Yankees’ Ten Most Pivotal Postseason Performers
- Updated: November 11, 2009
As the New York Yankees bask in the afterglow of their unprecedented 27th World Championship, let’s take a look back at the ten biggest contributors to that title. Without these men, the Yankees’ postseason might have ended a lot earlier:
1. Alex Rodriguez: After the Yankees won the World Series, A-Rod looked to be the happiest player of all, and with good reason. After all the questions over whether he would have yet another disappointing October, Rodriguez had a postseason for the ages. He led the team in postseason hitting with a .365 batting average and an incredible .500 on-base percentage. He hit six homers – two of them in extra innings to tie the game – and drove in 18 runs. While he didn’t officially win an MVP title, A-Rod really was the Yankees most valuable player in the postseason.
2. Joe Girardi: The Yankee manager sure didn’t play it safe. He went with a three-man, short-rest rotation in the playoffs. Because Jose Molina and A.J. Burnett had a better rapport than the pitcher had with All-Star catcher Jorge Posada, he kept the Molina-Burnett batter together, even though it cost him offensively. And he benched Nick Swisher for Jerry Hairston Jr. when the right fielder was struggling. All these moves opened himself up to media criticism. But Girardi had the last laugh. Even though his moves didn’t always work out – like his bullpen machinations in Anaheim – the Yankee manager wasn’t afraid to be bold. Now #27 will have to change his uniform number.
3. CC Sabathia: Simply put, CC is the biggest Yankee postseason pitching sensation since the days of Orlando (El Duque) Hernandez. He went 3-1 in the playoffs, with a minuscule 1.98 ERA. Without CC to rely on as the Game 1 and 4 starter, it’s doubtful the Yankees would have succeeded this fall. Only blemish on Sabathia’s postseason record was his inability to get out Chase Utley; three of the four homers Sabathia gave up in the playoffs were to Utley.
4. Derek Jeter: The Yankee shortstop continued his consistent postseason greatness, hitting .344, including three homers. He also made critical defense plays. For many fans, Jeter is the team’s face of October (and November). Critics said that the Yankees wouldn’t win with such an ancient player at shortstop (Jeter is 35.) So much for that notion.
5. Johnny Damon: Damon stealing two bases – on one play – against Brad Lidge and the Phillies in Game 4 of the World Series may have been the most critical play in that series. Thanks to Damon’s two-base dash, the Yankees gained a critical advantage in the series, and won the game one hit later, giving them a commanding 3-1 series lead.
6. Mariano Rivera: The greatest closer of all time continued his October dominance. Seven out of eight postseason closers this year failed at least once, helping to cost their team a chance at a title. The only closer to succeed every time? Mariano Rivera. And he did all this with a rib cage injury. Remarkable.
7. Andy Pettitte: Pettitte went 4-0, and won the clinching games in the ALDS, ALCS, and the World Series. Not bad for somebody who nearly didn’t get the chance to be a Yankee this year – Pettitte had turned down the Yankees’ original $11M contract offer, and ended up having to settle for an incentive-laden deal.
8. Hideki Matsui: The World Series MVP won those honors despite only starting half the games. The DH may have played his last game as a Yankee, but his six-RBI performance in Game 6 will be remembered long after he is gone. Overall, he hit .349 in the postseason. Not too shabby.
9. A.J. Burnett: Burnett’s brilliant performance against Pedro Martinez in Game 2 of the World Series – one run and nine strikeouts over seven innings – might have been the best-pitched game for the Yankees this postseason. He also pitched well in Game 2 of the ALDS and the ALCS. While Burnett wasn’t perfect in the playoffs – he got knocked out in the third inning of Game 5 of the World Series, and he stumbled in the first inning of ALCS Game 5 – he still did provide some postseason dominance.
10. Damaso Marte: He might have been the least likely postseason star. Most Yankee fans didn’t even want to see Marte on the postseason roster. Yet the lefty reliever, who had a very disappointing, injury-riddled regular season, was the Yankees’ second-most reliable arm in the bullpen after Rivera. Marte was the Yanks’ best lefty specialist in the postseason since Graeme Lloyd in the 1996 World Series.