussen, Lee Guetterman, and Steve Balboni.
Then, of course, came the Buck Showalter-primed Yankees of the late 1990′s. Put together by Stick Michael and Bob Watson. Led by Joe Torre while he was in his 50′s and supported by Don Zimmer. In terms of players to love, here I found a young Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neill, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Tino Martinez, Boomer Wells, Scott Brosius, an emerging Jorge Posada, El Duque Hernandez, David Cone, Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton, Ramiro Mendoza – along with role players such as Tim Raines, Joe Girardi, Chad Curtis, Luis Sojo, Ricky Ledee, Shane Spencer, Jim Leyritz and Darryl Strawberry. Heck even a head case like Chuck Knoblauch didn’t bother me all that much. Next to my “first love” Yankees of the late ’70′s, this is my favorite Yankees team – and it’s a close race between the two for the top spot.
And, this brings us to the current Yankees – the New York Yankees of the last half-dozen years or so. Today’s Yankees are run by Randy Levine, Lonn Trost and Brian Cashman – suits, pencil pushers, and not baseball men. And, they report to Hal and Hank Steinbrenner – aka basbeall’s Buster and Gob Bluth. The face of the Yankees during this time is that of an aging Derek Jeter and Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez. Along with that, you had guys like Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Randy Johnson, Bobby Abreu, Kyle Farnsworth, Carl Pavano, and Kei Igawa – expensive imports with some warts. Much like today’s Yankees – guys such as Nick “Red Light” Swisher, Curtis Granderson and A.J. Burnett. Now, it’s not all bad. Guys like Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Mike Mussina and Chien-Ming Wang were likeable Yankees from this period – but, they’re all gone. And, this team has some young talent like Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner, David Robertson and Phil Hughes. And, not all of the Yankees high-priced imports during this time had mixed results. Both CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira have earned their paychecks. Yet, “today’s” Yankees are clearly fourth in the pecking order of my favorite Yankees.
The Yankees of the late ’70′s and ’90′s are tops – followed by the Yankees of the 1980′s. And, this recent version of the Yankees trails them all, by far. In fact, I’m expecting that a future Yankees team – say, the Yankees of the late 2010′s, pushes them to fifth come, say, in the year 2020. What are the odds of that happening? Pretty good, if you ask me now. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for…