The 1998 baseball season had enormous historical implications. While Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa waged their epic home run battle in the National League, the New York Yankees established a new record in the junior circuit by compiling 114 regular-season victories. The Yankees then went on to win 11 of 13 postseason contests, en route to capturing their 24th world championship with an all-time best 125 wins.
New York truly dominated the American League over the course of the regular season, finishing 22 games ahead of the runner-up Boston Red Sox in the A.L. East. An extraordinarily well-balanced team, the Yankees topped the junior circuit with 965 runs scored, a .364 team on-base percentage, and a 3.82 team ERA. They also finished near the top of the league rankings with 207 home runs, 153 stolen bases, a .288 team batting average, and a .460 team slugging average.
David Cone headed New York’s deep starting staff, going 20-7, to tie for the league lead in wins. He also placed among the leaders with 209 strikeouts. Andy Pettitte won 16 games. David Wells finished 18-4, to lead all A.L. hurlers with a winning percentage of .818. He also topped the circuit with five shutouts. Cuban refugee Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez excelled after joining the team in early June, compiling a record of 12-4 and an ERA of 3.13. Meanwhile, Mariano Rivera continued to dominate opposing hitters, finishing 3-0, with 36 saves and a 1.91 ERA.
Equally impressive on offense, New York boasted the league’s deepest lineup. Despite struggling defensively at second base, leadoff hitter Chuck Knoblauch scored 117 runs and stole 31 bases. Derek Jeter earned a third-place finish in the A.L. MVP voting by placing among the league leaders with a .324 batting average and 203 hits, and topping the circuit with 127 runs scored. Paul O'Neill hit 24 homers, knocked in 116 runs, scored 95 others, and batted .317. Bernie Williams homered 26 times, drove in 97 runs, scored another 101, and led the league with a .339 batting average. Tino Martinez finished first on the club with 28 home runs and 123 runs batted in. Third baseman Scott Brosius had the finest season of his career, hitting 19 home runs, driving in 98 runs, and batting .300.
New York’s amazing performance helped obscure the fact that the second-place Boston Red Sox put together a very solid season as well, finishing the campaign with a record of 92-70. Boston placed second in the league rankings with a 4.18 team ERA and also finished third with 876 runs scored. Mo Vaughn and Nomar Garciaparra paced the Sox on offense. Vaughn hit 40 homers, drove in 115 runs, scored 107 others, and placed among the league leaders with a .337 batting average and 205 hits. Garciaparra hit 35 home runs, knocked in 122 runs, scored 111 others, and batted .323. Pedro Martinez anchored Boston’s pitching staff, compiling a record of 19-7, an ERA of 2.89, and 251 strikeouts.
In many years, the numbers Martinez posted over the course of the regular season might well have been good enough to earn him Cy Young honors. However, with Roger Clemens performing brilliantly for the third-place Toronto Blue Jays, who finished four games behind Boston in the East, Martinez had to settle for a second-place finish in the balloting. Clemens claimed his fifth Cy Young trophy by winning the pitcher’s version of the Triple Crown for the second straight time. In addition to tying for the league lead with 20 victories, Clemens led all A.L. hurlers with a 2.65 ERA and 271 strikeouts.
While the Yankees ran away with the A.L. East title, the Texas Rangers found themselves in a dogfight in the West. The Rangers ended up edging out Anaheim for the division crown by posting a record of 88-74 that left them three games ahead of the second-place Angels.
Although the Rangers lacked New York’s depth on the mound, they rivaled the Yankees on offense, finishing a close second in the league with 940 runs scored. Will Clark hit 23 homers, drove in 102 runs, scored 98 others, and batted .305. Rusty Greer knocked in 108 runs, scored 107 others, and batted .306. Ivan Rodriguez hit 21 homers, drove in 91 runs, and batted .321. Juan Gonzalez earned A.L. MVP honors for the second time in three years by batting .318, scoring 110 runs, placing among the league leaders with 45 home runs, and topping the circuit with 157 runs batted in and 50 doubles. Meanwhile, Rick Helling and Aaron Sele served as the team’s top two starting pitchers. Although both men compiled earned run averages well in excess of 4.00, Helling finished 20-7, while Sele posted a mark of 19-11.
Mediocre pitching prevented Seattle from mounting a serious challenge to Texas for the division title. The Mariners finished third in the West, 11 ½ games off the pace. Nevertheless, their lineup featured two of the league’s finest all-around players in Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. Rodriguez hit 42 homers, drove in 124 runs, scored 123 others, batted .310, collected 213 hits, and stole 46 bases. By homering 42 times and stealing 46 bases, A-Rod became just the third player in major league history to top the 40-mark in both categories in the same season (Jose Canseco and Barry Bonds were the others). Meanwhile, Griffey led the league with 56 home runs, knocked in 146 runs, scored 120 others, and batted .284.
The Cleveland Indians captured their fourth consecutive A.L. Central title by finishing the regular season with a record of 89-73, nine games ahead of the second-place Chicago White Sox. Yet, Chicago’s Albert Belle posted offensive numbers that took a backseat to no one’s, leading the league with a .655 slugging average and placing among the leaders with 49 home runs, 152 runs batted in, 113 runs scored, a .328 batting average, 200 hits, and 48 doubles. The Indians, though, had much better pitching than the White Sox, enabling them to continue their dominance of the division.
Charles Nagy and Bartolo Colon anchored Cleveland’s starting rotation, posting 15 and 14 victories, respectively. Manny Ramirez led the team on offense, batting .294, scoring 108 runs, and finishing near the top of the league rankings with 45 home runs and 145 runs batted in. He received a considerable amount of help from Kenny Lofton, Jim Thome and Travis Fryman. Returning to Cleveland after spending the previous year in Atlanta, Lofton scored 101 runs and stole 54 bases. Thome hit 30 home runs, knocked in 85 runs, scored 89 others, and batted .293. Fryman hit 28 homers and drove in 96 runs.
The Indians ended up giving the Yankees their only scare in the postseason. After New York swept Texas in three straight games and Cleveland defeated Boston in a hard-fought four-game series in the first round of the playoffs, the Indians faced the heavily-favored Yankees in the ALCS. Cleveland surprisingly went up two-games-to-one in the Series, before New York stormed back to win the next three contests. The Yankees then swept the San Diego Padres in the World Series, completing their remarkable campaign with an overall record of 125 wins, against only 50 losses. Scott Brosius earned Series MVP honors by batting .471, hitting two home runs, and driving in six runs.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• February 2 - New York Yankees general manager Bob Watson announced his resignation. The Yankees subsequently replaced him with 30-year-old Brian Cashman.
• March 31 - The Tampa Bay Devil Rays lost their first game ever to the Detroit Tigers by a score of 11–6. Pitcher Wilson Alvarez took the loss for Tampa, while third baseman Wade Boggs hit the first home run in team history.
• April 1 - The Tampa Bay Devil Rays posted their first win in franchise history, beating the Tigers 11–8. Fred McGriff collected three hits and drove in four runs for Tampa Bay.
• July 5 – Toronto’s Roger Clemens became just the 11th pitcher in baseball history to record 3,000 career strikeouts.
• June 7 - At Camden Yards, the Baltimore Orioles retired Hall of Famer Eddie Murray’s uniform number 33.
• June 10 – New York’s Tim Raines stole the 800th base of his career, becoming just the fifth player in history to reach that milestone.
• June 20 - The Cleveland Indians retired Bob Lemon's uniform number 19 prior to the team's 5–3 loss to the Yankees.
• August 31 - Oakland's Rickey Henderson scored the 2,000th run of his career, enabling him to join Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Pete Rose, and Willie Mays as the only players to reach that milestone.
• September 7 - Ken Griffey, Jr. hit his 50th home run of the season, joining Babe Ruth and Mark McGwire as the only players to hit 50 or more homers in consecutive seasons.
• November 9 – News surfaced that Hall of Fame pitcher Jim "Catfish" Hunter had been stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the progressive, ultimately fatal neurological condition better known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
• New York’s David Wells pitched a perfect game against the Twins on May 17.
• Oakland’s Ben Grieve earned A.L. Rookie of the Year honors.
• The members of the BBWAA elected Don Sutton to the Hall of Fame.
• The Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee selected Larry Doby, Lee MacPhail, Bullet Joe Rogan, and George Davis for enshrinement.
• Star reliever Dennis Eckersley retired at age 44, holding the all-time record for games pitched (1,071).
• Cal Ripken Jr. ended his consecutive games played streak at 2,632 on September 20.
• Bud Selig was elected commissioner on July 8.
• The American League outlasted the National League 13-8 in the All-Star Game, played at Denver's Coors Field. Baltimore’s Roberto Alomar earned All-Star MVP honors by going 3-for-4 with a home run.
• Although 39-year-old Rickey Henderson batted just .236 for Oakland, he led the American League with 118 walks and 66 stolen bases.
• Paul Molitor retired from the Twins with 3,319 hits, which ranked him eighth on the all-time list.
• Chet "Red" Hoff, the oldest living major leaguer, died at age 107.
• Angels’ owner Gene Autry died on October 2.
• Former Royals reliever Dan Quisenberry died of a brain tumor on September 30 at age 45.
- David Wells won the ALCS MVP
- Scott Brosius won the Babe Ruth Award
- Roger Clemens won the Cy Young
- Joe Torre won the Mgr of the year
- Juan Gonzalez won the MVP
- Tom Gordon won the Rolaids Relief
- Ben Grieve won the Rookie of the Year
- Roger Clemens won the Triple Crown
- Roger Clemens won the TSN Pitcher of the Year
- 1998 ALCS, 1998 ALDS1, 1998 ALDS2, 1998 World Series, Aaron Sele, Albert Belle, Alex Rodriguez, American League, Andy Pettitte, Bartolo Colon, Ben Grieve, Bernie Williams (New York Yankees), Bob Watson, Boston Red Sox, Bud Selig, Cal Ripken, Jr., Charles Nagy, Chuck Knoblauch, Cleveland Indians, Dan Quisenberry, David Cone, David Wells, Dennis Eckersley, Derek Jeter, Eddie Murray, Fred McGriff, Ivan Rodriguez, Jim Thome, Juan Gonzalez, Ken Griffey, Jr., Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez, Mariano Rivera, Mo Vaughn, New York Yankees, Nomar Garciaparra, Orlando Hernandez, Paul Molitor, Pedro Martinez, Rafael Palmeiro, Rick Helling, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Alomar, Roger Clemens, Rusty Greer, Scott Brosius, Texas Rangers, Tim Raines, Tino Martinez, Travis Fryman, Wade Boggs, Will Clark, Wilson Alvarez