Numbers, but not No. 27
How long ago was 2000, when the New York Yankees last won a World Series?
It was long enough to squander some very good years from some very important people. We know that much.
The failure to secure championship No. 27 has obscured the fact that such players as Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui, Alex Rodriguez, and Mariano Rivera have submitted some outstanding individual efforts, none of which has been translated into a title.
Of course, it all began when Rivera couldn't get the necessary three outs to preserve victory in the 2001 World Series. That series against the Arizona Diamondbacks probably still feels like a victory to the Yankees and their fans, what with the dramatic back-to-back, ninth-inning home runs by Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius in Games 4 and 5 and the memorable strike thrown by George W. Bush. But it wasn't. The heavily favored Yankees lost Game 7, and the Series. It's fashionable to say they've never been the same again.
Oh, but they have had their chances. After being shocked by the Angels in '02 (Some members of the New York media made great fun of the Angels as no-names after the Yanks won Game 1 of the American League Division Series, and You Know Who You Are), they got back to the World Series a year later, and again it was pretty much a shock when they lost to the Marlins. They had the 3-0 series lead against the Red Sox in '04, and again Rivera could not get the three outs he needed to close out a very important series.
The Angels took care of them again in '05. It was Detroit's turn the following year, and then Cleveland's the year after that. Last year was different. For once, there were no sad postseason post-mortems. There's no need for any sad postseason post-mortems when there isn't any postseason.
In terms of championships, it's been a lost new century.
But there has been a lot of individual achievement gone a wastin'.
Jeter was firmly in his prime in 2001, turning 27 in June of that year. Starting in 2001 he has had batting averages ranging from a low of .292 ('04) to a high of .343 ('06). He's had as many as 68 extra-base hits ('04), has had on-base percentages ranging from a low of .352 ('04) to a high of .417 ('06), and has averaged 108 runs a year. While arguments rage about his defensive prowess (the stat boys decry his diminished range), he remains a shortstop most people would want.
He turned 30 in August '01, his fourth year as New York's full-time catcher after taking over for the man who is now his manager. Since then, the switch-hitter has improved tremendously behind the plate (especially after being hooked up with the great Tony Pena) while establishing himself as the proverbial Tough Out with the bat in his hands. Prior to last year's injury-shortened season, his RBI totals in the decade were 95, 99, 101, 81, 71, 93, and 90. Most teams would salivate over the thought of such a man on their squad. He remains a man no rival skipper ever wants to see up there in an important situation.
He was 32 when they got him in 2001 and he averaged 15 wins a year, capping a distinguished just-short-of-Hall-of-Fame-quality career (just a guess) with his first 20-win season. He also saved Game 7 in 2003 with a desperately needed long relief job against the Red Sox. The Yankee brass had absolutely no problem with this investment.
A premier lefty of our time, Pettitte was 29 years old as the '01 season began. He won 15, 13, and 21 before jumping ship to Houston. Returning in '07, he has won 15 and 14. He's still a solid middle-rotation guy who will apparently pitch as long as he wishes.
OK, he was never that MVP guy they signed away from Oakland and the ultimate legacy is tainted by 'roids. And, yes, there were two lost seasons ('04 and '07, when he played in 163 games total). In the healthy seasons he rang up RBI totals of 122, 107, 87, 113, and 96. So, he was not exactly a stiff.
This classy professional was 29 when they got him in 2003. Billed as a homer guy, he instead turned out to be a gap power/ribbie machine, putting up RBI numbers of 106, 108, 116, and 103 before injuries set in. He's the guy Pedro had to get out in Game 7, and couldn't.
Rational thought does not enter into it when Red Sox fans think of A-Rod, who was 28 going on 29 when they got him in '04. The truth is the guy's ridiculously good. You give your teams such seasons as 48 HRs/130 RBIs and 54 HRs/156 RBIs, you're great. No, I'm not excusing the postseason thing, which will haunt him, as it did Barry Bonds, until he corrects it. No one is a better target (If Kate Hudson is today's squeeze, could Mom be far behind?), but let no one think he can't play.
It's not necessary to trot out the numbers. He is the greatest closer of all time. He was 31 when the '01 season began, and he's still got most of what he had then. Put it this way, if the Yankees don't win this year, it won't be his fault.
And don't forget . . .
He was 32 when he took the moolah and ran to the Bronx for the '06 season. He's no longer a quality center fielder (never could throw, anyway), but he remains a good hitter and is a legit power threat in the new ballpark. He's probably not worth the money, but it's New York, so no one thinks much about that.
Since the Yankees last won it all, the Diamondbacks, Angels, Marlins, Red Sox (twice), White Sox, Cardinals, and Phillies have become champs. Some of those rosters you would gladly have traded for New York's. Well, wouldn't you?