Sweeping Questions

The Yanks Are Champs Again. So What?

Actually, this team has a fairly typical load of Cooperstown types. The '27 Yankees, in which marginal players made the Hall precisely because they were members of the team, tend to skew people's perceptions. But the U.S. Steel Yankees of the '50s and '60s featured three Cooperstowners—Berra, Ford, and Mickey Mantle—while the Bronx Zoo sported only Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, and a series of wouldas and couldas. Among the '99 Yanks, Roger Clemens remains a shoo-in, while David Cone did more this season to solidify his Hall credentials than any player this side of Mark McGwire. With career totals that look more like Honus Wagner than Phil Rizzuto (see chart below), Derek Jeter merely has to avoid fast friends and small planes to become a Kid in the Hall. Bernie Williams is the Yank on the bubble. Roughly halfway through his career, he owns a .304 average, 151 homers, and 681 rbi, so a couple more rings would really help his case. And it's possible that Paul O'Neill, Chuck Knoblauch, Rivera, or even Tino Martinez could hang around long enough to make a legit run at the Coop.

What will next year's Yanks look like?

Y2K problems notwithstanding—"We're saddened to announce that the team physician has been unable to reset Joe Girardi's internal clock and he remains stuck in the dead-ball era"—this team faces fewer question marks than the '96 or '98 teams. Most of the main cogs are signed for the long haul, while some sure-to-be-departing role players like Girardi and Stanton won't be missed. However, based on past history, look for one of the starters to pack their bags. Although they didn't know it at the time, '98 Game 1 starter David Wells and '96 clincher Jimmy Key did their pinstripe swan song in the Big Tilt. And so we ask: Who gets David Cone's locker?

Are we talking Dynasty with a capital D here?

You mean like with Joan Collins? As long as George owns the team, the key components will always be there—Jeter and Williams ain't goin' nowhere—while other everyday players are, as they say, replaceable. The pitching is iffier. Each important hurler has a big question mark after his name (though, like I said, Coney is more of a when than an if): Is Roger Clemens washed up at 36? Is Orlando Hernandez really 34? 44? Satchel Paige? And which is the real Andy Pettitte? The one who baffled the BoSox and the Rangers or the one who threw BP to the Braves? Will Ramiro Mendoza have to arm wrestle Hideki 'Puss-y Toad" Irabu for a shot at the rotation? And scariest of all, can Mariano Rivera continue to be, well, Mariano Rivera? Okay, get off the ledge. Because the Yankees still have fewer questions, pitching or otherwise, than any other team in baseball. Their winning ways should continue.

Will any prospects bust out in the near future?

Nick Johnson, a 20-year-old first baseman with more patience than Adam Sandler's mother, was ranked as the Yanks' top prospect by Baseball America. He looks like a young Edgar Martinez, and could force Tino into early retirement. Shortstop Alfonso Soriano may be every bit as good, although he's the only one in the organization who wants to see Jeter move to third base. Lefty Ed Yarnall could step into the rotation if Cone leaves. And 19-year-old outfielder Jackson Melian could be the next Bernie. Or the next Hensley Meulens.

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