In the end, it was Mariano Rivera on the mound as his teammates rushed after him to celebrate the Yankees' 2009 Pennant. Rivera pitching to Posada in the ninth inning of a series clincher. How fitting. The scene was reminiscent of the glory days. A decade ago when it seem legit that Derek Jeter may someday have 10 rings.
And there was Rivera, Posada, Jeter and Andy Pettitte, the "Core Four." Flashbacks of the late '90s, when they were all much younger. Wow! Has it been that long? Was I really 24 years old the last time the Yankees won a World Series?
At the time, a Yankees championship was taken for granted. It was another page in the calender. When Halloween rolled around, the Yankees had just finished another parade down 5th Avenue.
But nearly 10 years later, the Core Four are still performing like champions. And last night, they got one final step closer.
The ALCS against the Angels, the Yankees got the monkey off their back, in so many ways. The Angels had owned the Yankees since 2002, both in the regular season and again in the postseason. The Yankees haven't been to the World Series since 2003.
The Yankees defeated the Angels 4-2 in a drama-filled series with Games Two and Three going extra innings. But what will be remembered most, was how Joe Girardi managed games.
But now it's all said and done, and Girardi in his first postseason as a manager, is 7-2. Not too shabby considering the Yankees swept the hottest team in baseball going into the playoffs, the Twins, and needed only six games to finish off one of the best teams in baseball, the Angels.
It's the postseason, it's New York, every move is greatly dissected by people who hadn't played the game for at least 20 years, or probably never of played the game at all. Girardi never panic button. He managed every game of the series like he did every game of the year. He managed the way that won his team 103 games.
Nobody criticized Girardi until after the fact. The middle relief, which was a huge part of the team's success, failed a couple of times against the Angels. You're in a championship series. You're playing a great team, you can't win em all. After Game Three, Girardi said if a manager never made a mistake, his team would win a 162 games.
Everytime Girardi went to the bullpen, he was criticized. He was criticized when he didn't go to the bullpen. It's the Playoffs, what manager doesn't dig deep into his bullpen for the best possible matchup?
He was first questioned in last night's game during the bottome of the fourth. And yet this was the inning the Yankees came to life and scored three runs to take over the game. With runners on first and second, no one out and the nine hole hitter at the plate.
Conventional wisdom calls for a bunt in this situation. That's exactly what Girardi did with Melky Cabrera, and it worked perfectly. The Yankees had the tying and go ahead runs in scoring position with one out and the leadoff hitter coming to the plate.
Yes, Melky was batting over .400 for the series, but if anything, that just meant he wasn't due for a hit. No one would have been surprised to seem him hit into a double play in and kill the inning. Girardi did what every other professional manager would have done. And it paid off.
By the time the eighth inning came around, the New York media were praising Girardi. He went with his best weapon, Rivera, to seal the deal, and that paid off. The bottom of the eighth, he called two sacrifice bunts on consecutive batters. How did that turn out? Pure genius, huh.
And don't forget it was Girardi's call to go with a three-man rotation. Does anyone praise that move? No.
And Joe Torre will be watching from home.
So now it's on! The two best teams in baseball will play for all the marbles. The way it should be.
It's cheesecake vs. cheese steak. Broadway vs. Broad Street. CC Sabathia vs. Cliff Lee, that's gotta hurt Cleveland.
Some notes for the World Series.
Derek Jeter has played in 132 postseason games, the entire Phillies franchised has played a total of 83 postseason games.
The Yankees led the league with 244 homeruns. The Phillies were tied for second with 224 homeruns. So expect the long ball.
The Yankees batted .283 for the season, the Phillies .258.
I'm taking the Yankees in six.