The comparisons are beginning to percolate between the 2018 New York Yankees squad, and the 1998 team that graced us with one of the best seasons ever turned in by a baseball team in MLB history.
The obvious similarity is the record each possessed after 34 games -- the 1998 team was 26-8, while the Yankees of today sit at 24-10. The '98 club got off to a rocky start (1-4), but turned the corner rather quickly and fiercely, winning 25 of their next 29 games. The current Yanks are on a 15-1 run after failing to find anything, but a middle ground for the team's first 18 games.
Both teams scored a ton of runs through their first 34 games. The '98 Yanks scored 210 runs (6.2 runs per game) while allowing 154 for a differential of +56. The 2018 Yankees have scored less (197 runs/5.8 runs per game), but has allowed fewer runs (135) which maintains a slightly better +62 run differential.
The likenesses may end right there.
The '98 squad had five position-player regulars under the age of 30, while the '18 team touts 20-somethings at seven of the nine positions on a regular basis, with a platoon in effect at another. On the hill, the '98 crew had two starters under 30, while the Yankees have a rotation with four pitchers under 30, and two are under 25 years old. Three of the '98 club's relievers were under 30, while these Yankees employ five relievers (they currently have eight relievers on the active roster) under 30.
The Yankees are winning with two rookies - Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres playing daily and another (Tyler Austin) in a platoon at first base. Andujar and Torres are not keeping spots warm, in fact, they have made extensive contributions to the team, making it extremely likely they will stick around.
The '98 squad was certainly more experienced -- even some of their youthful players had already won a World Series. Meanwhile, the 2018 club is steadily learning how to win and has just two carry-over players from the Yankees' 2009 World Series team (Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia).
The performance of some of the '98 Yankees regulars was subpar during the club's first month of the season. Players like Paul O'Neill and Bernie Williams had yet to homer (they ended with 24 and 26 respectively), while Scott Brosius, Derek Jeter, Chuck Knoblauch and Jorge Posada had wRC+ marks under 100 through April. They each finished the season well above 100.
This year, all starting position players besides Gardner possessed wRC+ marks at or above 100 (Neil Walker, predominately in a timeshare at first base, also was well below 100 wRC+). It will be interesting to see if there is any drop-off among this season's players, or if they'll maintain/improve upon their starts to the season.
A major difference might be the virtually exact level of talent in Boston.
As the Yankees and Red Sox are set to begin a three-game series Tuesday in the Bronx, it is Boston with a one-game lead over the Yankees. In '98, the Yankees had opened up a 4.5-game lead at this stage in the season, and ultimately went on to win the division by 22 games (Boston still reached the playoffs in 1998 as a wild card team).
New York's chances of winning 114 regular season games seems like a very tough proposition when the Red Sox are every bit as gifted as the Yankees.
Finally, the expectations for both clubs were high to open the season, but the team from 20 years ago had a recent ring to back it up, while this iteration of the Yankees is still working to prove itself. The 2018 Yankees are no doubt an extremely talented ball club, but until they reach and potentially win a World Series, they will have doubters. That is especially true in a time where there are arguably three to four American League teams alone that could disrupt a ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes.
The desire to watch a repeat performance of a spectacular team is understandable, however it is best to tread with caution when trying to link the 2018 and 1998 teams together after just over one-fifth of the season has concluded.