With all the cards now on the table, and the trophy safe in Derek Jeter's arms, the overwhelming majority of fans are going to remember 2009 as the year Alex Rodriguez broke out in October, and call that the Reason they won. And in the grand scheme of things, they won't be completely wrong—but they won't be entirely right, either.
Over the fifteen postseason games that the Yankees had to play to win their 27th world championship, they got thirteen starts of six innings or more out of their three starting pitchers. The last two were the shortest starts, surely a sign of impending fatigue at the end of a long road, but there can be no doubt that Andy Pettitte would have gotten Pedro Feliz to end the sixth inning if Joe Girardi had left him in.
The total postseason stats for these three starters break down as follows: 94.1 innings pitched, 36 earned runs (3.43 ERA - first overall), 81 strikeouts (7.72 K/9 - third overall), and a .221 batting average against (first overall).
Joe Girardi's plan to start his best three pitchers on short rest in the World Series looked risky even to me, the unofficial chairman of the BleacherReport Andy Pettitte Fan Club, at the beginning of this series.
And I don't think it's going to work the same way a second time around.
If the Yankees re-sign Pettitte (to not make an attempt would be unthinkable), and the Yankees' Big Three are back atop the rotation next season, there are still a whole lot of questions regarding the last two spots in the starting rotation.
Chien-Ming Wang was horrendous coming off of his injury, then re-injured himself just as he looked like he was ready to return to form.
Phil Hughes was a better fit in the bullpen. So was Alfredo Aceves. So, when he finally returned there, was Joba Chamberlain. And either Chamberlain or Hughes is going to get tabbed as Heir Apparent one of these days, for when the World's Most Interesting Man decides he's ready to retire.
In the lineup, the contracts of Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, two of the four bats that stayed hot long enough to win the Yankees the title, are up. Between the two of them, $24 million comes off the Yankees (imaginary) cap number. Both players are over the age of 35.
Matt Holliday will command $15 million or more to play left field. Bobby Abreu will command similar numbers in the free agent market—and he's as old as Damon.
The answer, my friends, is to bring the next generation of bats up from the farm system. Juan Miranda and Austin Jackson should be allowed the chance to win starting roles in spring training. The Yankees will score runs, even with (gasp!) two rookies in the lineup.
And with $24 million available to play with, Brian Cashman can get the final piece to the Yankees' next dynasty:
It's the best move, and the only one that makes a lick of sense. Signing Lackey for, say, $17-$19 million per for five years gives the Yankees the best four-man rotation seen since the Koufax/Drysdale/Podres/Miller tandem of the 1963 Dodgers.
Lackey's presence gives Hughes and Chamberlain more time to mature, so that when Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera retire, there are home-grown big-game pitchers waiting in the wings.
It gives the Yankees some much-needed Wang insurance in case he breaks down again. It gives them insurance for Andy Pettitte, too, in case his age and workload start to dull his effectiveness.
It kills the Angels dead. We pick up two wins a season for the next five years, just by not having to face him.
Oh, and we repeat. In fact, our ceiling, if Pettitte is still strong, and Wang returns at close to his old form, is about 142 wins and three series sweeps. We'll score a few less runs, and we'll give up a few less, and everything will look pretty much exactly the same.
Anyone who saw Lackey screaming at Mike Scioscia when he came to get him in Game Five of the ALCS knows he's the kind of guy you want on your team. Another warrior, perhaps an even more perfect compliment to C.C. Sabathia than Burnett, if only because of his consistency. A guy who faced down a World Series Game Seven and found a way to win—in his rookie year.
This is our guy.
Go get him, Cash.
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