Relocating

By Jon Lane
Joe Auriemma and I have new homes.

You can follow us on YESNetwork.com’s new interactive community, My YES. Log on to read entries from me, Joe and Nets Insider Al Iannazzone, and write your own blog, upload photos, make new friends and so
much more.

Click here for my new page, “Life in the Fast Lane,” and to meet Joe “At the Bat.”

Jeter, Teixeira win Gold Gloves

By Jon Lane
Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira were named AL Gold Glove winners this afternoon. Jeter’s range improved from last season and Teixeira was a godsend at first base, making plays not seen in the Bronx since Tino Martinez followed in Don Mattingly’s footsteps.

The duo shared their thoughts through the Yankees in separate statements:

Jeter
“I’ve said it time and time again, playing championship-caliber baseball starts with pitching and defense, and I think those two components were certainly the foundation for our success in 2009. I’ve always taken a great deal of pride in my defense, and being honored with a Gold Glove is an accomplishment I will never overlook.

“I also want to congratulate and recognize Mark Teixeira on his well-deserved achievement.”

Teixeira
“Solid defense is the most underrated component of winning baseball, but it is something I have always taken pride in. Winning a third Gold Glove means a lot to me, especially when good defense helped our entire team reach the ultimate goal of a World Championship.”

Other AL winners include Torii Hunter (OF), Ichiro Suzuki (OF), Evan Longoria (3B), Adam Jones (OF), Mark Buehrle (P), Joe Mauer (C) and Placido Polanco (2B). National League winners will be announced tomorrow.

Off and running

By Jon Lane
The Hot Stove is fired up and it’ll be burning through this week’s General Managers meetings in Chicago and the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis. It’ll be re-fired after baseball takes a (scheduled) sabbatical for the Christmas holidays and keep you warm until pitchers and catchers report in February.

The biggest question on the minds of Yankees fans is the futures of Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Andy Pettitte. All three are free agents and in their mid-to-late 30s. At this point figure on Damon coming back. He was clutch in the ALCS and World Series at the plate – and especially on the base paths – and remains valuable as a slap hitter at the top of the lineup who can get on base.

Matsui is the toughest decision. Many believe he’s a goner, and logic dictates he will be unless he’d accept a workable one-year deal to be a part-time player; the Yankees have a strong desire to rotate the DH position with veteran players, namely Jorge Posada. But Matsui’s MVP performance in the World Series certainly changed that story a bit.

Pettitte’s plan was to take his time to contemplate one more year or retirement, but according to SI.com’s Jon Heyman, the left-hander told teammates he’d like to try again one more time. The starting five would be set right away (CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes) – assuming John Lackey doesn’t become the newest hired gun Yankees brass suddenly bails on their Joba the Starter plan. Either way, there will be depth entering Spring Training with ample time to evaluate if Chien-Ming Wang has anything left.

Felix Hernandez in pinstripes would look fantastic, wouldn’t it? Of course, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik sees no reason why “King Felix” won’t pitch in Seattle for at least the next two seasons.

“He’s our property this year and next year, and we’re looking forward to him being part of the organization as we move forward,” Zduriencik told reporters at the GM meetings.

It would take a King’s Ransom for any team to acquire Hernandez, 23 years old and off a season in which he established career-highs in wins (19), innings pitched (238.2) and strikeouts (217), and a career-low in ERA (2.49). The M’s come off a surprising 85-win season and have to tools to compete in the AL West, so I don’t see Hernandez going anywhere, that is unless Nintendo of America cries poverty.

Besides, Brian Cashman is walking around chest out and chin up, body language that reads “I told you so.” Cashman took a lot of heat for not dealing for Johan Santana in 2007. People stopped talking about that a long time ago.

If you still care about the enemy – I know you do – Tim Wakefield and the Red Sox have finalized a new two-year contract, reports WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. Meanwhile, while the Jason Varitek Era in Boston appears to be over, the BoSox are on Roy Halladay’s wish list if the Blue Jays decide to finally unload the right-hander.

Imagine CC Sabathia opposing Halladay April 5, 2010 at Fenway Park? The thought of that alone will keep you warm once the weather reaches the intolerable stage.

Statement from Hal & Hank Steinbrenner

“After the overwhelming public response to the historic achievement of our 27th World Championship, I would like to thank our fans for their highly spirited and remarkably steadfast support this season.

“The New York Yankees have long enjoyed the positive effects of the world’s greatest fans. It is a real and tangible benefit to our success every day and every game.  Each and every fan contributed this season, from the 3.7 million who attended our home games to the millions more who lined the ‘Canyon of Heroes’ for our victory parade.

“Throughout the season, the team found inspiration in the very essence of New York City and its people. By persevering and never wavering from our goal, the Yankees reflected the true spirit and determination that defines the city of New York.”

Now what?

By Jon Lane
Now what? It’s time to party. The Yankees completed a virtually endless 2009 baseball season by capturing their 27th World Championship. We scribes never stop thinking about what’s next, that’s the nature of the Hot Stove season and you know Brian Cashman is already drawing up an offseason blueprint, but today is a day for the players, their families and everyone in the organization to bask in the glory.

The Core Four of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera have done this four times (today makes five), but for Alex Rodriguez, it’s his first in 16 seasons. For A.J. Burnett, it was winning without the pain of rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. For Jerry Hairston, it was the first time in his 11-year career he played in postseason games and was in left field the night the Yankees clinched.

This may have been Hairston’s final shot at a winner, and for youngsters like Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Pena, this may be their only chance to enjoy the experience. Yes they play for the Yankees and not the Pirates, Nationals or Royals, but there was also nine years between World Championship.

Before the parade, Steven Goldman asked questions the rest of us will be asking quite often this weekend. But for today, Chris Shearn, Joe Auriemma, Kevin Sullivan and the rest of the YES gang are in lower Manhattan. Stick around for many great photos and videos from the festivities.

Some quick housekeeping: Within the next week or two, I’ll be blogging for YES in this space full-time. All of us will soon be fully migrated to My YES, and the door is open to you too.

Boss: The quest for No. 28 begins

“The Steinbrenner Family and the Yankees Organization are extremely proud of the members of the 2009 New York Yankees for bringing a 27th World Championship to New York City and our fans, the greatest fans in the world. Every World Series victory is special, but this one is especially sweet coming in the first year in our new home.  

“The 2009 New York Yankees proved that we are the best in baseball. We beat truly worthy opponents in the American League Division Series, the American League Championship Series and the World Series. As we did all season long, we fought hard, never lost focus and gave a true team victory.  Our players have a lot to be proud of. This group will become legendary – similar to the 26 World Championship teams that preceded them.

“Joe Girardi and his team deserve great credit for racking up wins over a long, tough season.    

“We are so grateful to our fans. They have never wavered in their faith or enthusiasm through the good and bad years.  This World Series belongs to them and to all Yankees, past, present and future.

“We’ll enjoy this win. And the quest for No. 28 begins.”  

Burnett: Nobody can take this away

burnett_250_110509.jpgBy Jon Lane
A.J. Burnett now owns two World Series rings, though there’s no doubt No. 2 is sweeter. He was a member of the Marlins team that won it all in 2003, but was out most of the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

November 4, 2009 was Burnett’s finest moment. Well, almost.

“I have two kids and I’ve got a beautiful wife,” Burnett said, “but besides that they ain’t nothing that beats this right here.”

Some days he drove you crazy. Others he was an adrenaline surge. All put together, Burnett had a fine first season in the Bronx, the first of a five-year pact that will pay him $82 million. Burnett is so, so talented, you always want more from him, but a 13-9 record with a 4.04 ERA isn’t too shabby. There were times Burnett was electric enough to make citizens stop and stare in awe: 7 2/3 shutout innings August 7 against the Red Sox and one run allowed with nine strikeouts in seven frames in Game 2 of the World Series.

Burnett had a bad Game 5, really bad, but his Game 2 saved the Yankees from being in deep trouble and a city from near-total panic.

“Nobody can take that away from me,” Burnett said of his 3-1, Game 2 win, his World Series debut. “I had a rough one my last time out, but I had 24 guys in there telling me, ‘You know what, if it wasn’t for you, we’d be coming to Philly in a big hole. I’m glad I could help out and be a part of something this special.”

Burnett was always an interesting interview. He was soft-spoken, sometimes blunt, always honest and had good insight on the most standard of cliches. On July 22, Burnett defeated the Baltimore Orioles to put them alone in first place. At the time, though, the AL East was long from being decided, especially with Boston due in town for that big early August series. The Yankees were 0-8 against the Red Sox and the questions were accumulating. Burnett was asked why it’ll be different and whipped out one of sports’ oldest cliches, albeit with a different spin.

“We’re going one game at a time right now,” Burnett said. “That’s the big difference as opposed to looking ahead and worrying about who’s coming into town or where we’re going. It’s just one at a time.”

While drenched in champagne, I asked him how and why that philosophy worked so well.

“Nothing mattered to us,” Burnett said. “We knew we had another game. No. 2 [Derek Jeter] over there would always come in and say, ‘Oh, we got another game today.’ And that was it. We’re a humble team that no matter what happened the day before, we had another game. That’s all that mattered, one at a time.”

_______________________

Ticker-tape parade Friday at 11 a.m. beginning at Broadway and Battery Place, and ending with a ceremony at City Hall where Mayor Mike Bloomberg will present the team with keys to the city. It’s open to the public, but details are forthcoming about a limited number of tickets that will be made available for those wanting to get inside City Hall Plaza. Fans who can’t get a ticket can watch the ceremony on a giant TV screen that will be set up near City Hall Park.

Ladies & gents, the Bronx and Toyko are partying

matsui_350.jpgBy Jon Lane
So much ground to cover. I’ll have a mixed bag in this space later with my feature on Hideki Matsui’s Reggiesque performance in Game 2. This image from the AP shows people watching a TV at the Yamada Denki discount store in Tokyo and their national hero, Matsui, become the first Japanese-born player to be named World Series Most Valuable Player after hitting a record six RBIs.

Assistant general manager Jean Afterman, instrumental in bringing Matsui to the Yankees in 2003, had some great perspective on a physically-challenging season that culminated in him being named Series MVP.

Nick Swisher, at his frat boy best, put it to us this way: “MATSU! They’re partying in Tokyo tonight! He deserved that MVP trophy. There’s no doubt about it.”

Five more years?
Mariano Rivera is serious. Entering the final year of his contract, Rivera believes he can play five more years. He turns 40 years old later this month.

“I’m serious and hope the organization will do whatever it takes to bring me back,” Rivera said. “Whatever happens, happens.”

You go ahead and try to stop him. Rivera threw 41 pitches in the final 1 2/3 innings to lower his career World Series ERA to 0.99. He has 11 World Series saves and 39 in the playoffs for his career. Oh yeah, in the regular season he converted 44 out of 46 save opportunities and posted a 1.76 ERA.

“There’s nothing Mariano can’t do,” said Alex Rodriguez. “He’s Superman. All I was thinking enough today was give Pettitte enough of a cushion to get Mo in the game. Once Mo was in the game I felt like we could bring this home.”

Unprecedented
One season removed from missing the playoffs, the Yankees won World Championship No. 27 and their first in nine years, an eternity in these parts. They are the second team this decade to win two world titles (Red Sox in 2004 and 2007).

“When you win, especially the way that we won, having to overcome a lot of adversity, and winning it for the city of New York, it’s tremendous, really special,” Rivera said. “It tells you how hard it is. We didn’t make the playoffs last year. This year we gave everything we had.”

This one was for the Boss
Yankee Stadium’s huge Diamond Vision touted World Championship No. 27 with the inscription, “Boss, this is for you.”

Team president Randy Levine said that Hal Steinbrenner spoke to his father, principal owner George Steinbrenner, after the celebration. Hank Steinbrenner relayed the Boss’ emotions while he watched No. 27 unfold on television from Tampa.

“He’s very happy,” Hank Steinbrenner said. “This one was big for him and more emotional than the others probably. We knew they had character. We knew they had makeup. Since the first day we all thought that. So to us they were no-brainers.”

Under Steinbrenner’s ownership (he took over the team in 1973), the Yankees have won seven World Series.

In select company
Joe Girardi is the first manager to play for and manage the same team to win a World Championship since Billy Martin in 1977.

“The joy is the same, but it’s a different type of joy,” Girardi said. “As a player it’s what you dream about ever since you were a little boy. As a manager you still have that joy, but the joy is for other people because you know as a player what it takes to win a championship.”

Crazy scene on the field (it’s 3:11 a.m. as I write this). Yankees employees are running the bases and whooping it up. The rest of New York can join in on Friday when the parade down the Canyon of Heroes begins at 11 a.m.

The old lady across the street

stadium_360.jpgBy Jon Lane
She spoke and people listened for 85 years. She’s dark and empty, and soon will no longer be with us, yet she still speaks with conviction.

I heard her voice stuck in traffic on the Major Deegan, on the exit ramp and emerging from the parking garage. It was then she said it: “They’re taking it tonight.”

Yankees in 6. The new place is quiet at the moment, but the buzz is palpable. It doesn’t guarantee winning or losing, but fate and karma has played huge role in the Yankees’ 2009 regular season. The old lady is demanding she be heard one last time.

_______________________

Joe Girardi is meeting the media in five minutes. Figure on him announcing the lineups – Nick Swisher or Jerry Hairston Jr. in right field is the only suspense – along with sharing more thoughts about being in position to win it all and answering for the thousandth time why he’s starting Andy Pettitte on three days’ rest and how long Mariano Rivera can go.

UPDATE: Swisher is in right. Girardi’s been fielding questions on going with his season-long starter, clinching at home, Mark Teixeira’s slump and A.J. Burnett’s availability (yes in an emergency).

On the iPod en route to the Bronx: A block of Judas Priest, the ideal band to get you pumped up. Now playing: Tommy Bolin’s “Wild Dogs,” another great tune to get one in the zone.

Back with a whole lot more later.

4:42 p.m. Quick hits from Girardi’s pregame press conference:

On the chance to win a World Series at home:

I think any time you get a chance to close it out in front of your own fans, it’s special, especially being the first year at the Stadium and what it would mean to the Steinbrenner family and the Yankee organization and all the people of New York. I’ve been on championship teams where we’ve won it at home and where we’ve won it on the road. And it seems to be a little bit louder and crazier when you do it at home.

On the decision to start Swisher over Hairston
“Swish has been our everyday right fielder. We thought it was important that Swish just sit down for a day. His at bats have been very good since we sat him down. We don’t always look at how many hits you get. We look at the at bats, and does the hit the ball hard, and does he square ball up and is he seeing pitches? That’s what we look at.

“Swish has been our everyday right fielder, and that’s what we’re doing.”

On being second-guessed:
“Well, as far as that, that pretty much happens a lot year in New York during the regular season, as well, so you get kind of used to it.

“The interesting thing about what people were calling second guessing that I’ve always thought is curious is they don’t know if their idea would have worked. Everyone makes the assumption that it would have worked. We base our decisions on a lot of preparation, a lot of discussion. We don’t do anything where we just pull something off the wall and with the intent of it working.

“The one thing about baseball and in life, every decision is not going to go according to plan, and you have to deal with it and you have to answer for it, and you understand that here.”

On the Yankees’ Core Four:
“They understand the moment, they know how to handle the moment. They’ve been through it and can share their experiences with others. They know that they’re not going to be fazed by the situation because they’ve been through it so many times together. So I mean, we like having that. And I’m sure they like having what they went through last year together as a club.

“Experience is important.”

7:36 p.m. Settled into my spot in Section 405. No pregame news to discuss. Let’s face it, the talking is over and everyone is psyched for first pitch. Just now I heard the first chants of “Who’s your daddy?” (and that’s old and weathered, too). While paying for dinner at the NY Grill, Margaret the cashier was wearing her collection of World Championship pins. I asked if she has room for a new one if it comes down to it. She said her guy has one ready and waiting, just for her.

7:50 p.m. Mary J. Blige gave a beautiful rendition of our national anthem before Scott Brosius threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

7:58 p.m. Andy Pettitte’s first pitch is a ball to Jimmy Rollins. The game-time temperature is 47 degrees.

8:02 p.m. Great start for Pettitte. He needed eight pitches to retire the Phillies after getting the red-hot Chase Utley to ground into a double play. Right now the Stadium is playing a highlight montage to Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy.” It’s their best one yet.

8:24 p.m. Another good inning for Pettitte. It got slightly hairy when he threw a wild pitch to Pedro Feliz with two out that advanced Jayson Werth to second base. Feliz popped the next pitch behind home plate where Jorge Posada made the catch.

Pedro Martinez looked sharp early too. Wishful thinking suggested the Yankees pound him early, but you know he’s not going down without a fight.

matsui_200_110409.jpg8:34 p.m. Godzilla goes boom! 2-0, Yankees off Hideki Matsui’s third homer of the 2009 World Series, fourth of this postseason and 10th of his career. The joint is jumping. Pedro’s hearing it now.

Matsui’s World Series numbers so far: .600, 4 HR, 9 RBIs. The Yankees want to free up the DH spot, but it’s going to be very tough to not re-sign him.

8:39 p.m. 2-0, Yankees after two. There’s a long, long way to go, but Pettitte is a guy you feel comfortable with protecting a lead.

8:48 p.m. Well, Carlos Ruiz tripled and scored on Jimmy Rollins’ sacrifice fly. It could have been a lot worse. To reiterate, there’s a long, long way to go.

9:10 p.m.
Two more runs plated by Matsui, now .636-4-11 in the World Series. This was bigger than his home run because it came with two out and after A-Rod was caught looking. Godzilla is making a serious case for both Series MVP – despite not starting three games – and to play in the Bronx for another season.

Pedro, by the way, has thrown 62 pitches. His night may be over. Jerry Hairston Jr. meanwhile, is now in left. Uh-oh.

Memo to Pettitte: You have a three-run lead. Do what you do.

9:17 p.m. Damon has a strained right calf. He probably did it coming home to score.

9:24 p.m. Pettitte works out of trouble again. He’s been walking a tightrope and is at 62 pitches after four innings. I’m wondering more and more whether Girardi will deploy Rivera in the seventh.The lefty was livid with plate umpire Joe West, BTW. West’s strike zone is tight enough. Probably not the best idea to tick him off.

9:43 p.m. Yankees ahead 4-1 going into the bottom of the fifth. Anticipation reached another level when Pettitte retired Jimmy Rollins on an inning-ending double play. He has enough for two more innings to get it to Rivera.

9:48 p.m. Tex breaks through with an RBI single. 5-1, Yankees. Fans starting to smell it, but still a ways to go.

9:57 p.m. Matsui – again. That’s six RBIs and for the first time I felt this place shake. He’s tied a World Series record (Bobby Richardson, Oct. 8, 1960, Game 3 WS).

10:10 p.m. Fans chanting “Andy Pettitte!” Nice touch. Who knows what his future will be if the Yankees seal it?

10:11 p.m. The beast has awakened. Ryan Howard’s two-run homer makes it 7-3. Yogi is a genius.

10:14 p.m. Raul Ibanez’s double ends Pettitte’s night. The lefty sprinted to the dugout and tipped his cap. It’s Joba time with two out in the sixth.

10:19 p.m. Joba cleans up. Nine outs to go, three to get to Rivera. I don’t care if the Yankees blast J.A. Happ to make it 10-3. Lock it down.

10:47 p.m. Not Joba Version 2007, but he gets two outs. Girardi doing anything and everything to give Rivera a lead in the eighth, which means Damaso Marte is in to face Chase Utley with two on. Marte’s been flawless since Game 2 of the Division Series, but still hold your breath.

10:50 p.m. Good morning. Good afternoon. Good night. Marte does his job. Six Mariano Rivera outs to go.

katehudson_350.jpg10:54 p.m Game 6 attendance: 50,315 – including Kate Hudson. A new Yankee Stadium high.

11:06 p.m. Godzilla is human, yet if he doesn’t bat again he’ll finish with a .615 batting average in the 2009 World Series. That is insane.

11:10 p.m. Marte will pitch to Howard to open the eighth before Rivera opens for business. Makes sense.

11:14 p.m. Give Marte a ton of credit. He was an afterthought for much of the season after starting poorly and landing on the DL. He whiffs Howard (13 Ks in the WS) and gets a nice ovation. Five outs to go and the place is going nuts for Rivera. I’m headed downstairs to get in postseason position.

11:25 p.m. Three to go.

1:45 a.m. Finally back from the crazy party in the clubhouse. A TON of ground to cover. The old lady had her say.

World Series Game 6: Lineups

yankees.jpgYANKEES (3-2/103-59)
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Hideki Matsui DH
Jorge Posada C
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Brett Gardner CF

Pitching: Andy Pettitte (14-8, 4.16)

phillies.jpgPHILLIES (2-3/93-69)
Jimmy Rollins SS
Shane Victorino CF
Chase Utley 2B
Ryan Howard 1B
Jayson Werth RF
Raul Ibanez DH
Pedro Feliz 3B
Ben Francisco LF
Carlos Ruiz C

Pitching: Pedro Martinez (5-1, 3.63)

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