2009 Yankees: (Almost as) easy as pie
- Updated: July 22, 2009
In recent years, the Yanks have acted more like ultra-serious businessmen than giddy schoolboys. But the corporate era is over with the club this season, thanks to spirited new teammates like A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia and Nick Swisher.
This newfound camaraderie has the team looser – and more competitive – than they’ve been in years. And the shenanigans have paid off so far. As of this writing (7/21/09), the Bombers are in first place, and are 18 games above .500 for the first time since September 2007.
So when did everything change for the Yanks? It may have started on May 15, when Alex Rodriguez made his debut at the new Yankee Stadium. Rookie Brett Gardner thrilled the crowd that night with an inside-the-park homer – the first one for the Yanks in a decade. And Melky Cabrera laced a walkoff hit off ace Twins closer Joe Nathan to beat the Twins.
But what happened after Cabrera’s big hit set the tone for the rest of the season. A.J. Burnett unleashed the season’s first whipped cream pie in the face upon Cabrera during the outfielder’s post game interview. And a new Yankee tradition was born, with a more relaxed team atmosphere to follow.
The Yanks have had nine walkoff wins so far this year, and 28 of their 55 victories have been come-from-behind wins. Contrary to recent years, where this team would appear to quit at the first sign of adversity, the Bombers have been able to battle back, no matter how deep a hole they dig for themselves. And they sure seem to have fun doing it.
Except, that is, against the Red Sox, and when the Yanks play the Angels in Anaheim. The Yanks are 0-8 against the Sox. And while the Bombers did beat the Angels twice in the Bronx, their old nemesis swept them in Anaheim to end the first half of the year. The Yanks also lost two of three games to the Phillies in interleague play. It makes you wonder if the Yanks can’t beat teams with red in their uniforms.
At least the Yankees solidly beat one of their other rivals this year. The Yankees won five out of six Subway Series, thanks to some great play – and a little luck. Just when they were about to lose against the New York Mets, Luis Castillo dropped the ball, and the Yanks got their biggest gift win of the year. But their other four wins against their crosstown rivals were solid, capped by the bizarre sight of Yankee closer Mariano Rivera eking out a bases-loaded walk against Met closer Francisco Rodriguez.
Another gift for the Bombers this season – albeit one with a $423.5 million price tag – was how well their free agent signings have turned out. After some early fits and starts, Burnett, Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira have all paid off for the Bombers so far.
But this season has had some big bumps along the way. The new Stadium was widely derided as being a homer haven. Its empty $2600 luxury boxes were an embarrassment to the Bomber front office. And even Yankee fans thought the Mets’ Citi Field had better food and a more fan-friendly atmosphere.
The new stadium’s bad reception wasn’t the only crisis facing the Bombers this year. Alex Rodriguez went from A-Rod to A-Roid after he was outed as a steroid user. He was then felled by a torn labrum in his hip and didn’t start a game until May 8. Since then, he’s arguably been the team’s MVP, with 19 homers and 54 RBI in 63 games.
And while youngsters like Gardner, Phil Coke, Phil Hughes and Francisco Cervelli added a spark to this team, the kids weren’t all alright this year. Chien-Ming Wang inexplicably lost his pitching form and had an ERA of 36.50 at one point. Joba Chamberlain seemed to morph into Steve Trachsel, throwing slowly and nibbling. And Edwar Ramirez lost his spot in the bullpen – and on the team.
The Yanks still have their work cut out for them against the Red Sox – they have seven games against Boston next month. But the Yankees appear to be in great shape so far this season, even with the adversity they have faced this year. They’ve made winning look almost as easy as pie. And that’s no joke.