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2009-11-12 / This Week's Attitude

This Week's Attitude

Years Of Frustration End With Yanks’ 27th Championship
By Neil S. Friedman

Ishook my head last week every time Fox Sports showed a montage of World Series Game 6 highlights as Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” played in the background. That particular tune seemed out of place since the final game of the 2009 World Series was taking place four days into November, just about the mid-point between summer and winter.

Regrettably, this is where the business of baseball is since networks’ dollars dictate when games are played because of the lucrative contracts they have with Major League Baseball. This year there were too many off days between playoff games that not only extended the postseason into November, but irked players accustomed to the momentum — especially when winning — of playing five or six games a week for six months.

Though opening day occurs in the spring and the last regular season game this year was played in early October, the bulk of baseball games occur in the season with which it is most associated; hence the term boys of summer. However, until television networks began throwing around all that money, the post-season traditionally ended weeks before the first full month of fall.

Yankee outfielder Reggie Jackson earned the title of “Mr. October” in 1977 after he hit three consecutive home runs in a single game against the Dodgers. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks delayed the start of the 2001 World Series, Game 4 was not played until October 31. When that game went into extra innings, no sooner did the clock strike midnight than the scoreboard screen read, “November Baseball.” Moments later, Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter hit a walk-off home run (the Yanks lost that Series) and announcer Michael Kay instantly christened him “Mr. November.”

For Yankee fans, the date hardly mattered this year. What is most important is the fact the New York Yankees added a jewel to a crown unmatched in any sport — the 27th championship. After an absence from the postseason in 2008 for the first time in over a decade, anticipation was high for this year’s Bronx Bombers. Last year was melancholy as the old Yankee Stadium closed following a below par season. With the debut of the magnificent, billion dollar Stadium and acquisitions of several high profile players — pitchers CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett and first baseman Mark Texiera — over the winter, there was an underlying expectation that this team with the highest payroll in the sport would reclaim a playoff spot and win an unprecedented 27th World Series championship.

The 2009 season began on a low note as injuries sidelined a few starters, including third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who admitted to using steroids years earlier then underwent hip surgery in March. For the first six weeks, the offense looked anemic as the team entered May with a disappointing 12-10 record. When A-Rod returned before mid-May, he hit a home run in his first at bat that seemed to rouse the Yankee bats, as well as the team’s spirit. Though there were bumps and losses along the way, by mid-season the Yankees’ offense clearly started to gel. After the All-Star game in July, the Yankees went on a winning streak they sustained through the regular season, including a remarkable 17 walk-off wins, that kept them atop of the American League East, ahead of their arch rivals, the Boston Red Sox, and continued through eleven post-season victories to catapult them to another World Series championship.

The New York Yankees are the richest team in professional sports, which allows them to field a team with a payroll tens of millions of dollars above any competitor. The Yankees also have a money-making television network that helps pad the franchise’s bottom line. All the same, as a true-blue fan, it annoys me when Yankee haters whine that the team tries to “buy a championship” every year. They should, instead, direct their resentment at baseball’s Players Association that refuses to consent to a salary cap, that is common to other pro sports, that would curb spending sprees for talented free agents. Consequently, the Yankees splurge with whatever their generous budget allows. That may make some teams envious and fans green with envy, but that’s the way the system operates. Besides, for nine years a World Series championship eluded the Yankees, even with the highest payroll in sports.

To reiterate WCBS Radio’s announcer John Sterling, “Game over! World Series over! The Yankees win! Theeeeeeeeee Yankees win!”

Derek Jeter said it perfectly for all Yankee fans on the stage in front of City Hall after last Friday’s glorious victory parade, “It’s good to be back.”

Yes, it is. After nine years of pent up frustration and disappointment, players and fans can savor this title for the next few weeks and talk all winter about what a great year 2009 was for the team that fittingly christened the new Yankee Stadium with a championship.

Four months from now, the Bronx boys of summer begin the quest to become the heroes of autumn — for the 28th time.

Goooooo Yankees!

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