When the Yankees finished 89-73 and in third place of the American League East division, it found them out of the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
It was a tough thing to swallow for the Yankee fans, players and management. Which is why general manager Brian Cashman vowed changes. Changes for the better.
In November, the Yankees got cracking on how to fix their roster for the better.
Nick Swisher: Acquired from the Chicago White Sox for Wilson Betemit and two minor leaguers on Nov. 13, 2008
This may go down as one of the greatest steals in Yankee trading history. All the Yankees gave up was utilityman Wilson Betemit and two minor leaguers in exchange for Swisher.
At the time, Swisher was possibly going to play first base and right field while splitting time with Xavier Nady. A month later, the Yankees got their every day first basemen, so Swisher's duties for 2009 were moved to being the fourth outfielder. But because Nady went down with a season-ending elbow injury, Swisher became the everyday right fielder.
With Nady out, and Alex Rodriguez out the first month of the season recovering from hip surgery, Swisher carried the offensive load for the Yankees early on and became an instant fan favorite. Swisher ended up hitting .249 with 29 home runs and 82 RBI, but it was his attitude and enthusiasm that changed the Yankees.
Swisher was the laid-back, easy going guy with a smile on his face and loving life to the fullest. He turned up music in the clubhouse, which Joe Girardi praised him for and told him to continue. The Yankees were once seen as a business-style type team, but in 2009, Swisher helped change that around for the better.
CC Sabathia: Signed a seven-year, $161 million contract on Dec. 18, 2008
This was the pitcher Cashman needed to have after balking to trade for Johan Santana a year ago.
On the first day of free agency, the Yankees opened their offer for Sabathia with a $120 million offer, but Sabathia didn't give the Yankees an answer right away. After hearing the Giants, Dodgers, and Angels were going to be offering Sabathia a contract, Cashman showed his persistence by upping the offer to $161 million, which Sabathia accepted.
As the new ace of the Yankees, Sabathia went 19-8, throwing 230 innings and striking out 197 batters and was in contention for the Cy Young Award.
Off the field, Sabathia became an instant leader. During spring training, he took guys like Joba Chamberlain and Chien-Ming Wang to an Orlando Magic basketball game. During April, Sabathia sprung for a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of tickets to see a Cavaliers playoff game, where nearly the entire team went.
On the field and off the field, Sabathia was already establishing himself as a leader.
A.J. Burnett: Signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract on Dec. 18, 2008
Cashman was so dedicated to upgrading the starting rotation. It started with Sabathia and Burnett soon followed. The Yankees passed up on signing Derek Lowe for Burnett, who won games against the Yankees when he was with the Blue Jays.
Burnett and Sabathia were both introduced to the media on the same day a week before Christmas.
During spring training, Burnett was surprised to find out nobody in recent Yankee history ever hit someone in the face with a pie after any game, something Burnett vowed to do to loosen up the clubhouse.
Fifteen walk-off wins and 15 pies to the face later, Burnett has become infamous for the action, something the Yankees fans love and now expect.
On the field, Burnett stayed healthy all year, something the Yankees were concerned with. Burnett finished with a 13-9 record, throwing 207 innings and struck out 195 batters. At times, he looked shaky, but a lot of other times, he looked unhittable.
In the postseason, Burnett went 1-1 and gave the Yankees quality innings en route to the World Series.
Mark Teixeira: Signed an eight-year, $180 million contract on Dec. 23, 2008
The Red Sox nearly got Teixeira, but after a failed meeting with John Henry and Larry Lucchino with Teixeira and Scott Boras, it gave Cashman the opportunity to jump into the mix. Teixeira grew up a Yankees fan and a Don Mattingly fan.
Two days before Christmas, with Sabathia and Burnett already brought in as free agents, Cashman unloaded a nice check for the best slugger on the market and got him to the Bronx.
Just like Tino Martinez and Jason Giambi, Teixeira struggled in his first month with the Yankees, but his defense never struggled and played a Gold Glove caliber level at first all year long.
When A-Rod returned from hip surgery, Teixeira's bat took off and finally started to come through for the Yankees. He finished with the lead league with 39 home runs as well as 122 RBI and could potentially be an MVP candidate in the American League.
In the playoffs, Teixeira struggled, but hit a walk-off home run in Game Two of the ALDS and a game-tying home run in Game Two of the World Series.
In year one, Teixeira was a huge pickup on and off the field, as he kept a quiet, but nice status with the Yankees.
Eric Hinske: Acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates for two minor leaguers on June 30, 2009
Hinske once started out as a can't miss prospect that won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2002 with the Blue Jays.
After being fazed out of Toronto, Hinske bounced around from Red Sox, Rays and then the Pirates as a part-time player who made appearances in the 2007 and 2008 World Series. The Yankees needed extra pop off the bench, so they made the deal to get Hinske.
Hinske immediately fit in with the Yankees and got starts in the outfield when Swisher needed a day off and came off the bench in late innings.
Hinske finished the year with eight home runs and 25 RBI, played in his third consecutive World Series and won his second ring. His mental toughness, like-ability and experience was key on the Yankees bench.
Jerry Hairston, Jr.: Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds for a minor leaguer on July 31, 2009
The Yankees were looking to add players at the trade deadline to keep the Red Sox and Rays away from them in the A.L. East. Most expected the Yankees to deal for a starting pitcher, but in a surprise move, the Yankees got another player for their bench in Hairston.
Hairston can play all three outfield positions, second base, shortstop and third base, similar to what Chone Figgins provided for the Angels.
Hairston was a scrappy player who hustled on every play, provided a great glove in the field and had some speed in late innings.
Hairston finished 2009 with 10 home runs and 39 RBI, and was a key part of the postseason roster who singled and scored the winning run in Game Two of the ALCS against the Angels and received a pie to the face from Burnett.
Like Hinske, Hairston added depth to the bench and many Yankee fans can hope they both will be brought back in 2010.
Chad Gaudin: Acquired from the San Diego Padres for a minor leaguer on Aug. 6, 2009
The Yankees were hit with problems in 2009 in the back end of their rotation. Chien-Ming Wang went down again for the season with major elbow problems, Joba Chamberlain struggled with his command and Phil Hughes was made into the setup man for Mariano Rivera because the bullpen was depleted.
Gaudin at the time was 4-10 with a 5.13 ERA with the Padres and had issues with command. But that didn't stop the Yankees from gambling on the right-hander, because at the time, Sergio Mitre was their fifth starter and was terrible.
Gaudin started six games for the Yankees, went 2-0 with a 3.43 in 42 innings and the Yankees never lost a game Gaudin pitched in, which spoke to the quality of innings he provided down the stretch.
Gaudin was added onto the postseason roster and was the emergency fourth starter if needed, but was only needed to pitch out of the bullpen and got a World Series ring for his efforts.
When teams make important deals and trades to add on to their team to win a championship, they are viewed as critical moves. Last year, the Yankees traded for catcher Ivan Rodriguez to take the spot of injured Jorge Posada, but ended up failing miserably because Posada is not a replaceable player and the pitching staff didn't get along with player formerly known as Pudge.
In the past, deals for players like Jeff Weaver, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, Tony Womack, Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano failed tremendously for the Yankees.
But in 2009, every one of the deals made for Swisher, Sabathia, Burnett, Teixeira, Hinske, Hairston and Gaudin were seen as incredibly valuable, because each of the players contributed in many ways to help the Yankees win the 2009 World Series.
In the moves he made, Cashman succeeded on every one of them. Yankees Universe can only hope Cashman continues to make these types of smart moves in 2010 in order to defend their championship.