By DJ SIXSMITH
College Contributor Network
The New York Yankees are in danger of missing the postseason in back-to-back years for the first time since the 1980's. It's hard to believe it was just five years ago that the Bronx Bombers won their 27th championship. Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano are all gone, and only six players remain from that 2009 World Series team.
One of those guys is Alex Rodriguez, who hasn't played a single inning this season as he serves a year-long suspension for PED's. The '09 World Series title was the 27th in team history, the 5th for Derek Jeter, and the first at the new Yankee Stadium. In honor of the five-year anniversary of this memorable championship run, let's go back and see how the Yankees reclaimed baseball immortality.
New York never would've been in a position to contend in 2009 if it hadn't been for general manager Brian Cashman's aggressive 2008 offseason, in which he added CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett in free agency and also traded for Nick Swisher. These moves paid off as the Pinstripes won the American League East by eight games and recorded an MLB-high 103 wins.
The Bronx Bombers then moved swiftly through the playoffs, sweeping the Minnesota Twins in three games and then defeating the Los Angeles Angels in a six-game ALCS. Only the reigning-champion Philadelphia Phillies were left standing in the way of New York's first title since 2000.
While the Yankees had home field advantage, the Phillies wasted no time in taking control of the series. Behind a complete game from Cliff Lee, the Phillies won Game 1 in the Bronx 6-1. Brilliant in his fourth career playoff start, Lee struck out 10 Yankees and allowed just one unearned run. A solo home run from Chase Utley, a two run single from Raul Ibanez in the eighth inning and two more runs in the 9th inning provided Lee with more than enough run support. Just as they did in 2008, the Phillies won Game 1 of the World Series on the road.
Up 1-0, the Phillies turned to a pitcher the Yankees knew all too well in Pedro Martinez, who made his first postseason appearance against New York since the 2004 ALCS -- when he was a member of the Boston Red Sox. Once again the Phillies struck first with a Matt Stairs RBI in the second inning, but this turned out to be the only run AJ Burnett allowed all evening. The Yankees bats first came alive in the 4th inning when Mark Teixeira hit a solo home run to tie the game. Then in the 6th inning, Hideki Matsui ripped a Martinez curve into the right field seats to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. The Greatest-of-All-Time, Mariano Rivera, recorded a six-out save and the Yankees evened the World Series at 1-1.
The Bronx Bombers continued to roll as the Turnpike Series shifted to the City of Brotherly Love. Behind Andy Pettitte's arm and bat, New York won 8-5 and took a 2-1 series lead. Pettitte struck out seven Phillies and added an RBI single in the 5th inning to give his team the lead for good. Further support came from Rodriguez, who got his first hit of the World Series with a two-run homer, and Matusi, who delivered a pinch-hit solo home run to continue his October heroics.
New York's success in Philadelphia carried over to Game 4, when Jorge Posada drove in three runs and the Pinstripes scored three in the 9th inning off closer Brad Lidge to win the game 7-4 and take a 3-1 series lead.
Despite being on the brink of elimination, the Phillies still had all the confidence in the world as ace Cliff Lee took the mound for Game 5. Although Lee ended up surrendering five earned runs, Philadelphia scored eight of their own over the first seven innings. All-Star second baseman Chase Utley led the way with a three-run homer off AJ Burnett and drove in four runs total. Things got interesting in the 8th inning when Rodriguez cut the lead to 8-4 with a two-run double, but Ryan Madson shut the door in the 9th to keep the Phillies alive and move the series back to New York.
It was only fitting that the Yankees wrapped up the World Series at the new Yankee Stadium. The night belonged to Matsui, who had one of the greatest nights in the history of the Fall Classic. The outfielder drove in a single-game record six RBI's and provided the two biggest hits of the evening with a solo home run in the 2nd inning and a two-run double in the 5th inning. Matsui's heroics at the plate made him the first Japanese born player to win World Series MVP.
After winning three rings as a player, Joe Girardi got his first title as Yankees skipper. Just as they did in 1923, the Yankees won a World Series in the first year of their new stadium. The 2009 World Series will forever be remembered as the year the Yankees got back on top and the year when New York needed every bit of the Boss's money to win it all.
Five years later, the Yankees have the second biggest payroll in baseball and still may not make the playoffs. Despite spending over $400 million on the contracts of Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, New York still lacks the consistent pitching and clutch hitting that made them the most dominant team in 2009. Furthermore, the players left over from the last championship have failed to meet expectations.
Sabathia pitched in just eight games this year, and may never be the same ace he once was after repeated knee issues. Teixeira's 55 RBI's are a far cry from his 100 RBI season in 2009 and the Captain is a shell of himself. With Cano in Seattle and Swisher in Cleveland, the Bronx Bombers have been forced to rely on used goods like Stephen Drew, Martin Prado, Ichiro Suzuki and Brendan Ryan.
The struggles of 2014 make the joy of 2009 seem like a lifetime ago. A lot can change in five years, just ask the New York Yankees.
DJ Sixsmith is a senior at Fordham University. He broadcasts Fordham football and basketball games on the school's radio station, WFUV, and hosts his own podcast called Game Time. Follow him on Twitter: @DJ_Sixsmith