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The Yankees entered the 2000 campaign hopeful of becoming the first team since the 1972-74 Oakland Athletics to capture three consecutive world championships.  Having won the A.L. East title by a comfortable margin in each of the previous two seasons before breezing through the playoffs and World Series, there didn’t appear to be any reason why New York shouldn’t repeat as world champions.  Choosing not to tinker with success, the front office made few changes to the Yankee roster during the off-season, leaving the team’s core group of veteran players the opportunity to defend their title.

As it turned out, advancing age and complacency turned out to be New York’s biggest obstacles to earning a return trip to the World Series.  With Andy Pettitte the only member of the team’s starting rotation under 34 years of age, Yankee starters struggled much of the year.  Although 37-year-old Roger Clemens had a solid season, going 13-8 with a 3.70 ERA, Orlando Hernandez and David Cone pitched far less effectively.  The 34-year-old Hernandez finished 12-13 with a 4.51 ERA.  Meanwhile, the 37-year-old Cone won just four of his 18 decisions, while posting an inordinately high 6.91 ERA. 

A feeling of complacency also appeared to settle in on the team for the first time over the course of the season.  After remaining in contention for the American League’s best record until the beginning of September, the Yankees won only 13 of their last 31 games, to finish the year with a record of just 87-74.  Fortunately, that mark was good enough to earn them their third straight A.L. East title, placing them 2 ½ games ahead of Boston in the final standings.  However, it represented just the fifth best record in the junior circuit.   

With David Cone and Orlando Hernandez pitching as poorly as they did, it became imperative for Andy Pettitte to pick up some of the slack.  He did so, leading the team with 19 victories.  Meanwhile, Mariano Rivera and Jeff Nelson both had outstanding seasons in the Yankee bullpen.  Rivera earned All-Star honors by winning seven games, saving 36 others, and compiling a 2.85 ERA.  Nelson finished 8-4, with a 2.45 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 70 innings of work. 

Certain members of New York’s starting lineup also began to show signs of aging.  At 37 years of age, Paul O’Neill still posted solid numbers.  Yet, his 18 home runs, 100 runs batted in, 79 runs scored, .283 batting average, and .336 on-base percentage represented significant drop-offs from the figures he compiled for the team the previous few seasons.  Meanwhile, 32-year-old Tino Martinez hit only 16 homers, drove in just 91 runs, scored only 69 others, and batted just .258. 

Scott Brosius and Chuck Knoblauch also experienced sub-par campaigns.  Brosius batted just .230 and knocked in only 64 runs.  Injuries cut into Knoblauch’s playing time significantly, permitting him to appear in only 102 games.  Nevertheless, he still managed to commit 15 errors in the field, as his throwing woes continued.  He also batted just .283 and drove in only 26 runs.

Fortunately, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, and Derek Jeter all had outstanding seasons.  Posada made the A.L. All-Star Team for the first time by hitting 28 home runs, knocking in 86 runs, scoring 92 others, batting .287, and compiling a .417 on-base percentage.  Williams led the team with 30 home runs and 121 runs batted in, and he also placed second on the club with 108 runs scored and a .307 batting average.  He earned All-Star and Gold Glove honors for the fourth consecutive year.  Jeter finished among the league leaders with 119 runs scored, 201 hits, and a .339 batting average, en route to earning his third straight All-Star selection and a 10th place finish in the A.L. MVP voting.

David Justice and Glenallen Hill also made major contributions to the offense after being acquired from other teams during the season.  The Yankees traded promising young outfielder Ricky Ledee and two minor leaguers to Cleveland for Justice on June 29.  After hitting 21 homers and driving in 58 runs in 68 games with the Indians, Justice hit 20 home runs, knocked in 60 runs, and batted .305 in 78 games for New York.  After being acquired from the Chicago Cubs for two minor leaguers on July 21, Hill batted .333, hit 16 homers, and drove in 29 runs, in only 132 official at-bats with the Yankees.      

Having struggled terribly during the season’s final month, the Yankees entered the playoffs with a tremendous amount of uncertainty surrounding them.  However, they pulled themselves together, edging out a young and aggressive Oakland A’s team in five games in the ALDS.  New York then started off slowly against the Seattle Mariners in the ALCS, failing to score a run in the first 17 innings.  The Yankees finally broke through against Seattle pitching in the eighth inning of Game Two, scoring seven runs to even the Series at one game apiece.  They then won each of the next two contests, with Roger Clemens pitching a masterful one-hit shutout in Game Four.  After dropping Game Five in Seattle, the Yankees won their third straight American League pennant when ALCS MVP David Justice put them ahead to stay in Game Six with a three-run upper deck homer during a six-run seventh inning. 

The city of New York then experienced its first Subway Series since 1956, when the Yankees squared off against the Mets in the Fall Classic.  Although the Yankees’ winning streak in World Series play ended at 14 games in Game Three, they went on to defeat the Mets in five games to capture their third straight world championship, and the 26th in franchise history.

By Bob_Cohen
 

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Tagged:
2000 ALCS, 2000 ALDS1, 2000 World Series, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams (New York Yankees), Boston Red Sox, Chuck Knoblauch, David Cone, David Justice, Derek Jeter, George Steinbrenner, Glenallen Hill, Jeff Nelson, Joe Torre, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Orlando Hernandez, Roger Clemens, Scott Brosius, Seattle Mariners, Tino Martinez

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