The 2009 World Series: The Right Two Teams Are in It
As it has been pitted, it's cheesecake vs cheesesteak. The City That Never Sleeps vs The City of Brotherly Love. Girardi vs Manuel. A-Rod vs Ryan Howard. CC Sabathia vs Cliff Lee.
It might be a moot point, but who wouldn't want to see the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees playing tonight?
I mean, you have one American League team in its 40th title series, winning 27 since 1923. The other team beat the up-start Tampa Bay Rays last year in the 2008 World Series, ending a 28-year drought.
Both teams seemed evenly matched, although word has it that the New York Yankees have had Mystique and Aura on lock ever since the early 20th century. Plus, over $400 million in free agents and current players on its current roster.
Unlike other sports organizations, the Yankees have found a winning formula in getting some of the most sought-after stars since they obtained the Bambino, George Herman "Babe" Ruth in the early 1920s.
Shockingly, the team from the Boogie Down Bronx has won a World Series title in every decade from the days of the Babe to Derek Jeter, except for the 1980s. (In that decade, the Yanks did play in the 1981 World Series, but lost to the eventual champs, the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-2.)
With George Steinbrenner no longer running the show with characters played by Karl Malden and his sons, he seems to have hit the jackpot this year with CC Sabathia (3-0, 1.19 ERA in postseason), AJ Burnett, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher in the line-up.
And unlike Mr. Steady, captain Derek Jeter, holder of four rings, it has been Alex Rodriguez who has not choked this postseason.
Despite a clumsy admission to taking steroids via a cousin, during his stint with the Texas Rangers; an operation in the spring to remove a cyst in his right hip, which sidelined him earlier in April and May; and a nasty period of marital/extramarital problems, he provided a lot of spark more in the 2009 ALDS and ALCS, leading the team in home runs and RBI.
The new Yankee Stadium, too, has inherited the good times of the old (57-24 record in its inaugural season, a 70.4 percent winning percentage), with many more wins, championships, and lore to follow. Citizens Bank Park in Philly, built in 2004, has been a harbinger of victories, too, with 269 since its debut six seasons ago.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has come back to New York (played during the 1996-1999 seasons) as the skipper, after a good year with the Florida Marlins. So far, he's already won his first A.L. East division, and first pennant.
He can also be viewed as a good replacement for the venerable Joe Torre, especially seeing that in his second year alone, with great talent in every facet of the game around him, his team finished with 103 wins and 59 losses, the best record in the 2009 season.
Only time will tell whether he can win deep into October (and November, if push comes to shove) like his predecessor, or be regarded as just a micro-manager who ruined the Yankees' chance of sweeping the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a critical Game Three on the road that New York lost in extra innings.
The Phillies are a team far different in appearance than that of the 1993 Dukes of Hazzard squad that reached the October finale and lost to Toronto, 4-2. There's no John Kruk, no Lenny Dystra. There's no Curt Shilling, Darren Daulton, or Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams as closer either. No "Macho Row."
The current Phils who are the reigning champs do not play as the Bullies of Broadway like their hockey counterparts, but look good, if not great, in both their starting pitching and batting line-up.
They have an avuncular, chummy, old-school manager in Charlie Manuel, whose blunt yet winning ways pushed the team against all odds not only into the playoffs last year, but into the World Series, which they won, 4-1, over Tampa Bay.
First baseman Ryan Howard, finished his fourth straight year of at least 40 home runs and 130 RBI. The 2009 MVP of the NLCS has been just as hot as A-Rod this postseason, hitting two homers against the Dodgers, and 14 RBI overall.
The Phillies look to be dominant in pitching, with the 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels (struggling a bit, and demoted as ace pitcher), a rejuvenated, 38-year-old Pedro Martinez and mid-season newcomer Cliff Lee, the former Cleveland Indian southpaw, who seems to be moving forward since the trade.
But closer Brad Lidge is not as commanding as he was last year, unable to find his delivery, blowing a few saves this season.
In addition, the Philadelphia team includes shortstop Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Pedro Feliz in the infield. They also have Ryan Madson and Joe Blanton on the pitching staff. And Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth may be the intangibles that keep the team going.
When it comes to the postseason, all regular season stats are thrown out of the window. The pressure to perform at your utmost is defined at best right here, right now. Ask the pre-2009 A-Rod.
So, with a rich and strong team like the Yankees, who finally stacked the team well in both batting and pitching, mixed youth and veteran know how, versus the Phillies, a team that made sensible trades at the right time to come back into the spotlight, look for a long-lasting, entertaining match-up every single game.
The Yankees seem to have the upper hand, and may win the Series in six. But it's anybody's game, and I say the Phillies win their second straight title in seven. We'll see.
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