Sept. 27th: The New York Yankees have clinched the American League East. A long journey—absolutely. However, to say it was a long time comin', would be an understatement. You see, this team is special.
Throughout the course of the year, the Yankees have done everything right. From spending money, to hearing criticism of the new stadium, and their decisions overall, the Yankees have defied many odds, and have once again, reigned supreme.
Just one year removed from closing out the old stadium with a win, yet no postseason berth, the Yankees began '09 early, feeling the need to feed the beast. The Red Sox & Rays had reigned supreme one year prior, and were coming back with a vengeance. Brian Cashman was quoted as the possibility of signing CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett & Mark Teixeira as "fantasy baseball."
However, the Yankees did what they needed to do to win. Aside from making big moves, the Yankees made little ones as well. This year, more so than any other in recent memory, the success of the Boys from the Bronx is based not only upon the moves in which they made, but the moves which they did not make as well.
Just to refresh everyones memory:
November, 2008: Yankees acquire Nick Swisher for a bag of infield dirt
OK, so the Yankees sent Wilson Betemit for Swisher, but it may have been a bag of dirt. Swisher has been nothing but tremendous for this team. From his attitude in the clubhouse, to his patented 'Swisher Salute' in RF, to his booming power-bat, Swish's attitude, and offense, have been huge to this ballclub.
December/January 2008/09: Yankees sign Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, & AJ Burnett.
CC Sabathia has the most wins in baseball with 19. He has been the definition of an ACE, and the Yankees have arguably not had such a consistent pitcher since Roger Clemens.
AJ Burnett has been a huge big-game pitcher for us, as well as a clubhouse gem. Throughout the months of June & July, a better pitcher, one could not find. One need not be reminded of the performance in the Bronx in August vs. Boston against Beckett.
Mark Teixeira leads the AL in RBI, is second in HR, and has been the best defensive 1B the Yanks have owned since Donny Baseball.
Overall: This move was expensive, but has paid for itself in a few short months.
Spring Training 2009: Joe Girardi says "Let's play pool."
Although not a popular decision at the time, the decision for Girardi to rally his troops and play pool at a local pub has been a very underrated one, in my opinion. This one action, though seemingly small, has led to camaradrie - something the Yankees have permeated the field with all season long.
Spring Training 2009: Alex Rodriguez admits to using steroids
Whether you believe this or not, this story, which monopolized media for weeks, led to the Yankees winning the East. His return not only sparked a 4th place, stagnant lineup, but also led to a refreshed clubhouse. The Yanks are 49-16 at home since his return.
Now, all of these events were placeholders. You all know the obvious: Yankees in fourth place in May, A-Rod returns, Yankees turn around their losing ways. The Yankees have the best record in baseball since A-Rod's return, and have lost 19 games since the All-Star break (another MLB best).
During the Trade Deadline Week, much fuss was made about the Yankees making a monster move. Roy Halladay, Victor Martinez, or even Cliff Lee were potential targets—as the Yanks "couldn't win without help."
Brian Cashman went out, instead, and got Eric Hinske & Jerry Hairston Jr. Chad Gaudin was a late addition, as well. Boston got Victor Martinez. Would the pain vs. Boston ever end? Funny you should ask...
The Yankees began the season 0-8 vs. Boston. They finished 9-9, winning 7 of the 9 at home, and 2 of 3 on the road. That fact, in itself, is remarkable. Think back to the sweep against NY, which Boston had before the break. The Yankees could not buy a victory. AJ Burnett abandoned a 6 run lead. Now, the Red Sox have not won in the Bronx since May. This marks the longest single-season home winning streak vs. Boston since 2001.
You see, countless times this season, the Yankees have proven why they have "people for that."
Naysayers and media alike love questioning the Yankees. "Jeter has lost a step up the middle, Mariano is too old, this TEAM is too old, CC can't pitch in New York, the bullpen isn't good enough, Boston & Tampa Bay are TOO good, Girardi can't handle the pressue, the Yankees have screwed up the JOBA Rules..." Yeah, the list goes on and on...and yeah, the Yankees will keep outplaying you.
The fact is simple: Derek Jeter has not lost anything (51 hits in leadoff situations leads MLB); Mariano Rivera is not too old (has converted last 47 save opps at home—franchise record); CC CAN pitch in New York (he is a CY Young candidate); Boston & Tampa Bay are not that good (18-14 vs. them w/ 3 left to play); the bullpen has HELD this team together (Phil Hughes anyone?); Joba is getting MUCH better; Girardi was the straw that stirred our drink.
In 2009, the Yankees did everything right.
They started off slow.
They rallied around A-Rod.
They picked up steam.
They lost when they should have won (Washington).
They won when they should have lost (14 walk-off wins).
They like each other (Whip-cream pies).
They beat Boston (0-8 to 9-9).
They beat Anaheim (in Anaheim)!
They won at home.
They won when it mattered.
They clinched the division.
They did it at home; they christened the building.
They did it right.
They got a new stadium. They now call it home.
Postseason, anyone? I know I'll be watching...