By the Decade: Team of the Decade


All good things, the saying goes, must come to an end. As the Aught-Aughts ended a few days ago, so must our Yankees By the Decade retrospective. But we can’t let it rest without one big wrap-up post. So let’s get to it. This morning, I’ll explore who was on the Yanks’ team of the decade and just which team should be awarded baseball’s team of the decade.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve slowly assembled a team of the decade for our Bronx Bombers. We’ll have to omit the relievers because they came and went. The life of a bullpen pitcher is fleeting, and the Yanks used 114 relievers this decade. The six guys we’d pick to backup Mariano are Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Tom Gordon, Mike Stanton, Jeff Nelson and Ramiro Mendoza. The rest of the Yankee team of the decade, then, looks a little something like this:

C: Jorge Posada
1B: Jason Giambi but not for his defense
2B: Robinson Cano/Alfonso Soriano
SS: Derek Jeter
3B: Alex Rodriguez
LF: Hideki Matsui, co-starring Johnny Damon
CF: Early-decade Bernie Williams
RF: Gary Sheffield
DH: Unimpressively Jason Giambi
SP: Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina
CL: Mariano Rivera

That is one impressive roster. There are at least three Hall of Famers and a fourth who should definitely be Cooperstown-bound along with a handful of near-Hall of Famers. This is a team primed to win, and win they did.

Year W L W-L% Finish Playoffs Result RS RA Payroll
2009 103 59 0.636 1 Won WS 11-4 915 753 $201,449,189
2008 89 73 0.549 3     789 727 $209,081,577
2007 94 68 0.58 2 Lost LDS 1-3 968 777 $189,639,045
2006 97 65 0.599 1 Lost LDS 1-3 930 767 $194,663,079
2005 95 67 0.586 1 Lost LDS 2-3 886 789 $208,306,817
2004 101 61 0.623 1 Lost ALCS 6-5 897 808 $184,193,950
2003 101 61 0.623 1 Lost WS 9-8 877 716 $152,749,814
2002 103 58 0.64 1 Lost LDS 1-3 897 697 $125,928,583
2001 95 65 0.594 1 Lost WS 10-8 804 713 $112,287,143
2000 87 74 0.54 1 Won WS 11-5 871 814 $107,588,459
Totals 965 651       52-40 8834 7561 $1,685,887,656
Average 96.5 65.1         883.4 756.1 $168,588,766

The Yankees averaged a Major League-leading 96 wins and 65 losses. They scored 883 runs per season but allowed a pedestrian 756. The team won two World Series, lost two World Series and made the playoffs in nine out of ten seasons. They finished first eight teams, won 52 playoff games and had an aggregate Opening Day payroll of over $1.68 billion.

Yet, despite these gaudy numbers, the wins, the success, the playoff appearances, many have been hesitant to award the Yankees the team of the decade. Maybe baseball outside of the Bronx is just sick of the Yankee Dynasty, whenever it ended if it ever has. Maybe baseball writers need a good-guy foil for the Evil Empire. Thus, some have called the Red Sox the team of the decade.

Truth be told, Boston was very, very good during the 2000s. They are the only team that can approach the Yanks in terms of success. Boston went an average of 92-70 over the decade. The Sox averaged 865 runs per year and gave up 744. They finished in 2nd place eight times, won the division once, made the playoffs six times and twice won the World Series. They spent a garish $1.168 billion in the process, small beans compared with the Yanks but wealthy by everyone else’s standards.

The Red Sox have been lauded as a team of the decade simply because no one expected it. For decades, the Sox weren’t caused; they simply suffered through horrible Front Office and franchise management. The new owners have reshaped the Red Sox brand and have brought perennial contenders to the Back Bay. Through smart spending, solid drafting and building from within, the new Red Sox management has constructed a team in the model of the Yankees from the mid-1990s and the Yankees from today. It’s hard to label the imitators as the team of the decade when the original is still better, albeit ever so slightly.

As the Teens — the 2010s, the decade of Marty McFly and Doc Brown’s flying DeLorean — descends upon us, the Yankees are primed for more wins and more playoff berths. As the core ages, the Yanks have used their dollars to bring on younger and more versatile pieces. They are grooming some players from their system for the Majors and have turned others into potential cornerstones for the next three or four or five years.

Other teams may be catching up, but the Yankees, as they were in the 1990s, were the team of the 2000s. It’s good to be a fan indeed.

Categories : Analysis


  1. If you’re making a ‘roster’…how can the DH be the same guy as the first baseman?

  2. Dan says:

    why did the Yanks only play 161 games in 02?

    • I don’t remember, but probably had a rain out with a team that only came to the stadium once, and couldn’t find a common off day, and if the game doesn’t mean anything for standings, ect, they just don’t play it.

      • A.D. says:

        Believe it was the Marlins, and they would have had to go down to play them after the season if they hadn’t already clinched.

  3. A.D. says:

    Averaging over 95 wins a year for the decade, not too shabby.

  4. “As the Aught-Aughts ended a few days ago, so must our Yankees By the Decade retrospective.”

    The Department of Redundancy Department

  5. Zack says:

    Man all those Lost [XXXX] look pretty bad, but then again that’s because of the expectations of the team.

  6. Bucksky619 says:

    The numbers say that the Yankees are the team of the decade. Boston is tied with the Yankees in one category, world championships. The Yankees lead in every other…postseason appearances, World Series appearances, regular season wins, postseason wins and on and on. Any claim that the Red Sox are team of the decade is just an opinion based on emotion. An opinion with no facts to back it up is meaningless. I could say that the Washington Nationals are team of the decade but that doesn’t make it true. Numbers don’t lie…sportswriters do.

  7. Mac says:

    Who is the “should be” fourth HOF’er? Bernie?

    You can make a case for Sheffield, Posada, Pettitte, and Mussina. But I think they will all fall just short.

  8. thurdonpaul says:

    im guessing your 3 hall of famers are: jeter, mo & a-rod ?
    i guess you dont think a-rods steroid admission will stop him from getting in ? i believe he will & should get in. i just wonder how it will play out down the road.

  9. vtbando says:

    If you’re merely comprising your Team of the Decade by who had the best stats over that time period, I guess I can see why you chose Sheff over O’Neill — but on my team, I don’t care what Sheff’s numbers were, Paulie would be in RF. He has the one stat that matters over Sheff, Championships won.

    • Actually, that’s not even close to the one stat that matters. Getting on base, scoring and producing runs is what matters, and in that sense, Paul O’Neill is not even in the same league as Gary Sheffield. I love Paulie, but let’s not carried away with the rings nostalgia.

      • In your minds eye, travel back to 1993. Instead of trading Roberto Kelly for Paul O’Neill, let’s say we traded him for Gary Sheffield (impossible, I know, but roll with me).

        How many titles do we win during the “Title Years”?


        I’m not sure, but it’s probably more than four. Paulie was the bomb, but he’s not in Sheff’s zipcode. He’s not even in Sheff’s area code. The only reason Paulie has more rings than Sheff is because our pitching staff wasn’t good when Sheff was here.

        • vtbando says:

          I guess then, you don’t believe at all in clubhouse chemistry. Just about every championship team needs pitching – but that’s not all it needs. The dynasty teams of the late 90′s didn’t have all-stars at every position – but they had clutch guys who played the game the right way. It’s not all about stats – this isn’t Rotisserie Baseball.

        • thurdonpaul says:

          so if giambi was on the team of the nineties instead of tino, we would have won more championships ?

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

          I totally agree that choosing O’Neill over Sheffield is indefensible… But I’m not so sure saying ‘they would have won more championships with Sheffield than O’Neill’ is the best argument. That team won 4 titles in 5 years, I’m not sure how many more they would have won if they had added Sheffield and subtracted O’Neill. When, exactly, was substituting Sheffield for O’Neill going to win them an extra title? 1995? 1997? 2001 is probably the best bet, I guess. Obviously it’s possible, but it’s a stretch to say it like it’s probable.

          • Meh, it wasn’t really all that serious of a statement. Just spitballing.

            • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

              Yeah, just a nitpick. Obviously there’s a case, and obviously (see below) I agree with the case that any team would be better with Sheffield instead of O’Neill, I just didn’t think that was the best way to prove it.

          • Chris says:

            Sheff’s .324/.467/.587/1.054 line in 1995 would have been very useful.

            I tend to agree with you, though. The Yankees would have won more games with Sheffield instead of O’Neill, but it’s hard to argue that they would have won more championships.

    • Hells yeah.

      In a related story, Bill Wennington was a better center than Hakeem Olaujuwon.

  10. vtbando says:

    If that were true – then we would have won a lot more than 2 championships this decade, and the dynasty teams of the late 90′s would rank under well behind them.

    Sheffield could mash, no doubt. But he brought little else to the team.

    • Please use the reply button. It’s here to keep conversations organized.

      It is true, but you’re just choosing to ignore it. Gary Sheffield is not why the Yanks missed winning in the mid-2000s. As I wrote yesterday, they didn’t win because their starting pitching sucked for five years. Gary Sheffield is objectively much better than Paul O’Neill, and that’s all there is to it.

      • Yankees team ERA+ during the extended title years, including O’Neill’s tenure:
        1994: 106
        1995: 101
        1996: 108
        1997: 117
        1998: 116
        1999: 114
        2000: 101
        2001: 111
        2002: 114
        2003: 109

        Yankees team ERA+ during the Sheffield Years:
        2004: 96
        2005: 93
        2006: 102

        Clearly, only one inference can be drawn from this: Gary Sheffield’s awful clubhouse chemistry caused the Yankees pitchers to immediately start sucking.

        In a related story: http://www.firejoemorgan.com/2.....nough.html

      • vtbando says:

        If your opinion is derived solely from stats – I’d have to agree with you. But I believe there’s more to it than that. Sheff was an egomaniacal headcase who played hard whenever he felt like it. If he was so great, why did he play for 8 different teams? Paul O’Neill was a team leader who led by example and thrived in the postseason:

        .284 .363 .465 .828 (85 Games)

        Sheffield postseason: (44 Games)

        .248 .401 .398 .799

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

      So… You think that if you have a team and you play 5 seasons with that team + Paul O’Neill and 5 seasons with that team + Gary Sheffield, that the O’Neill team is going to be better than the Sheffield team? If you can defend that opinion with anything resembling evidence (i.e. anything other than ‘I like Paul O’Neill and think he was grittier than Gary Sheffield’), I’m all ears.

      • vtbando says:

        Apparently then, you think the team with the best stats will always win no matter what. Why did the Braves lose to us in ’96 then?

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

          You do realize that statistics do nothing other than measure performance, right? Stats don’t exist in some vacuum, they are an objective representation of performance on the field.

          I also never said the team with the better stats will always win. You’re jumping all over the place and not staying on-point, here.

          The only relevant point is that to take two players, one of whom is demonstrably better and one of whom is demonstrably worse, and to choose the demonstrably worse player over the demonstrably better player, is unwise.

          If you could offer a reasonable and persuasive argument or prove that O’Neill was demonstrably better than Sheffield, then you’d have more people agreeing with you. You haven’t come close to doing that, though.

          • vtbando says:

            All I’m trying to say is that while statistical performance is obviously important – in my opinion, it’s not the sole means for determining who is better. Character, chemistry, dedication, work ethic, experience, leadership – all those things factor in to the equation in my book. And O’Neill’s clutchness, and come-to-play attitude every day is worth more to my team than what Sheffield offers, and I’d think a lot of managers would agree with that.

            I’m not an A-Rod basher – never really have been. But up until this past post-season, if you had asked who would you rather have on your team Derek Jeter or A-Rod, many would have said Jeter. Even now, after the season, many still may agree with that. I’m not looking to knock A-Rod or hijack this post – but my point is that there are other intangibles that come into play and just plugging in the guy with the best stats doesn’t necessary correlate with a winning formula.

          • The only relevant point is that to take two players, one of whom is demonstrably better and one of whom is demonstrably worse, and to choose the demonstrably worse player over the demonstrably better player, is unwise.

            Repeated for emphasis.

            And, it’s not like Gary Sheffield is an axe murderer who’s prone to killing his best teammates midseason or something. He’s just a jerk.

            Reggie Jackson was a jerk. Lots of guys who won rings on good teams were jerks. No big whoop.

            • Evilest Empire says:

              Curt Schilling.

            • Steve H says:

              Manny, 2 rings and his teams are in the playoffs, every year.

            • Steve H says:

              Robert Horry, while not known as a jerk, did once throw a towel in his coach’s face, which was among the most disrespectful things I can remember a player doing to his coach.

            • steve s says:

              I can’t give you a particular link in support but my recollection is that Sheffield was, in fact, a club leader on the Yanks and one of the few guys who would get in someone’s face when guys like Jeter wouldn’t (but no question he was a pain in the butt to management wherever he went). Regarding Reggie, if he was such a jerk how has he ended up where he is today; as a trusted long-time advisor to the Yanks and the Steinbrenner family. Reggie is baseball royalty; demeaning him in such a flippant way is uneducated and uncalled for.

        • Why did the Braves lose to us in ‘96 then?

          Because they didn’t have enough awesome hitters like Gary Sheffield to beat our pitching staff.

          • vtbando says:

            Their offensive stats – albeit against NL teams – was quite similar to the ’96 team, at least over the regular season….

            • BPR says:

              Perhaps, they were the better team and over a long enough series would have proven that.
              Six games is a really tiny sample and the fact that you’re pointing to six games played thirteen years ago shows that your position is probably pretty weak.

  11. yankXfan says:

    Hate to rain on your parade, but that could be the worst defensive team in the history of baseball. Yikes.

    • Is that a fuckin’ challenge? YOU’RE ON!!!

      The New York Mets

    • I hate it when people show up late to the party and try to change the rules. We’re looking at offensive production right here. I noted in the first base post that Giambi’s defense was awful. I noted in the left field post that both Matsui and Damon were below-average defenders. For this summary though, we went with offensive production.

      Your defensive team of the decade would probably feature Doug Mientkiewicz at first, Jose Molina behind the plate, and Brett Gardner in center. That’s one exciting offensive team, eh?

      • JAG says:

        It’s also interesting to me to note that the Team of the Decade isn’t actually that much different than the actual teams that went out and won an average of 96 games a year. If you add Andy Pettite and Robbie Cano to 2004 or Pettitte and good Bernie Williams to 2005 it’s the same team. If we were building a bench, I’d definitely put Tino on there to take over for Giambi, but other than that I don’t think there’s THAT much to complain about defensively. In fact, if we talk about the player in their primes, only Giambi, Matsui, and arguably Posada are below average on defense. Not NEARLY the worst defensive team ever.


  12. Tank the Frank says:

    There are at least three Hall of Famers and a fourth who should definitely be Cooperstown-bound

    Three Hall of Famers: Jeter, Mo, A-Rod

    Who is Cooperstown-bound? It’s gotta be Sheffield, no? I don’t think Moose or Andy will ever get in. Neither will Bernie or Jorge…most likely anyway.

    • Steve H says:

      I think Moose is pretty much a lock, though it’ll probably take a few years. I think Bernie and Posada deserve to go, but may or may not. I think Sheff is a HOF, just not sure what the PED’s/attitude will do to affect his votes. Pettitte definitely has an uphill climb, but another 45 wins just might do it. Remember, he handled his PED’s the right way (rolls eyes).

      • Tank the Frank says:

        If Blyleven deosn’t make it to the Hall then Moose probably has no chance. Bernie and Posada will not go…unless Posada has another year or two like 2007.

        • Steve H says:

          I think Blyleven will. A good read somewhere on ESPN yesterday pointing out that with Cy Young winners winning 15 and 16 games, the writers (and voters) are slowly moving away from, wins=great pitcher. Also, Mussina would, in the eyes of the “old school” voters be a much easier case than Blyleven, as he didn’t have as many total wins, he didn’t have nearly as many losses, doesn’t have that 50 HR season on his resume, and other crap that they use against Blyleven.

          • Tank the Frank says:

            Yeah, I think Blyleven and Moose both deserve it. If anything, they’ll both get in on their last years. And by that time, with the “steroid era” hopefully far in the rearview mirror, I think writers will reflect on it and give Moose credit for pitching in that era and in that division as well.

        • Steve H says:

          And with regard to Bernie/Posada, if Jim Rice can get in, anything is possible.

  13. Randall Pink Floyd says:

    Let’s build on this .. Do you have the ability to run a diamond mind (or similar) simulation pitting the best players from the yankees in the 00′s versus the best from the Red Sox?

    Now that would be interesting ….

  14. YankeeScribe says:

    Just to play devils advocate, one could argue that the Atlanta Braves, not the Yankees, were the team of the decade in the 90′s based on numbers. But I think a lot of folks around here would argue that the Yanks owned the 90′s due to their successes from 96-99.

    I think some people are hesitant to give the Yankees the team of the decade status simply because they were outplayed in the playoffs so many times throughout the 2000′s. For all the money they spent, they were expected to roll through teams like the Marlins, Diamonbacks, Angels, and Tigers. Plus, they may never live down the 2004 ALCS where they let Boston come back from an 0-3 deficit.

    I hate to say this but it could be argued that the Yankees of the 2000′s may be remembered more for their failures on and off the field than their successes…

    • Dalelama says:

      The Yanks paradoxically could be called the most disapointing teams of the Decade based on what they should have won but lost.

      • Only by fans who are too demanding and don’t acknowledge that (1) the team’s pitching was awful for half the decade and (2) the playoffs are generally a crapshoot. The only year for which they have few excuses is 2004, but the Red Sox by the playoffs were better than the Yanks and probably shouldn’t have been down 3-0 in the first place.

        • Dalelama says:

          In other words all Yankee fans….LOL…..we should have beat the Diamondbacks also

        • YankeeScribe says:

          While I agree that you can make the case that the Yanks are the team of the 2000′s based prely on numbers, there’s a fair argument against it too when you look at what they accomplished vs what they were expected to accomplish. For a team that had so many great players and the highest payroll for most of the decade, there were very high expectations from fans, Yankee-haters, and sports writers.

          While the playoffs ARE a crapshoot, for many non-Yankee-fans, the post-season is the only time of the year that they may get to see the Yankees play. Hence, the fact that the Yanks won 100 games in 04′ is easily forgotten while their upset by the Red Sox is still fresh in a lot of people’s minds.

          Off the field, the Yanks of the 2000′s had a lot of issues too with the number of Yankees connected to steroid probes, A-Rod, and Joe Torre’s firing and drama-queen book that got published.

    • vin says:

      “I hate to say this but it could be argued that the Yankees of the 2000’s may be remembered more for their failures on and off the field than their successes…”

      Such is the case when you are expected to win.

      The same can be said for the 1960′s Yankees. They had some great teams (spectacular in ’61), but lost three WS while *only* winning two.

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

      “I think some people are hesitant to give the Yankees the team of the decade status simply because they were outplayed in the playoffs so many times throughout the 2000’s.”

      The most obvious retort to this specious line of reasoning is that you’re comparing a team that, in their bad years, made the playoffs and lost, to teams that, in their bad years, missed the playoffs completely or made the playoffs (less frequently than the Yankees did) and lost. The Yankees, in their bad years, were better than any other team in baseball was during their bad years. And the Yankees were better overall, and had more postseason success, than any other team during the 2000′s. They had more good years than anyone else… And their bad years would be considered good years for just about any other team in MLB.

      (I know you were just playing devil’s advocate, but that’s the reason why that particular position doesn’t hold water.)

  15. Beechtop says:

    Mo: Team of the Decade, Century, Millenia, take your pick.

    Mariano’s postseason scoreless inning record is 34 1/3. He has pitched 133.1 postseason innings yielding only 13 runs, 11 earned, for a 0.74 ERA. Unbelievable.

    BUT: Does anyone know, or know how to learn, how many of his 133 postseason innings were scoreless overall, consecutive or not?

    Even more, does any starter in history have more scoreless postseason innings than Mo’s?

    Or does Mo hold the AGGREGATE scoreless innings record as well?

    My guess is that he’s probably not even close to the leading starter’s postseason scoreless innings total.

    A little help?

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