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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Back Where They Belong

The team from the Bronx is used to this. This feeling — that of towering head and shoulders above the competition — is one they grew accustomed to, sometime between Championship number 1 and 26. On Nov. 4th, 2009, after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3 in game 6, the New York Yankees once again stand as the best team in baseball.

This moment was a long time coming, and begs us to rewind.

Sunday, Nov. 4, 2001, was a day of historic implications for the two teams participating in the World Series. The 4-year old Arizona Diamondbacks were looking to become the fastest expansion team to win the Fall Classic. The experienced New York Yankees sought their fourth straight title since they recorded a four-peat from 1949 to 1953. It was the Bronx Bombers’ core players-Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, and Rivera-alongside Chuck Knoblauch, Paul O’Neill, Alfonso Soriano, Tino Martinez, Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens that had its fans giddy with excitement. Another four-peat was not a far gone conclusion.

On the other hand, D-Back fans knew just how close they were from stunning the baseball world. It would take a valiant effort to dethrone the kings in pinstripes, and, if one took a look at the Arizona roster, there were some rays of hope. Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson both had over 20 wins and earned run averages under three during the regular season. Luis Gonzalez, a fan favorite, had 57 regular-season home runs.

So, which team would capitalize on the momentum they had gained from winning the first two rounds of the playoffs? History said the Yankees would. Even when they were unexpectedly down 2-0, they came right back to win three on their home turf. The momentum was back in their favor but not for long. One game, a desperation sixth game, was all Arizona needed to get back into the thick of things and force a seventh one.

That would force Arizona manager Bob Brenly to start Schilling on three days’ rest. The move backfired late into the game and, unconventionally, Brenly brought out Johnson, who had pitched well the previous night in game six. He took the mound in the top of the eighth with two outs to keep the Yankees, leading 2-1, at bay for the rest of the game. Once Johnson got out of the inning, Yankees skipper Joe Torre matched his opponent’s move and brought in closer Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the eighth for a two-inning save.

What was originally a blueprint for success was a recipe for disaster. Rivera had done the unthinkable: blown a save, the second of his postseason career. Although he blew one in 1997 in game four of the 1997 division series against the Cleveland Indians, he had saved 23 straight postseason games until 2001. Rivera cost the Yankees and allowed the Diamondbacks to defuse the Bombers.

From that point on, the Yankees have appeared in the World Series only once. In 2003, even with Aaron Boone’s memorable walk-off, game seven home run against the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, they could not surge ahead. The Yanks lost to the Florida Marlins in six games, losing at home for the first time since 1981.

They’ve also made some personnel changes. All the players mentioned earlier have either retired or joined another squad. However, the core four from the glory days still remains. Derek Jeter is not only the all-time hits leader among shortstops but also among all Yankees; Jorge Posada, alongside Yogi Berra, is the only Yankees catcher to hit 30 home runs in a season; Andy Pettitte is the all-time postseason wins leader and series-clinching wins leader;
Mariano Rivera is the all-time regular season and postseason saves leader.

In 2004, the Yankees acquired Alex Rodr’iacute;guez from the Texas Rangers, who switched from his natural shortstop position to third base to accommodate Derek Jeter. The 12-time all-star is tied for ninth with Mark McGwire in career, regular-season home runs. Other key players that have joined the team and are still on it include Johnny Damon, Robinson Cano and Hideki ‘Godzilla’ Matsui.

Joe Torre, who managed the Yankees from 1996 to 2007, has moved on to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers. He left the team after refusing a contract that would reduce his base salary because of the Yankees’ seven-year World Series title drought. Joe Girardi, a former Yankees catcher, has been manager ever since. In his first year as manager, the team missed the playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons.

Then the 2009 season rolled along. The Yankees shed about $90 million from their payroll to acquire three big names: starting pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira. And, even though ‘The Boss’ George Steinbrenner handed control over to his son, Hal, money was still not an issue. The players’ combined contractual salaries are just about $424 million. New faces, new stadium, same fans.

After 162 games, the Yankees won a league best 103 and were the first team to clinch a playoff berth. Fans’ worries about a season bust were put to rest. The Yankees finally had the dominant pitching and defense that they were missing in previous seasons to make a playoff run and take their place as baseball’s champions once again.

They swept through the Minnesota Twins in the divisional round and beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, setting up a World Series matchup against the defending champions, the Phillies.
In the grand scheme of things, the Yankees played their cards right and hit the jackpot. They’ve overcome two slumps: getting to the World Series and winning it. A 7-3 final was the result of potent power and pitching, fueled by Hideki Matsui’s WS record 6 RBIs and five and two third solid innings from Andy Pettite.

For the first time in 5 years, the WS has reached 6 games, and for the first time in 7 years, the Yanks have reached the summit of baseball’s treacherous mountain.

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