(Long Island, N.Y.) Ever since their dynasty came to a crashing halt with a bloop single during Game 7 in Arizona, the Yankees have been the epitome of the big engine that couldn’t. Questionable free agent signings coupled with head-scratching personnel decisions left this team out of the Fall Classic since dropping that heart breaker in 2001.
Expensive, long-term contracts were given to the likes of Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, Jason Giambi and Jared Wright with little to nothing to show for it other than a few playoff appearances. In the Bronx – especially the George Steinbrenner version – anything less than a ring is viewed as a failure.
Although it may have taken some trial and error unaffordable to any other sports franchise in the world, the Bombers seemed to have gotten it right this time. The addition of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira to an already talented club resulted in a division championship, American League pennant and possibly more.
“It’s a great feeling, with what these guys did and how hard they worked,” manager Joe Girardi said to reporters. “They never gave up, even when we went through some tough times, they were there. They kept fighting back. Our team has showed a lot of character.”
This was a critical year for the franchise. Not only did they want to have a memorable season with the opening of the new Yankee Stadium, but also Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman had critics to silence. After taking over for Joe Torre in 2008, the former bench coach went through some growing pains and the team missed the playoffs for the first time since 1994. There was a lot of chatter saying that if that happened again, both would be on the unemployment line.
Cashman went out and aggressively made the moves that he did over the winter. He also re-signed lefthander Andy Pettitte and catcher Jorge Posada, two veterans who were integral parts of that championship run in the 1990s. Pettitte was on the mound in the clinching sixth game to send the Yankees to the World Series, where they will face a formidable opponent in the Philadelphia Phillies.
The defending champions brought back most of the same team that defeated Tampa Bay last October and then added right fielder Raul Ibanez and pitchers Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez. Even for a team as deep as the Yankees, the Phils will be a tough out.
Although he is not his former self, Steinbrenner still shows qualities worthy of someone known simply as “The Boss.” In a statement, he said, “The Yankees enormous will to win, tremendous professionalism and great team spirit, backed by the best, most vocal and supportive fans have propelled us into the World Series.
“We’re looking forward to our 27th ring.”
That last part is not said with anything but confidence. There is nothing meant as a shot towards the Phillies or that they will be taken lightly. It is merely the leader of a team that expects to win each and every time they step out on the field.
A return to greatness is the Yankees’ goal and they are just four wins away from getting there.