Joel Sherman had a column in Friday's Post comparing the current Yankee team with the '98 squad. Sherman is the most reliable voice at the Post, though I find him to be an unspectacular writer. He tends to conform to the shrill sensibilities of his paper (fair enough), and brings the Shakespeare line, "Me thinks thou dost protest too much," to mind often, whether he's writing a positive or negative piece. Curiously, Sherman comes across as an aimiable and more even-handed on his stints on television (he is a guest analyst on MSG from time to time).
It's a bit premature to compare the 8-1 Yanks to the '98 version, but that's what Sherman gets paid for. Still, without getting ahead of ourselves, he does make some decent points:
Like a great horse in the starter's gate, the Yanks seemed to sense the beginning of the race. You could feel it building in that last week of spring training. Their focus. Their effort. Their seriousness. They came out for the season hitting and pitching and defending, and they haven't stopped yet.
There had always been a sense that Jeter and Rivera were the indispensable Yankees during the Torre era, too valuable to lose for an extended period. But the Yankees are more than surviving without them. It makes you start thinking 1998 thoughts about what this team could be if Jeter, Rivera and Karsay return over the next several weeks at full production.
"It would be too premature to compare to our 1998 team," Cashman said. "That team went through a lot to become one of the elite teams of all time. This team is still in its infancy. It is not fair to compare any team to the 1998 team."
...What those '98 Yankees had was a ceaseless sense of purpose this version still must demonstrate.
..."I watch from the bench," Todd Zeile said, "and I wonder what the scouting reports must look like for other teams."
ALL'S WELLS THAT ENDS WELLS
David Wells pitched a 3-hit, complete game shutout on Thursday afternoon to give the Bombers their ninth consecutive victory over the Twins. Johan Santana pitched 4 innings of middle relief for Minnie and struck out 8 of the 12 batters he faced, living up to the advanced billing he recieved during the winter.
Wells, who loves pitching in cold, crappy weather was terrific, and displayed yet again why the Yankees have kept him around in spite of all his mishegoss: dude can pitch. However, Wells told Michael Kay on ESPN radio yesterday that he was close to quitting the team and leaving baseball this spring after his book controversy set Yankee camp on its ear.
According to Jack Curry in the Times:
"He offered to quit," [GM Brian] Cashman said. "That was in the first discussion in Clearwater. It was his first reaction when we confronted him with him what might be in the book. He said, 'Listen, I'll just shut it down and quit.' We told him he was being emotional and to relax and calm down."
Torre said "wow" when told that Wells had disclosed his desire to quit and added: "He was emotional. He felt hurt that he was hurting people. I think that's where he wanted to walk away because he felt he let people down and stuff like that. Again, it was an emotional thing and we told him it's not time to make that decision."