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Yankees at a glance

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 5, 1999


1998 RECORD: Regular season 114-48, overall 125-50 (1st, AL East).

1998 REVIEW: The Yankees set a major-league record for most wins in a season with 125 and won their second World Series in three years by sweeping the Padres. New York had won 60 games by the All-Star break and continued to roll through the playoffs, losing only twice.

MANAGER: Joe Torre (318-186 with Yankees, 1,196-1,187 overall).

WHO’S NEW: Roger Clemens joins the team from rival Toronto, bringing with him one more Cy Young (five) than the Yankees organization can lay claim to. He is the active leader in strikeouts, shutouts and ERA.

WHO’S GONE: The Yankees return 21 of 25 players from last season’s championship team. Most noticeably absent is pitcher David Wells, who left in the Clemens trade along with infielder Homer Bush and reliever Graeme Lloyd. Outfielder Tim Raines was not re-signed.

FLASHY PHENOMS: With New York returning almost everyone, it is going to be hard for younger players to break into the lineup. Shane Spencer impressed with 10 home runs in 67 at-bats at the end of last season and could be a starting leftfielder. Alfonso Soriano is a highly touted infielder, and the team wants to get him playing time. Look for him to start at Triple-A Columbus and then move up to fill in for an injured player or at season’s end.

THE SURE THINGS: Pitching will be strong. With a rotation which includes Clemens, Andy Pettitte, David Cone, Orlando Hernandez and Hideki Irabu, don’t count on the Yankees giving a lot of games away. Defensively the team is sound. With Jeter at short, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill and probably Ricky Ledee in the outfield and New York will be one of the tougher teams to score against.

THE QUESTION MARKS: The biggest issue is who will fill in as a left-handed reliever in the wake of Lloyd’s departure. There are several candidates, most notably Ed Yarnell and David Carroll, and the team has mentioned possibly bringing back Jimmy Key to help fill the space.

A FINAL WORD: Does a team that wasn’t pushed in the standings for the final four months of the season rest on its laurels and cruise into the season? Or does it pick up where it left off and romp one more time down a road that ends in the Canyon of Heroes? If the determination and grinding mentality which characterized the Yankees of 1998 still exists, the rest of the league could be in a lot of trouble.

 

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