The old guys did it. Derek Jeter had three hits. Pettitte did what he always does by keeping his team in the game. Jorge didn't have a great game but he's had a good season and some big hits this post season and Mariano Rivera...what is there to say? There has never been anyone like him. He is the difference. He always comes through. Even nearly forty and his cutter down to 89 MPH, he locates, he repeats his delivery, he doesn't give in and he's a champion.
It is easy to understand the ennui that exists around the country for the Yankees. It is easy to understand how hated they are. They spend the most money. They make the most money. They play in the greatest venue in sports. But you can understand all that and still insist that these guys deserve the special place they have attained in the sport. As the last nine years have shown, you can't just spend the money and make it happen every year. From 1996 to 2000, it seemed easy but it wasn't and it still isn't. Derek Jeter said it best, "People don't understand how hard it is to get here." And people don't understand. Just ask the Red Sox or the Cardinals or any of the great organizations that work so hard and so diligently. Everything has to fall into place and it's more than money. It's a team.
Joe Girardi and C. C. Sabathia deserve a lot of the credit for making this a team. Add Nick Swisher to that list and a new and different A-Rod who finally understood what a team meant. Girardi took the guys to a pool hall in the spring. Sabathia took the team to an Orlando Magic game. Swisher enjoyed every moment and kept people loose. And A-Rod took all those young latin players under his wings and kept them going. This was a team. You could tell by the way they played, by the way they celebrated and by the way they pulled for each other each and every game.
Punch all the holes you want in the games of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada. Posada isn't a great catcher. Jeter isn't the best fielder. Pettitte never overpowers you, but they are professional ball players. Much was made about the Twins and the fact that they had ball players. But these three guys know how to handle themselves. And they know what it takes to win. And after nine years of futility, they also know how sweet it is to be champions again.
And give all due credit to Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon. Both are near the ends of their careers. Both have big questions about next year. Both were in the last year of their contracts. And yet every at bat, every game, they battled and they scratched and they came up with big performances that won games. It will be tough for any Yankee fan to say goodbye to either one of them next year.
And let's give a little heap of appreciation for Mark Teixeira. He's a great player, but he also seems like a great guy with humility and faith. And pooh-pooh all you want about the importance of fielding at first base. Take all the points away you want in the fielding bible for playing that position, but Teixeira's fielding saved innings, saved games and was sparkling. He rarely if ever made a bad throw or made a bad decision. He rarely relied on the pitcher to cover the bag, and he scooped everything and he made some incredible plays around the bag. The Yankees don't win without that. The Fan will never be convinced otherwise about the importance of Jon Olerud, first for the Blue Jays, then the Mariners and later the Mets for his skills around the bag at first base and what it meant to those winning teams he played for.
And finally, it all comes down to Mariano Rivera. Everyone kept saying that this one was for George Steinbrenner. All well and good and the feeling is understandable. But this one was for Mo. Has any relief pitcher in the last twenty years been asked to do more? Has any relief pitcher been relied upon so heavily? Two innings, forty pitches several times in the three series and he never faltered. He never let his team down. He never looked ruffled or worried. He never gave in. It's been a remarkable ride watching his career. The Yankees may have won five championships without him. Maybe. But don't say that to any Yankee fans. The guy is class. The guy is a pro. But more than all of that, he is money.
Tell this to everyone. Some will say this was for George. Some will say this was for the fans of New York. But this Fan says that this one was for Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. If those four guys never taste a championship again, this one, at the twilight of their careers is validation and worthy caps to what has been an incredible ride.