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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.

16 Responses to “Guest Post: 1985: The Best Yankee Team Between Dynasties”

  1. Great post. As a Yankee fan who was born in 1984, the 80′s are a lost decade for me. I simply don’t know that much about them. Nice to hear about some of those memories.  (Quote)

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    eddieperez23 Reply:

    Thanks Mo. It was fun looking back and “analyzing” the team in ways I never did as a 10 yr old. BTW I think the 2010 Yankees will win exactly the same number of games the ’85 team did 97. But will win the AL East and the Rays will finish in 2nd.

    One more thing about the ’85 season that sticks out to me were the pitching performances of the top 3 Cy Young candidates in the NL that year. Gooden went 24-4/1.54ERA/0.97WHIP, John Tudor finished second at 21-8/1.93ERA/0.94WHIP and Hershiser finished 3rd with a measly 19-3/2.03ERA/1.03WHIP.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/awards_1985.shtml  (Quote)

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  2. Wow, great post. Brings me back to that 85 season as a kid. Its funny because since there was no wild card, there was a glimmer of hope but not as much hope as there should have been leading up to that last series in Toronto. I clearly remember that last 5-1 loss as such a downer. The Yanks really put up no fight. The great thing about Eddie’s post is his breakdown of just how good that team was based on the raw statistics versus some of the great Yankee teams of this generation. I look forward to more of Eddie’s insight as the season rolls along!  (Quote)

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  3. Very good post Eddie…
    Being as I am (I think) the oldest on the two blogs I comment on (over 70), I happen to be state side at the time of those games. I think Frank B had it right…the Yankees just seemed to have run out of gas in that 5-1 loss…they were dragging ass.
    It was an unforgettable battle but, they ran out of ammo…unlike the Yanks last year.  (Quote)

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    eddieperez23 Reply:

    Ken and Frank,
    Thanks. Yeah, we had too much ground to make up and Doyle Alexander completely shut us down who 2 years later was traded for some minor leaguer called John Smoltz. lol …Ken since you do probably go back further than any of us, I’m curious what was your favorite championship and non-playoff Yankee team since you’ve been a fan?  (Quote)

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    Ken (O.R.) Reply:

    Honestly, never thought about it. Give me a day or two, there are a lot of years to think about.
    Second thought, I would say 1952, it was Mickeys first full year (I think).  (Quote)

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  4. Very nice post. I was living in Rochester in ’85, and travelled to Toronto to attend those final three games. The exhilaration and optimism from the improbable first game win–keeping hope alive–dissipated in the following day’s 5-1 loss. That marked Toronto’s first trip to the post season and therefore sparked a massive celebration. I tried to drive through downtown Toronto that night, with traffic barely moving, and now and then someone would notice the New York license plates on my car and we would be treated to roof slapping and trash talk. Game three of the series, the final game of the season, was when Niekro won his 300th, pitching primarily against the Blue Jays’ bench. It was small solace. [Post script: Because he failed to take advantage of previous opportunities, I happened to be at Yankee Stadium the night Roger Clemens won his 300th, meaning I was present on the only two occasions that a pitcher has won number 300 while wearing a Yankees uniform.]  (Quote)

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    eddieperez23 Reply:

    David,

    Nice, both 300 game winners and major props on making the trek out to Toronto. I was just sitting on the living room sofa watching the game and playing with my Transformers between innings. lol
    Looking back, what hurt most about that season is that we never sniffed the playoffs again until the ’94 (and we know what happened there). So, I guess there was some poetic justice that 10 years later we finally made the playoffs by beating the Blue Jays in Toronto on the last day of the season to clinch the WC in ’95. BTW Ed Whitson being a bust FA signing was a big reason we didn’t win the division. BTW this I’m kind of foggy on but didn’t he get into a fight with Billy Martin that year?  (Quote)

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    David CT Yankee Reply:

    Yes, Whitson was a huge disappointment and his failure to pitch well for the Yankees was a major reason they didn’t make it.You’re right about the fight, which happened in a hotel somewhere. I think that Martin started it (real surprise there), and he definitely came out on the losing end, with a broken arm and some other injuries.  (Quote)

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  5. Nicely done Eddie. I was in my Senior year of High School (on Long Island) that year and while the Yanks had a big year, the Mets were coming on like a freight train. I got into more arguments with Mets fans over who had the better 1B, best #1 pitcher, closer, etc etc. Back then, Yankees fans were the 2nd class citizens and Mets fans were the ones on top.  (Quote)

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    eddieperez23 Reply:

    Steve,

    Thanks. Yeah mid and late 80s NY was a Met town…hard to believe, huh?!. Its funny how Met fans cherish the ’85 team (98 wins and no playoffs), while Yankee fans (other than myself and a handful of others) barely remember the ’85 team. Speaks to the disparity in history between the 2 clubs.

    …Speaking of mid 80s, back in ’86, I had yet to develop a hatred for the Red Sox, so in the ’86 series I hate to admit it, but I actually rooted for Bos, b/c all my friends in school were bandwagon Met fans. In retrospect though, I’m glad the Mets won.  (Quote)

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  6. Great post, Eddie.

    PS: Aren’t you a Mets fan though?  (Quote)

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    eddieperez23 Reply:

    Not even close, but as I mentioned above, I am happy you beat Bos in ’86.  (Quote)

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  7. Well done Eddie. That ’85 team was just a year or two before my time, but having caught Mattingly, Winfield, Henderson, and Guidry on their way out of town or out of excellence, I wish I’d been able to catch them at their peak that year.

    Looking back all these years later and looking at the game the way we do now, I can’t help but wonder if keeping Righetti in the rotation might have made the difference that year.

    One last point: I’d take my chances with the ’94 team against the ’85 team.  (Quote)

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    eddieperez23 Reply:

    Matt,

    Thanks. Great point. The Achilles heel of the ‘85 team was its SP. They had several RP pitch excellent but when Joe Cowley/Whitson /Rasmussen the 3-4-5 it shows how strong our offense and bullpen were. Perhaps Rags as a starter could’ve been the difference though I think that was already his 2nd year in the pen.

    With regards to ‘94 vs ‘85 it really close. If you pro-rate run differential the ”94 is slightly better, (960 RS 766RA = +194). But the ‘94 starting staff may actually have been worse than the ‘85 team. After JKey (say Guidry cancels him out), the next 4-5 starters were, JAbbott, MPerez, TMulholland, and Kameinicki (ugly).

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/NYY/1994.shtml

    But I agree close. Maybe if someone has some Sim software we can let them square off. lol  (Quote)

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  8. Great post! GO YANKEES!  (Quote)

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