Which New York Yankees rocked the 1990s?
MLB lockout negotiations are ongoing, and it’s now time to look back on every New York Yankees fan’s favorite era: the 1990s.
For the past few days, we’ve been looking at the best Yankees players by decade and ranking the top ten players based on WAR (per Baseball-Reference).
We’ve covered the 21st century already. Now, it’s time for the prime Core Four years and the best Yankees WAR players from the 1990s.
1. Bernie Williams — 39.8 (1991-00)
Every New York Yankees fan loved Bernie Williams. The switch-hitting center fielder was sometimes the perfect balance of power and contact, taking home the 1998 AL batting title with a .338 batting average. Williams also took home his four career Gold Gloves during this stretch and also proved a Mr. October of sorts in his own right, batting .277 with 11 playoff home runs from 1995-00.
2. Derek Jeter — 28.0 (1995-00)
A journey starts with a single step, and so did Derek Jeter’s Hall of Fame career in Seattle on May 30, 1995. The single was just the beginning as Jeter was named AL Rookie of the Year the following year and also won the first of four World Series rings in the decade. Jeter also hit .322 over his first six seasons, setting the tone for more success down the road.
3. Paul O’Neill — 26.2 (1993-00)
Paul O’Neill was traded to the Yankees ahead of the 1993 season, and the energy he brought with him made him the heart and soul of the team. The Warrior hit .359 to win the AL batting crown in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign and also made four All-Star teams. Best of all, O’Neill won four of his five career World Series rings in pinstripes.
4. Andy Pettitte — 25.3 (1995-00)
In Andy Pettitte’s case, a journey started with a single stare. The tall lefty debuted in 1995 and followed with a 21-win season in ’96. Pettitte also pitched 8.1 innings in a crucial Game 5 in the 1996 World Series, a game New York won 1-0. Pettitte also got the win in the clinching Game 4 of the 1998 Series.
5. David Cone — 20.3 (1995-00)
Watch footage of Cone pitching for any team, and you’ll become obsessed with pitching. He came to New York in a trade with Toronto in 1995 and made an immediate impact, going 64-40 with a 3.91 ERA as a Yankee. On top of throwing a perfect game in 1999, Cone also won an MLB-best 20 games in 1998 and won four rings in the Bronx. Even more impressive is that he did this after surgery to treat an aneurysm in his shoulder in 1996.
6. Wade Boggs — 18.3 (1993-97)
Boggs riding on horseback after the Yankees won the World Series capped the magic of the 1996 season, but the Chicken Man was more than just quirks. After defecting from Boston in free agency, Boggs hit .313 as a Yankee and won the only two Gold Gloves of his career. The veteran third baseman also returned to a standing ovation in 1998, this time as a member of his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
7. Mariano Rivera — 17.7 (1995-00)
In a three-year span, Mariano Rivera went from failed starter to star setup man to future Hall of Fame closer. The Sandman was so dominant as a reliever that he finished third in AL Cy Young voting in 1996. In 1999, he led the majors with 45 saves and was also World Series MVP.
8. Jimmy Key — 13.5 (1993-96)
Jimmy Key signing in free agency before the 1993 season showed the New York Yankees were serious about winning again. He won 18 games and led the majors with 17 wins in 1994 before the strike. Shoulder surgery ended his 1995 season early and robbed him of his effectiveness from then on, but all wasn’t lost. Key was the winning pitcher in the clinching Game 6 of the 1996 World Series.
9. Tino Martinez — 12.9 (1996-00)
Don Mattingly retired after the 1995 season, and acquiring Martinez from the Seattle Mariners in a trade made for transition smoother than Favre-to-Rodgers. His four World Series rings with the Yankees aside, Martinez slugged a career-high 44 home runs in 1997 and finished second behind former teammate Ken Griffey Jr. in MVP voting. Martinez’s clutch grand slam in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series capped a great comeback win, and he won the 1997 Home Run Derby.
10. Mike Stanley — 12.8 (1992-95, ’97)
Mike Stanley didn’t do much with the Yankees, but his Bronx story is still a good one. After signing with New York in 1992 and backing up Matt Nokes, Stanley became the starter the following year and had a career year, batting .305 with 26 homers and 84 RBI at age 30. He was batting .300 before the players’ strike in 1994, and earned his only All-Star nod in 1995. Stanley then bounced around for the rest of his career, but returned to New York via a late-season trade in 1997 and played in 28 games.