Over the next two days, TYU will be running four guest posts from four excellent writers. The second comes from Eddie Perez, who some of you might recognize from Twitter as @eddieperez23. He looked back at the 1985 Yankees, and I think you will enjoy the result.
As we eagerly await the start of the Yankees title defense in Fenway, I’d like to take a look back and reflect on the team that played 25 years ago, the 1985 Yankees. Most fans remember the ’85 season for Mattingly’s sole MVP award. Others may have a foggy recollection of it being Ron Guidry’s last excellent season (22-6-3.27 ERA-1.10 WHIP), perhaps even Phil Niekro winning his 300th game, Rickey Henderson having the 2nd best season of his HOF career or Yogi Berra getting unceremoniously dumped as manager only 16 games (6-10) into the season. However, what I remember most was witnessing my first pennant race as a Yankee fan, in which without the safety net of a wildcard, the Yankees won the 2nd most games in the AL (97-65) and yet didn’t qualify for the playoffs, finishing behind the Blue Jays (99-63).
On 9/12/85 the Yankees beat the Blue Jays at home to creep to within 1.5 GB, but then dropped three straight to Toronto at Yankee Stadium. The deficit eventually ballooned to 7 GB with only 12 games to play and the Yankees were given up for dead. However, Toronto hit the skids, and paired with Bomber wins in 7 out of 8 games, the Yankees pulled to within 3 games with three to play at Toronto to finish the season. Game 1 the Yankees entered the 9th inning trailing by one run with Tom “the Terminator” Henke in to close it out. Down to their last out, Butch Wynegar, a light hitting catcher with zero power (.223 AVG and 4 HR), hit an improbable game tying homerun and then 3 batters later, Blue Jays CF Lloyd Moseby misplayed a fly ball out into an error, handing the Yankees the go-ahead run (sorry, no pie face, this was on the road). The Yankees won the game 4-3 and visions of a sweep and an improbable one game playoff with Guidry on the mound were dancing in my head. Unfortunately, the next day the Yankees lost 5-1 and the pennant chase was over.
Looking back now the ’85 team was clearly the best single season team that wasn’t a part of either World Series dynasty (late 70s/early 80s or mid 90s/00s). In fact, the ’85 team for the regular season (839 RS/660 RA = +179) was significantly better than both the 1996 (871 RS/787 RA = +84) or 2000 (871 RS/814 RA = +57) championship teams and equal to the 1999 title squad (900 RS/ 731 RA = +169). Furthermore, since 1980 only 6 Yankee teams (’98, ’99, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’09) won more games than the 1985 edition. Nevertheless, without a playoff appearance, despite playing into the last weekend of the season with the AL East at stake and boasting 3 HOFs and 2 other all-time Yankee greats (Donnie and Guidry), the ’85 team toils in relative anonymity.
After looking back, we now look forward to the upcoming season. Will the ‘10 Yankees win more or less than the 97 games the team 25 years ago did? With Boston and Tampa both boasting strong teams, will the ’10 Yankees suffer the same fate the ’85 team did? Let me know what you think.