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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Basic Biittner : It's here at last!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

(Photo)
Mark it on your calendar, baseball fans. October 28, 2009. The return of "The Official World Series." The New York Yankees are back where they belong - competing against the National League winners for the World Series championship. The accompanying cartoon was drawn by the late Frank Miller in 1978, but it has been modified a bit to reflect the Yankees' 2009 opponent, the Philadelphia Phillies.

It was the feeling of Miller, who like me was an unabashed fan of the Bronx Bombers, that a World Series was never an official World Series if the Yankees weren't one of the teams playing. Well, the Yanks have been in 40 World Series (counting this one), and have won 26. But they have not played in the Fall Classic since 2003, when they lost to the Marlins. In their previous trip, in 2001, they lost to the Diamondbacks. In 2000, they beat the crosstown Mets in the so-called Subway Series.

In my own mind, though, those weren't really "official" World Series, either, because all three of those National League opponents were expansion teams. None of the three existed when the Yankees made the World Series their own.

No, the last official World Series took place exactly ten years ago, when the Yankees swept the Atlanta Braves in four games. The Braves weren't in Atlanta during the Yankee Glory Years, but they did exist as a franchise, first in Boston, then in Milwaukee, and it was the Milwaukee Braves with whom the Yankees split two back-to-back Series in 1957 - 58.

Anyhow, this year's Series seems like a "real" World Series," except that it will end in November and the temps quite likely will not be very summer-like, of course. One change from recent years, also, is that neither of the two participants entered the post-season as a "wild card" team - both beat out other teams to capture the Eastern Division flag in their respective leagues. The Yankees, with 103 regular season wins, had the best record in the American League. The Phillies won 93, just two games fewer than the Dodgers' NL- leading 95, and they are the defending World champions.

Yes sir, it should be a good one, and it started off with an intriguing match-up of starting pitchers in Game One, with one left-hander who won the AL Cy Young Award pitching for the Indians (the Phillies' Cliff Lee) throwing against another one (CC Sabathia of the Yankees). Nice job, Cleveland "management." And - thanks.

I admittedly don't follow the National League that much, but I do follow it enough to know that the Phils' Ryan Howard has been one consistent and

dangerous hitter in the middle of the Philadelphia lineup for the last few years - right up there with the Cardinals' Albert Pujols, who has only been the best all-around hitter to come along in the National League - and maybe the Major Leagues - in thirty years. I also know Jimmy Rollins is a pretty good all-around player and Jayson Werth seems to be a dangerous hitter as well. I also think that any team which has Pedro Martinez as only their third or fourth starter can't be too bad in that department, either. And then there's closer Brad Lidge, kind of the Mariano Rivera of the National League. Pretty formidable.

On the other side (the "good side" as opposed to the "Dark Side") are the New York Yankees - probably the most famous, established and successful franchise in all of professional sports. I know that many non-Yankee fans have criticized the Yankees' high-spending ways, calling them "the best team money can buy" among other things, and it would be hard to dispute that in almost any season over the last 35 years, especially this season, when the Yankees opened their pocketbooks to sign Sabathia, first baseman Mark Teixeira and starting pitcher A.J. Burnett.

Sabathia, of course, has been "lights out" for the Yanks in the post-season. Teixeira, who led the league in HR and RBI this season, has been inconsistent with the bat, but outstanding in the field, and Burnett has been - well, let me put it this way. Remember the old rhyme that states "there was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead; and when she was good, she was very, very good - but when she was bad, she was horrid?" Well, that's been A.J. Burnett this post-season. When he's on, he's on - but then there have been all those walks and hit batsmen...

Anyway, what I really wanted to say was this. While the Yankees have undoubtedly received significant contributions over the years from some of their expensive acquisitions like Alex Rodriquez and the three players mentioned above, the real glue which has held the Yankees together - and also kept the spirit and spark of the Yankees, as well as the pride in Yankee history and the "Yankee way-of-life" alive in the Bronx for the last decade-plus is a core group of now - veteran players who came up through the Yankee farm system together and joined the big club in New York at about the same time. The group have remained teammates for most of the last 13 years and been regular participants in - and frequent contributors to - the Yankees' successful post-season runs under Joe Torre and now "the other Joe," Girardi.

I'm speaking, of course, of shortstop and captain Derek Jeter, catcher Jorge Posada, relief pitcher Mariano Rivera, and starting pitcher Andy Pettite, who toiled for his hometown Houston Astros for a couple of years, but re-joined the Yankees last season.

These four Yankee stalwarts are on the downside of their careers now, of course, and I can think of no happier ending to the 2009 Major League Baseball season than to see them be rewarded with their fifth World Series ring - one for each finger.

Play Ball!

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner