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'Like Yanks of old': '98 greats high on '18 club

Rivera, Posada, Williams, Wells excited to see if team can win World Series
MLB.com @_dadler

The 1998 Yankees were one of the most dominant teams in Major League Baseball history. And they're excited to see if the 2018 Yankees can follow in their footsteps.

Many of the key members of the '98 team -- a 114-win juggernaut that started a three-peat of Bronx Bomber World Series championships -- reunited in Manhattan on Thursday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of David Wells' perfect game on May 17, 1998, at Yankee Stadium.

The 1998 Yankees were one of the most dominant teams in Major League Baseball history. And they're excited to see if the 2018 Yankees can follow in their footsteps.

Many of the key members of the '98 team -- a 114-win juggernaut that started a three-peat of Bronx Bomber World Series championships -- reunited in Manhattan on Thursday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of David Wells' perfect game on May 17, 1998, at Yankee Stadium.

With Wells hosting, teammates Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and David Cone and manager Joe Torre were all in attendance. As they looked back on their own dynasty, the parallels to the current, up-and-coming Yankees were only natural.

"It's a very exciting team," Posada said Thursday. "It looks like the Yankees of old. They don't die. They keep coming, even though sometimes they can't reach. But they look like they're hungry. It's a lot of fun to watch."

Video: Wells, teammates reflect on on legendary perfect game

Like the late-'90s teams, today's Yankees are led by homegrown stars -- the Baby Bombers, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, and ace Luis Severino. They have bright young talents coming up -- Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar and more. It's reminiscent of how the New York team of 20 years ago was constructed around the Core Four of Rivera, Posada, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte.

"It's amazing to see the boys playing day in and day out," Rivera said of the 2018 Yankees. "These guys, they're young, but they're electrifying. They want to win, they want to play, and it seems like they enjoy it. That's what I like."

This year's team looks like a powerhouse in the early goings. Heading into Friday's series opener in Kansas City, New York is 28-12 with a a Major League-best .700 winning percentage.

"Hopefully they can keep going and keep going the way they are," Posada said. "We had a hell of a pitching staff; they have a hell of a pitching staff. Their bullpen is amazing -- I think this bullpen is probably better than the '98 team. So I'm looking forward to the year. Hopefully October comes around and everything keeps clicking."

Of course, the 2018 Yankees are a long way from October and even longer from the World Series. Until then, the lines drawn between them and the '98 team only indicate their potential.

"We're talking about a team that already won. They're actually in that battle right now," Williams said. "Time will tell. ... On paper, they look like they can kick some rear end this year and then years into the future. But they still have to do it.

"We're in the position that we can look in hindsight and say, 'We were a great team and have the history to prove it.' They're actually trying to make their mark on the game right now, and I think it would be kind of unfair to make that kind of comparison right now at this point. Ask me the same question at the end of the season, and I'll probably have a different answer."

The 2018 Yankees look like they have a sky-high ceiling, but they still have to reach it. So hold the phone on the comparisons to '98 -- for now.

"Not yet. Season isn't over. No, no, no, it's way too soon," Wells said. "At the end of the year, the record will speak for itself, but they've got a hell of a team right now.

"But from '95, '96 on, when Derek and Jorge and Bernie and those guys came up, that's a tough task to beat. Those guys were solid. Derek, how he just came into his own and he embraced New York -- he wasn't afraid of anything. That's the mentality you've got to go in with, and that's why you stay. Because when you have that core of guys that work together, it's endless what you can do."

Still the early returns this season are promising to say the least. The Yankees have followed up strongly on the success of last year's team that got to within a game of the World Series before falling to the eventual champion Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. They have a strong pitching staff and a loaded lineup that added reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton.

"I would probably venture to say they're more potent offensively than us," Williams said. "I think we were more of a group of consistent hitters all across the board. … There were no easy outs in the lineup, but at the same time there was not a big bopper that you could say, 'We're gonna hang our hopes on this guy and he's gonna hit a five-run home run and he's gonna save the game.'"

Differences aside, Williams said he hopes the 2018 Yankees might be the ones who bring New York its first championship since 2009.

"I still feel like I'm a Yankee at heart. I want the team to do well no matter what," Williams said. "So I hope that this new generation of players, everybody that's coming in, are in the same boat mentally and attitude-wise, and this could be the start of something great happening for the franchise again."

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

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