TRENTON, N.J. — This season’s Yankee team has evoked memories of the franchise’s late 1990s dynasty, and according to one of that dynasty’s best players, the comparison is spot on.
“It’s very exciting to watch,” Bernie Williams said Wednesday of the current team, which features a young core that reminds him of the championship teams of which he was a part. Williams played the national anthem on his guitar before Wednesday night’s Eastern League All-Star Game.
Said Williams, “I don’t think we’ve had a group of guys [coming up] together and making a splash as they have, except for the guys that came up about 20 years before them: Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano [Rivera] and Derek [Jeter].”
Williams, who made his debut a few years before those four did, was another impact player on the team that won World Series rings in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.
“This crew is very similar, with a nice mix of veterans and young players,” said Williams, a five-time All-Star who played for the Yankees from 1991 to 2006.
The 1998 Yankees won a franchise-record 114 games, while the 2018 version came into Wednesday on pace to win 106 (which would be the team’s second most wins in a season since it won 109 in 1961).
There is one notable difference between the 2018 and 1998 Yankees, Williams said: “This team right now has a lot more power than we used to have. We have guys now that are capable of hitting 50-plus home runs and I don’t think we had a guy like that when I was playing.”
The 2018 Yankees are on pace to hit more home runs than any other team in major-league history and have four players on pace to hit at least 30 home runs. The 1998 team did not have a single player do so (Tino Martinez led the way with 28), despite playing in one of the most home run-heavy eras in baseball history.
That team still finished seventh in MLB in home runs and led baseball in runs, which was a sign of the lineup’s depth.
“That year, [Scott] Brosius [was)] our ninth hitter and he was a World Series MVP,” Williams said. “Everything was spread across the board in the lineup. There were not a lot of weak spots, which is like the way these guys are [in 2018].”
Williams said he will be at Yankee Stadium in August for the 1998 team’s 20th-anniversary celebration. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” adding that team was key to the legacy of the 1990s-era Yankees.
“The ’96 team was the first time everyone got into the World Series but the ’98 team was the team that started the mystique about the core of that group,” he said. “It was a great run and I was so fortunate to be a part of that.”