As they’ve done for the last 75 years, the Yankees held their annual Old Timers’ Day on Saturday prior to facing the Milwaukee Brewers and, most importantly, before the rain came.
What made this year’s festivities even more special was the fact that the Yankees were also celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 1998 championship team. Yes, the team that featured the likes of Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and even Darryl Strawberry, and that went on to win the World Series after finishing the regular season 114-48 under manager Joe Torre.
Jeter, Pettitte, Posada and Rivera (otherwise known as the “Core Four” of the Yankees dynasty during that era) gathered together, as well as Torre, to answer questions about memories they had about that championship winning team, the event that is Old Timers’ Day and being a part of it, and to give advice to the current crop of Yankees.
And if it feels like it’s been a long time since all five of those men have been in the same room together, that’s because it is.
“We don’t get together as a group that often, but when we do it feels like we never left each other because we played together since I was 18 years old, all of us played together,” Jeter said. “Even though we don’t see each other it still feels like we’ve been together all this time.”
Of course, for Jeter, this is his first taste of Old Timer’s Day as an old timer and not as a player, although he said he’s in the process of trying to “re-brand” the event because the 49-year-old is not old, just older.
Still, being on the other side of things is just as special for The Captain as it was when he was playing and getting to meet all the Yankee greats and legends.
“The great thing about this organization, they really treasure their history and they bring the players back,” Jeter said. “We’ve just always appreciated building relationships with the ex-players.”
So, now as an ex-player himself, Jeter spoke about what he’s seen from the Yankee rookie shortstop, Anthony Volpe.
“Whether he’s had an up-and-down game or week or month offensively, he doesn’t take it to the defensive side and I think that says a lot about his maturity,” he said. “But he’s gonna get better, it all comes with experience, but yeah I think he’s handled himself. It’s tough to play here in New York when that expectation level is high, but from everything that I can tell, the way he handles himself is what stands out the most.”
Talking to any of the Yankee greats on Saturday, a lot of them mentioned the high expectations that comes with playing in New York, especially for a franchise as storied as the Yankees.
Tino Martinez said it “doesn’t get any better” than playing in New York and that players “should learn to embrace it.” Torre said, “The expectations here are sky high. There’s no getting around it.”
Given that, what did the former Yankees think about this year’s team’s underperformance?
Torre on Aaron Boone’s job as manager and dealing with expectations: “Just from what I get chatting with Boonie and seeing him from time to time, he’s handling it really well. He’s out there, he’s working hard and that’s all you can really do. They’ve had some bad breaks, but that’s not an excuse when you’re a member of the Yankees. You’re expected to win. When he signed up for it, he knew what he was getting into.”
Jeter on how to get things back on track: “Win. I mean it’s that simple. They’re not eliminated. So you go out and you win one game at a time. I think the message I would give is probably the same message that they’re saying to each other in there: you have to take it one day at a time… it’s literally that simple, you win a game.”
It’s not so simple after all, as the Yankees will have to wait another day to put that message to use after falling to the Brewers, 9-2, on Saturday.