Monday, January 30, 2012

1999 World Series: The Team of the 90s

The Teams
American League: New York Yankees (98-64) - 37th World Series (won 24 previous times) 
National League: Atlanta Braves (103-59) - Fifth World Series (Won in 1995)

What Happened
Fresh off a dominating season and World Series the previous season, the Yankees were almost as strong again in 1999. Sure, they didn't win as many games, but they still had the same core of players from their 114-game winners the previous season. The Braves were just as strong. After missing the World Series despite winning 106 games in 1998, the Braves won 103 in 1999 and, more importantly, survived the National League playoffs to set up a long-awaited rematch of the 1996 Series.

Like always, the Braves were known for their phenomenal pitching, and the Braves' great starters did a pretty good job of keeping the Yankees' big bats under control. The problem was that their own hitters did next to nothing against the Yankees' arms.

The series might have been decided in the late stages of Game 1. Despite the fact that Orlando Hernandez had given up only two hits, the Yankees were trailing Greg Maddux 1-0 entering the eighth inning. The Braves brought in Brian Hunter as a defensive replacement at first base that inning, and he promptly committed two errors that led to a four-run outburst by New York.

The rest of the series drove home the point that Atlanta was very good, but the Yankees were just better. They had more pop in their offense, and when they got a lead, they had the ultimate weapon in Mariano Rivera waiting in the bullpen to close things out. Rivera got the save in Game 1, then got the victory in an extra-inning win in Game 3. He closed out the series with a save in Game 4, the win that gave the Yankees their second straight sweep and established them as the Team of the 90s.

Defining Game
Game 3. Falling behind likely Hall of Famer Tom Glavine 5-1 in the fifth, the Yankees brought out the big bats. Home runs in the fifth, seventh, and eighth innings helped the Yankees tie the game, and Chad Curtis' walkoff home run in the 10th - his second of the game - put New York on the brink of a championship.

Rivera. He could have won the award the previous year, too. The Yankees' star closer was unhittable in the 1999 series. He pitched in three of the four games, giving up only three hits. Though he pitched only 4 2/3 innings, his mental dominance was just as big a factor in the voting as his on-field performance.

Random Fact
The sweep gave the Yankees 12 consecutive wins in World Series games, with their last loss coming in Game 2 of the 1996 series. The streak tied their own record for most consecutive World Series games won, set during sweeps in 1927, 28, and 32. The Yankees would win the first two games of the 2000 Series to extend the record to 14 before finally losing.

(Home team in Bold)

New York  4  7 6 (10)  4
Atlanta  1  2 5  1

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

96. 1999 - New York (A) def. Atlanta (N) 4-0
97. 1963 - Los Angeles (N) def. New York (A) 4-0
98. 2010 - San Francisco (N) def. Texas (A) 4-1
99. 1937 - New York (A) def. New York (N) 4-1
Numbers 100-107

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