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The Road To 11: Will 2009 Be The Year For the Yankees?

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst IOctober 5, 2009

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 27:  Manager Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees celebrates after his team defeated the Boston Red Sox on September 27, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees won the game 4-2 to earn their 100th win of the season as well as clinching the American League Eastern Division.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Yankees won 103 games in the 2009 regular season and are back in the playoffs after an absence from postseason baseball in 2008.

The last time the Yankees were the number one seed in 2006, they were ousted by the Detroit Tigers in four games in the American League Division Series.

The last time the Yankees were in the World Series was in 2003, where they were virtually exhausted and spent from fighting off the Red Sox in seven games and lost to the Florida Marlins in six games.

And the last time the Yankees won a World Series was in 2000, where they defeated the New York Mets in five games when they were under the Joe Torre era and the team was known as "The Yankee Dynasty Team."

A lot has changed in nine years; Joe Girardi has gone from Yankees catcher to Yankees manager, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett are the one-two Yankees punch in the rotation and not Roger Clemens and David Wells, and Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are the key power hitters, and not Bernie Williams and Paul O'Neill.

Though some things are still the same; Derek Jeter is still at shortstop, Jorge Posada is still the starting catcher, Andy Pettitte is still in the starting rotation and Mariano Rivera is still the closer. So some of the Yankees' championship pedigree that was in 2000 is here in 2009, which is good for experience in pressure situations.

So here is the burning question that everyone in Yankees Universe is wondering: Will 2009 be the year the Yankees break the championship drought and win the World Series?

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If 2009 was any sign of how the Yankees play under pressure, then October may be a better month for the Yankees than in recent times.

They won an amazing 15 games via walk-off fashion at home. In recent years , the Yankees didn't have that kind of fight and will to win. Now, if a game is tied or if the team is behind and it goes into the final innings, people know the Yankees will fight like hell to win the games and win by any means.

The Yankees pitching staff at times faltered and broke down under Chien-Ming Wang, Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright and couldn't ever rely on Carl Pavano to pitch a big game for them. Mike Mussina did his best for the Yankees in the playoffs, but he had his good games and his bad games.

2009 has a newer, younger, and tougher staff. Pettitte is still the experienced starter with 14 career playoff wins and four World Series championships under his belt.

Sabathia hasn't had the best playoff record with the Indians and Brewers, but he never had an offense behind him like the Yankees have. However, if it weren't for Sabathia carrying them in the month of September 2008, the Brewers don't make the playoffs.

A.J. Burnett has thrown a ton of strikeouts in his first year for the Yankees, but he has never pitched in the postseason. But in big games in the regular season, like against the Red Sox, Mets, and Angels, Burnett stepped up and pitched well.

After Burnett's ninth loss back in September, he went to the video and tried to figure out what was wrong with his mechanics, which he thinks he figured out, meaning he could end up being very good this October.

The offense will need to play even tougher than it ever has in 2009. Jeter and Johnny Damon have had playoff success, as has Posada and Hideki Matsui.

Teixeira has only played in one postseason, which was in 2008 against the Red Sox while playing with the Angels, but he played very well in that series and must continue that trend because he is an important hitter in the Yankees lineup.

Two players that must improve their playoff performances are Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.

Cano is a career .245 hitter in three playoff appearances when normally he is a .300 hitter. In 2007, he was one of the few Yankees who played well in the ALDS against the Indians. Cano was also one of the Yankee hitters who had a couple walk-off wins in 2009, so he must continue to improve and work on clutch-hitting.

Rodriguez has had a very shaky postseason career with the Yankees. In 2005, he hit .133 with five strikeouts against the Angels. In 2006, he hit .071 with four strikeouts against the Tigers. In 2007, he hit .267 with six strikeouts against the Indians. During those last three series, he hit only one home run.

A-Rod is the Yankees strongest and most dangerous hitter and they need him to perform well in the worst way. He hit his share of walk-off home runs in 2009 and he looks like a more focused hitter and player who hasn't said or done anything stupid after a rough offseason.

Who knows, maybe dating Kate Hudson hasn't been so terrible, after all. Whatever the case may be, A-Rod needs to keep his focus in order to have a good October.

The Yankees opponent in the ALDS has yet to be determined as the Tigers and Twins will play a one-game playoff to determine the AL Central Champion, who will travel to New York to play them in the first round.

Whoever the Yankees opponent is on Wednesday, the Yankees must play together like they have throughout the season and work to get 11 victories and a championship in 2009.

The road to 11 starts now. How does that road travel for the Yankees? Soon, we will all find out.

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