By Greg Brzozowski, WSOE Sports
Let’s take a trip back in time, shall we? The destination: October 27, 1999. The place: Yankee Stadium. The scene: the New York Yankees have just swept the Atlanta Braves to win their 25th World Championship, their third in forth years. The baseball world is witnessing a dynasty that this generation’s fans had never seen ever before. Celebrating on this night is shortstop Derek Jeter, closer Mariano Rivera, starting pitcher Andy Pettite, and catchers Jorge Posada and Joe Girardi. Each had won just earned their third championship ring, each was celebrating the fact that they were the once again the greatest team in the world, and each was celebrating the art that the Yankees had become so closely associated with: winning. Girardi would not be around the next year to be apart of the Bronx Bombers’ 26th World Title the next season, but the other four would. But now, ten years and eight days later, these same five men would still be a part of the main focus for another Yankees Championship team as New York defeated the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies for their 27th World Series Championship on Wednesday night.
It’s amazing to think that the same players who were such interracial part of the Yankees championships from a decade ago still hold a major role of importance on the team. Posada has gone from splitting time with Girardi at catcher to becoming the heart and soul of the franchise. Pettite, who left for Houston after 2003 to go pitch in his home state but then returned to the Bronx in 2007, is now the all time leader in postseason victories in the history of baseball and delivered a great performance in the deciding game of this World Series. Mariano, who is nearing the age of forty, is still lights out at this point in his career and is widely considered the greatest closer and postseason pitcher of all time. Jeter, the former first round pick out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has become one of the greatest clutch performers to lace up a pair of cleats, is the all time hits leader for the Yankees (2747) and all players in postseason history (175), and is the captain of the most storied franchise in sports. And Girardi is now the manager of the team he played for just ten years ago. In only his second season managing in New York and in his first season in the playoffs, he wins his forth ring, his first as a manager.
While key acquisitions the Yankees brought in this season (like in pitchers C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, first baseman Mark Teixeira, and outfielder Nick Swisher) and over the past few years (like third baseman Alex Rodriguez, outfielder Johnny Damon, and designated hitter and World Series MVP Hideki Matsui) clearly helped bring the sports record 27th championship back to the Bronx, the four players who are the last remnants from the previous dynasty still are as responsible for the Yankees being back on top as anyone else. Throughout the entire postseason and the World Series, Jeter, Posada, Pettite, and Rivera all came up big when the moment called for it. Here are their playoff and World Series stats to show how much these guys still mean to this team.
World Series: .407 BA (11-27, 3 2B), 5 R, 1 RBI
Postseason: .344 BA (22-64), 3 HR, 6 RBI, 14 R
World Series: .263 BA (5-19, 1 2B), 1 R, 5 RBI
Postseason: .260 (13-50), 2 HR, 8 RBI
World Series: 2-0, 5.40 ERA, 11.2 IP, 9 H, 8 BB, 10 K
Postseason: 4-0 (won every series clinching game), 3.52 ERA, 12 ER, 30.2 IP, 25 K
World Series: 0-0, 2 S, 0.00 ERA, 4.1 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 3 K
Postseason: 0-0, 5 S, 0.56 ERA, 1 ER, 16.0 IP, 14 K
To win four championships in five years is an amazing feat. To win another nine years later with the same core group of players, acting as the team’s leaders on the field and in the clubhouse is near unbelievable. To put that in perspective for you what Jeter, Posada, Pettite, and Rivera have done here, let’s compare them to their rivals, the players currently on the Boston Red Sox. Let’s say hypothetically that seven years from now in 2016, the Sox win another World Series. And while they will have acquired new free agents, have young players come up from their farm system, and maybe change their manager, they will still have the same core guys they won with in 2007 against the Rockies. They would have the dynamic, clutch player in Dustin Pedroia (playing the role of Jeter), the fiery, heart of the team guy in Kevin Youkilis (Posada), the great pitcher who never gets the full respect he deserves in Jon Lester (Pettite), and the closer who has been there, done that in Jonathan Papelbon (who is NO WHERE CLOSE TO RIVERA, but is used to help the analogy work. It’s just that no pitcher will EVER be in the same league as Mo when everything is finished.) These four are the Red Sox’s core players right now but isn’t it hard to imagine that they all could be so good for another seven years, not even nine, and hold on to be a major part of another championship season at Fenway? I mean, they would have to all stay in tremendous physical shape, continue to play at the top of their game for close to another decade with no drop off, and stay with their team (or sign back like Andy) in this day in age of gigantic free agent contracts. Now, after seeing all of that, could you honestly guarantee me that those four players would lead the Sox back to the top again nearly a decade later?
Yes, the New York Yankees would not have won the World Series without the pitching of Sabathia and Burnett. Yes, they would have been as dynamic offensively without the presence of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. Yes, they would not have been as sound defensively without Teixeira making gold glove plays every game. Yes, they would have not been as loose in tough points of the season without the charismatic Swisher and his complicated high fives and Burnett’s whipped cream walk off pies. Yes, they would not be World Champions if not for Damon’s double steal in Game 4 or Godzilla’s MVP performance (.615 BA (8-13), 3 HR, 8 RBI, first DH to win MVP in World Series history). Yes, they would not be the best in the world if it weren’t for the development of the bullpen building a strong bridge to get to Rivera this season or the rise of prospects from the farm system. But, you can guarantee that if you subtract Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettite, or Mariano Rivera, it becomes a lot more difficult to regain the top spot on the MLB mountain.
The baseball world has no idea what is in store for the 2010 Yankees season. Posada’s years are starting to gain on him and at 38; how much longer can he continue to catch? Can Jeter continue to be a superstar at age 35 and factor into the MVP vote once again next year? Will Andy Pettite return to the Yankees at age 37 now that he is a free agent or will he decide that he wants to retire and go out on top? And when he enters next season at 40 years old, how much longer can Mariano Rivera continue to be the greatest closer in baseball and stupefy fans and players alike with his ability to dominate hitters nearly twenty years younger than him? For now, these questions and concerns are the furthest thing from Yankees’ fans minds as they celebrate their 40th pennant and 27th Championship. But after adding on another chapter to Yankees lure on Wednesday night, with Girardi in the dugout controlling everything, the Captain at short, Jorge behind the dish, Andy on the mound, and Mo to close another title out, Yankee fans went into celebration, exactly just like it was 1999.