The 2009 Yankees are one of my three favorite Yankee teams of all-time (woo-hoo!). I put this team right up there with the 1996 and 1998 teams as one of the most talented and most exciting I’ve ever seen. No one needs to defend those two late-’90s teams, but allow me a few hundred words to gush sentimentally about this 2009 team. It most certainly has a special place in my heart and I hope it has an equally important place in the hearts of Yankee fanatics everywhere.
That they brought the team back to the Canyon of Heroes for the first time in nine years should allow me to end this piece right here, but without further ado, my key observations from the 2009 season:
-This was the day the season began. Everyone knew we were getting A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia, even if meant leaving stacks of unmarked bills wrapped in Yankees logos on their front steps.
My personal highlight: All the talk during the season that CC wanted to be in New York. CC wanted so badly to be anywhere else that he can opt-out of his contract after year three (not happening now) and turned down the Yankees’ original 6-year, $140 million offer. I imagine Brian Cashman just shrugged his shoulders and said, “OK. 7-years, $160 million. I can stay here as long as this is going to take.”
-Until I began writing for Yankeeist I had only updated my Facebook status three times: 1) When I got into my choice of graduate programs. 2) When I got the internship that I knew would lead to the job I’ll begin in July, and 3) When the New York Yankees signed Mark Teixeira.
Non-Yankeeist-related updates are reserved for life-changing moments, and if you think there’s no way the Mark Teixeira signing changed my life then you just don’t know me well. By the way, none of this happens without him. Anyone who followed the 2008 team religiously knew the Yankees needed a bat as much as they needed pitching. As an added bonus, Cashman ended the Red Sox season right there - we just didn’t know it yet.
-It wasn’t always good times. My A-Rod man crush is legendary (what can I say, he’s dreamy). The steroids admission crushed me. I went from being crazy excited for the season to a three-hour phone call with a comparable Yankee maniac where we agreed that if you look “chump” up in the dictionary A-Rod’s picture should be there
-Then his leg fell off.
Which is part of why this team is so special. It was a rollercoaster ride of emotions that started with the season looking like a colossal failure.
-Chien-Ming Wang was breathtakingly awful. I was AT the 22-4 thrashing the Indians gave him. I still have nightmares about it. (Note from Larry: I too was there. First time at the new Stadium and already off to an inauspicious start).
-The team started the season a dreadful 0-8 versus the Red Sox.
-CC lost both the season and home openers.
-The team had a losing record by the time A-Rod came back. (Then he puts the first pitch he sees this season into the seats. Does it get cooler than that?)
For the record, the numbers show that A-Rod’s return was a nice way to mark the turning point in the season (they went 90-44 with him in the lineup) but they actually scored about as many runs with him as they did without him, putting up 5.8 a game in April and 5.6 on the season.
The statistical change from that point onward was in runs allowed. The team gave up more than six runs a game in April, a figure that improved to 4.6 at season’s end. But hey, who doesn’t love A-Rod (now)?
The team took off in the 2nd half going 52-22 for a .703 winning percentage. That’s about 114 wins over the course of a season, for those keeping score at home.
Over that period,
-CC Sabathia goes 11-2 with a 2.74 ERA.
-Tex earns his $181 million, hitting to the tune of .313/.390/.601.
-Robinson Cano realizes at this point the games are real and we’re keeping score, putting up a .336/.365/.557 line.
-Much was made of Alex Rodriguez’s second half, but the numbers don’t reflect it. He hit 17 homers in the first half and 13 in the second half. He hit a neat 50 RBI before and after the All Star break. His OPS in the first half – .959. And in the 2nd half – .912. The lesson? Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. But, hey, the two homers and 7 RBI in one inning against Tampa was some kind of amazing! Then he turned into a cross between this guy and this guy in the postseason.
The post-All Star break momentum carried right into the playoffs. The Yankees continued to get come-from-behind victories, extra-inning walk-off wins, and dominating performances from key performers.
In the process, they turned Larry into Nostradamus. If he suddenly has dreams about the end of the world, I’m switching my portfolio from stocks to shotguns and canned goods.
For me, I sense something special in this group of guys. Something about a team changes when it wins a Championship. All of a sudden that team has been there before, done it before. This team now has a solid core of veterans, newcomers and recent acquisitions who are playoff-tested and know they can come through in the big moments. There will be some personnel changes, but not many. Bring on 2010!
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