A big story going into next week’s Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star break is the New York Yankees’ chance to finish the regular season winning more than 70 percent of their games. Led by slugger Aaron Judge and ace pitcher Gerrit Cole, the Bronx Bombers have a record of 61-26 (that’s 61 wins and 26 losses) after Tuesday’s game. That means the Yankees have won 70.1 percent of their games.
Not many teams have played .700 ball or better for a full season. The last team to play .700 ball was the 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers. But the Dodgers played only 60 games because the season was shortened by the coronavirus pandemic. A record of 43-17 is impressive, but it’s more like a couple hot months.
The last team to go .700 for a full season was the Seattle Mariners in 2001 with a record of 116-46 (.716). Most baseball fans have forgotten the Mariners because they didn’t win the World Series. They were a powerhouse. Led by a rookie sensation from Japan, Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle led the big leagues in runs, stolen bases, on-base percentage, earned run average (ERA), shutouts and runs allowed.
The 1998 New York Yankees were almost as good with a 114-48 (.704) record. The Yanks were definitely better in the playoffs as they swept through the post-season with an 11-2 mark. Add it all up and the Yankees won a record 125 games in 1998.
The 1998 Yanks had Hall of Famers such as shortstop Derek Jeter and reliever Mariano Rivera. New York’s secret, however, was that the team was stocked with very good players, such as Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neill, at almost every position.
The 1954 Cleveland Indians were like the 2001 Mariners, great during the regular season but a disappointment in the post-season. Led by three Hall of Fame starting pitchers — Early Wynn, Bob Lemon and Bob Feller — Cleveland posted a 111-43 (.721) mark to run away with the American League pennant. But the team dropped four in a row to the New York Giants to lose the World Series.
For years, the 1927 Yankees were generally considered the best team ever. That season New York posted a 110-44 (.714) mark and boasted legendary stars such as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Ruth blasted a record 60 home runs that year while Gehrig batted .373 and drove in an amazing 173 runs.
There were other .700 teams stretching way back to the 1886 Chicago White Stockings (90-34), 1887 St. Louis Browns (95-40) and 1897 Boston Beaneaters (93-39) when MLB teams played fewer than 162 games.
Can this year’s Yankees join those legendary winning teams? It’s a story to keep your eye on for the rest of the season.