Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Tino Martinez, the slugging first baseman on the all-world 1998 Yankees, sees a lot of his old club in this year's version of the Bronx Bombers.
"For sure," Martinez said before playing in the annual charity golf tournament that benefits Joe Torre's Safe and Home Foundation. "And I think it started last year a little bit, toward the end, that last run they had at the end of the year.
"The way they play every single game. They have a lot of fun playing the game and they play with energy and when they're down by two, three, four runs in the eighth or ninth inning, they find a way to come back. I think the teams in the past haven't done that. They kinda just gave into the loss."
Who knows if Aaron Boone's club will even get close to what Torre's '98 team did -- a 114-48 record, a World Series win over the Padres.
But Martinez loves this quality about Aaron Judge, et al: "This team fights, the way we did in '98."
Martinez, who now works for the Yankees in player development and played for the Yankees from 1996-2001 and also in 2005, is following the Yanks' race with the Red Sox with a keen eye. Boston held a 5.5-game lead in the American League East Division entering play Thursday.
"Oh, man, it's totally amazing what they're doing," Martinez said. "I watch the Yankees so much and anytime I watch them, they win a lot of games and you don't ever realize what the Red Sox are doing until you look in the newspaper.
"I'm like, 'Man, what they've done is incredible.' The Yankees have to keep going, chip away at that lead, take it one game at a time."
The clubs even seem to be competing on the trade market -- the day after the Yankees acquired Zach Britton, the Red Sox traded for Nate Eovaldi. Martinez smiled at that idea and added that his boss, GM Brian Cashman, "still has some moves to make. He's got something up his sleeve, of course. But the Red Sox are making their moves, too, so it's going to be tough."
The Yankees then traded for J.A. Happ.
Martinez also keeps watch on Greg Bird, the oft-injured Yankee first baseman who has a pretty lefty swing that is perhaps ideal for Yankee Stadium. The former first baseman thinks the latest one is headed for big things.
"I think he's a great hitter, one of the best hitters on the team," Martinez said. "The injuries have held him back, obviously. But I think time will tell and I think he's got a chance to be one of the best left-handed hitters the Yankees have ever had."
"He hits the ball the other way. He's patient and he takes his walks and he has enough power to hit the ball out of the ballpark. If they're patient with him and let him get settled in and he's injury-free, I think he can be really, really good."
The division is shaping up as a race for the ages and there is a big difference between the 2018 Yankees and the 1998 version -- the '98 Yanks took over first place on April 30 and never relinquished it, eventually winning the division by 22 games.
This year, the Yanks and Sox have held at least a share of the two best records in baseball on 77 of the last 84 days.
That means the last weekend of the season in Boston could be crucial for both seasons when the Yanks visit Fenway Park.
"As much as they've played each other over the years, it's kind of lost its luster," Martinez said. But this year, he knows, is "really going to be intense."