Top Ten World Series Winners and Losers
To the joy of their fans, and the dismay of their haters, the New York Yankees are back on top for the first time since 2000. Seventeen Bombers got World Series rings for the very first time. But who else stood out – either positively or negatively – during this Fall Classic?
I picked ten people as winners, and ten as losers. I excluded five-rings guys Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte. They all had great series, but even if they hadn’t, nothing would change their iconic status in New York.
* Alex Rodriguez: Given how lousy his year started – he faced the terrible trifecta of Joe Torre’s book “The Yankee Years,” Selena Roberts’ Sports Illustrated scoop on his steroid use, and a torn labrum – it’s nothing short of astonishing as to how far he came this year. So can we please acknowledge that, yes, he is a true Yankee, and has been one all along?
* Joe Girardi: He had the nerve to try to be his own man after replacing Joe Torre. Despite tons of media naysaying, and even suggestions that Girardi should lose his job, most of his moves worked, like going with a three-man rotation in the playoffs, and having Jose Molina catch A.J. Burnett. And even the ones that didn’t – like replacing Dave Robertson with Alfredo Aceves in Game 2 of the ALCS – were not fatal. Too many sportswriters criticized him for not being Torre. They should be praising him for that now.
* Brian Cashman: Cashman deserves credit for being the architect of this team. Yes, he has more weapons, thanks to payroll, than any other GM, but having a big payroll didn’t win this team a championship in the past eight years. Give him the credit for spending the money the right way this time.
* Hideki Matsui: Matsui’s healthy, strong 2009 season was critical – but overlooked – as far as the Yankees’ regular season success. It took his astonishing World Series MVP-worthy numbers to get him attention. Matsui is making a good case for the Yankees to re-sign him, or for some other team to snap him up as a DH.
* Johnny Damon: Damon, also in the last year of his contract, had a great year. And Damon’s Dash – stealing two stolen bases at one times – will be remembered as one of the greatest plays in World Series history. He, too, is making a case for the Yanks to keep him.
* CC Sabathia: Until this year, he had a bit of a reputation for October failure, but he stepped up – bigtime – to be the first real playoff ace the Yankees have had in over a decade. And his gregarious personality gave this team a different feel.
* Cliff Lee: He was the only Phillie pitcher to beat the Yankees – twice. And his Game 1 pitching performance was one of the best ever. Just getting out of Cleveland made him a winner, but to pitch as well as he did this fall made him an October hero. Without him, the Phillies might not have made the World Series.
* Chase Utley: His five-homer World Series was so stupendous, people seriously talked about giving him the MVP, even though his team lost. Now that’s a good series. He also seemed to overcome the throwing yips that stymied him in the NLCS.
* Damaso Marte: Marte, who signed a 3-year, $12 million contract extension last winter, had a disappointing regular season. He was injured for most of the year, but didn’t pitch well even when he was healthy. Many Yankee fans didn’t even want to see him on the postseason roster. Yet he ended up being the bullpen’s most reliable arm after Mariano Rivera, and the most dependable postseason lefty specialist the Yanks have had since Graeme Lloyd.
* Kate Hudson: She’s the anti-Jessica Simpson – instead of bringing bad luck to her athlete boyfriend, this celeb gets credit for A-Rod’s great season. Far from being a movie star diva, Hudson seemed down to earth with her interactions with Yankee wives and girlfriends. “We love her!,” exclaimed Laura Posada. So do Yankee fans.
* Cole Hamels: He could do no wrong in Philly after his 2008 World Series MVP turn. But he never got it together in 2009, culminating when he complained after his Game 3 loss that he couldn’t wait until the season was over. He got his wish.
* Jimmy Rollins: So much for that “Phillies in Five” prediction, eh?
* Ryan Howard: Well, the NLCS MVP did set a record in the World Series. Unfortunately, it was for the most strikeouts.
* Brad Lidge: He only pitched once in the World Series, but it was arguably the turning point – instead of keeping the Yankee offense down with the scored tied at 4-4, Lidge blew Game 4. To add insult to injury, it was his job to cover third when Damon stole two bases. Some question whether Lidge will ever recover from this series.
* Pedro Martinez: When it came to giving pithy quotes, and drawing headlines, he was a winner. Pitching-wise, he lost two WS games for the Phillies, showing that the Yankees are still his daddy.
* Mark Teixeira/Robinson Cano: While Tex and Cano both had great regular seasons in 2009, they both hit abysmally in the World Series, each going 3-for-22 (.136 BA.) No matter – the Yankees still won, and that’s the important thing.
* Jorge Posada: This is his fourth World Championship (he wasn’t on the 1996 postseason roster), and he hit well in the WS. Behind the plate, though, he was a mess. He called so many mound conferences that MLB is considering changing the rules. And his catching rep took a hit with Girardi benching him during Burnett starts in favor of Molina. Still a great hitter, though, and he still has all those rings.
* Mike Mussina: Mussina spent eight years with the Yankees, signing with the team after the 2000 championship, and retiring before the 2009 chamionship. It must be killing him that he never got that ring he craved.
* A-Rod Haters: So much for that ridiculous “Curse of A-Rod” nonsense. You wonder, though, how these fans who have derived more enjoyment in bashing A-Rod, than in watching him play, will do for fun now.
* Joe Torre: He lost in five to the Phillies, thus killing the WS matchup TV execs craved. His tell-all book “The Yankee Years” didn’t just show that his kindly image was a bit of a myth. It also tried to make the case that nobody could win with A-Rod and this group of Yankees. So much for that. Nobody’s longing for the Torre years anymore.
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