Posts Tagged ‘Mariano Rivera’

What #27 Means to Me

November 13, 2009

I was 11 in 1996 when the Yankees won their first World Series in my lifetime.  I went to bed before the game was over, but my parents woke me up in time for the bottom of the ninth inning.  I vividly remember a pop-up in foul territory on the third base side… Charlie Hayes hovering under the ball… Joe Buck exclaiming “The Yankees are champions of baseball” and the camera cutting to John Wetteland on the mound, holding one finger in the air, getting mobbed by teammates.  It was thrilling.

The Yanks would go on to win three more titles – all in a row – from 1998 to 2000.  I got used to winning.  What kid wouldn’t?  I stopped getting championship hats and I stopped begging to stay up for playoff games.  It stopped being special to me.

From 2001 to 2008, the Yanks made two World Series and lost both.  They were eliminated in the ALDS several times and humiliated by the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS after being up three games to none.  During this time, I started getting hungry for a championship again.  I had been spoiled by the four early titles in my lifetime and I wanted another.

This year, my love of the Yankees saw a new level.  I followed the team every single day.  I read the blogs, kept up on the transactions and lineup changes.  They were my team.  There were no blogs in the late 90s, so with this evolution in media, I was able to keep up with the team in a whole new way.  I also went to Opening Day for the first time since 1996, albeit in a different stadium.  I watched every playoff game and nearly every inning.  I was more nervous for this year’s playoffs than for anything else in the history of my fanhood.  I knew this was the Yankees’ year and I didn’t want to see them fail.  I loved this team… the pies, the salutes, the comebacks, everything.

As the bullpen door opened and Mariano Rivera jogged out in the 8th inning of game six, I set my Tivo, knowing that this was the beginning of the end.  I put on a jersey and hat and prepared a bottle of champagne.  I smiled, yelled, and jumped up and down as Joe Buck said “The Yankees are back on top” (pretty weak, if you ask me).  I watched every minute of the celebration and celebrated with the players.  The announcers made a big deal out of the nine years it took for Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera to win the World Series again.  It was my nine years, too.

After being so used to winning, it was taken away from me for a while, but the absence of the World Series trophy in the Bronx made me appreciate this one so much more.  It was the first title of my “adulthood” and it was beyond exciting.  It was the perfect finish to a very special Yankee year.

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A World Series Preview

October 26, 2009

The Yanks are back in the Fall Classic for the first time since 2003 and the Phillies are back for the second consecutive year.  Here’s how the teams will match up:

Catcher: Jorge Posada vs. Carlos Ruiz

Hip Hip Jorge has had a solid postseason in 2009 and is clearly the better hitting catcher.  Ruiz calls a good game, but it’s likely any difference there will be made up by Posada’s bat.  If Jose Molina continues to catch AJ Burnett, give Ruiz the advantage that game.  Overall Advantage: Yankees

First Base: Ryan Howard vs. Mark Teixeira

Howard has been a monster in October whereas Teixeira’s lone bright spot on offense was the game winning home run in game two of the ALDS.  He’s done little since then, although he has started to hit in the last few games.  Tex’s glove is much better than Howard and Big Ryan strikes out a lot.  Advantage: Push

Second Base: Chase Utley vs. Robinson Cano

Robbie hasn’t hit too well in October, but neither has Utley, whose one home runs and two RBI are a far cry from his true skill level.  Speaking of skill, Utley is fantastic in the field.  Advantage: Phillies

Shortstop: Derek Jeter vs. Jimmy Rollins

J-Roll is hitting only .244 in the postseason, while Jeter is about 100 points higher.  In the field, give Rollins the slight advantage but Jeter is the guy I would want up in any postseason situation and has come through time and time again in october.  Advantage: Yankees

Third Base: Alex Rodriguez vs. Pedro Feliz

Had this been any other October, I would have taken a used pair of cleats over A-Rod, but this year I won’t take anyone over him.  Advantage: Yankees

Left Field: Johnny Damon vs. Raul Ibanez

Raul had a great first half of the year but really slowed down when he got hurt.  He’s been crawling through the postseason, hitting .226 with one home run.  Damon hasn’t had a great October either, but he had a decent ALCS.  Raul is the better outfielder, but not by much.  Advantage: Push

Center Field: Melky Cabrera a vs. Shane Victorino

When you least expect it, Melky seems to shine.  Victorino, on the other hand, has been one of the Phillies’ best players this postseason, posting a .361 batting average with three homers and seven RBI.  Advantage: Phillies

Right Field: Nick Swisher vs. Jayson Werth

Werth was 3-4 with two homers in the NLCS clinching game five and is hitting .281 with five home runs in October.  Swish has been quiet, hitting under .200 in October.  Advantage: Phillies

Bench

I’d like to see the Yanks dump the useless Freddy Guzman and bring back Eric Hinske, especially with the loss of the DH in the Philadelphia-hosted games.  Hinske could be a valuable pinch hitter for the pitcher.  Brett Gardner can be a game changer.  It also might be time to reconsider Francisco Cervelli’s place on the postseason roster.  Are three catchers really necessary?  As for the Phils, they have firepower in Matt Stairs and Greg Dobbs but what else?  Eric Bruntlett? Advantage: Push

Starting Pitching

It’s real close between  CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Andy Pettitte versus Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Pedro Martinez.  Each team has it’s veteran (Pettitte v. Martinez) and two lefties in the rotation.  The lefties work to the Yanks advantage since the Phillies big hitters (Howard, Utley, Ibanez) are all lefties.  If each team uses a fourth starter, my guess is Sabathia goes on short rest for the Bronx Bombers to pitch games one, four, and seven and Chad Gaudin goes in game five.  I’ll take that over either Joe Blanton or J.A. Happ.  For that reason alone, Advantage: Yankees

Bullpen

The Phillies have had difficulty closing games all year, but Brad Lidge has looked good in October this year.  With Happ in the pen alongside Ryan Madson, Chan Ho Park, Chad Durbin, et al the Phils have depth, but the game changer is Mariano Rivera who is untouchable in October in his career.  Two home runs in 125 innings and a career postseason ERA of 0.72.  That’s filthy.  While Phil Hughes, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, and Phil Coke have been far from unhittable in October I still like them more than Philly’s group.  Damaso Marte had a terrible year, but lefties only hit .120 against him.  The Phils are loaded with lefties, so he’ll probably stick around. Advantage: Yankees

Overall Prediction

Pitching wins championships and the Yankees are way too deep, especially with two lefty starters, for the Phils to overcome.  There will be no repeat in Philadelphia this year as the Yanks win #27 in six games.

Pondering the Postseason Roster

October 1, 2009

With another terrible performance by Joba Chamberlain last night, the Yankees have plenty to think about this week as they prepare their postseason roster.  Here’s what I’m thinking:

Starting Pitchers

  • CC Sabathia
  • Andy Pettitte
  • AJ Burnett
  • Chad Gaudin

Relievers

  • Joba Chamberlain
  • Alfredo Aceves
  • Brian Bruney
  • Phil Coke
  • David Robertson
  • Phil Hughes
  • Mariano Rivera

Position Players

  • C – Jorge Posada, Jose Molina
  • 1B – Mark Teixeira
  • 2B – Robinson Cano
  • SS – Derek Jeter
  • 3B – Alex Rodriguez
  • OF – Johnny Damon, Brett Gardner, Melky Cabrera, Nick Swisher
  • DH – Hideki Matsui
  • Bench: Eric Hinske, Jerry Hairston, Ramiro Pena

I went with 11 pitchers since Joba has been inconsistent since they started messing around with his pitch counts and schedule.  I think it’s very possible they go with 10 pitchers for the ALDS and leave Gaudin off and throw in another position player.  There has been mention of using Freddy Guzman as pretty much just a pinch-runner, but he hasn’t gotten enough playing time down the stretch, here, so I doubt that.  Maybe Shelley Duncan as another right-handed bat off the bench?  I could also see them keeping Francisco Cervelli around since Jose Molina can’t hit and keeping a third catcher would enable them to pinch run for Posada more often.  Lefty Damaso Marte is also a possibility.  He’s only useful against lefties so I think he’d be a waste of a player in a long series, but maybe in a short series he’d be ok.