Since everything else the New York Yankees have done this year has been compared to 1998, it's only fair to point out the 1999 Yankees were as good as--if not better than--they were last year in the first round of the playoffs.

The reigning World Series champions wrapped up their second straight first-round sweep of the Texas Rangers with a 3-0 victory Saturday night. New York allowed one run in three games--just like last year--while scoring 14, five more than last year.

"It's incredible," Yankees Manager Joe Torre said. "Last year we did the same thing, and I remember saying this was the toughest series for us because you don't want to go through this ballclub again."

Best of all, the Yankees did it without playoff ace David Cone breaking a sweat.

Cone would have started Game 4 against Texas. Instead, he'll likely pitch the opener of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium against either Cleveland or Boston.

"We're throwing the ball well, and our best money pitcher hasn't even come out of the bag yet," Game 3 winner Roger Clemens said. "It'll be interesting to see what spark he gives us."

New York, which has won 10 straight postseason games, used first-round victories over Texas as a springboard to World Series titles in 1996 and '98.

But the hunt for a third title in four years and 25th overall carries the added burden of following one of baseball's best teams ever. The '98 Yankees won 114 regular season games and swept San Diego in the World Series. Bettering last year's 11-2 playoff run won't be easy, but sweeping Texas at least makes it possible.

"Guys are just determined to get it done, whether it's going to get a ball or cut a ball off," Clemens said. "That's what these games are about now."