David's Reviews > The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty: The Game, the Team, and the Cost of Greatness

The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty by Buster Olney
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Aug 01, 2009

really liked it

The Yankees from 1996-2001 are arguably the only baseball team since the introduction of the free agent system that can be called a dynasty. Their achievements during that time – multiple World Series, two perfect games, one of the winningest records in all of baseball – make some argue that this was the greatest Yankee team of all time, surpassing the great teams of Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio. But what made the team what it was?

In “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty,” sportswriter Buster Olney tries answering this question by chronicling the team’s recent history. With great sources and an eye for telling anecdotes, Olney explains how the team was built from the ground up by Gene Michael and Buck Showalter, how the right personalities fit together (in particular, Derek Jeter, David Cone, and Tino Martinez), and how Joe Torre and George Steinbrenner, each in their own way, guided the team to victory. Olney also takes care to examine the group psychology of the organization and how a team that was not made up of superstars, with the possible exception of Mariano Rivera, nonetheless defined baseball excellence in the late ’90s.

Yankee haters may scoff at explanations that involve Yankee grassroots and team psychology and point instead to the many ways that the team gets unfair advantages over other teams (the New York media market, for one), but ultimately, Olney explains, a team is made up of its players, and these players knew how to get the most out of themselves and each other. Whatever unfair advantages they had could just as well be explained by Branch Rickey’s elegant saying about baseball that “luck is the residue of design.” Though today’s Yankee fans may be dismayed by the team’s performance since the 2001 World Series, they can at least take comfort in an organization that knows how to generate success.
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