It was two years and three days ago, across the street at the Stadium Club inside Old Yankee Stadium that Joe Girardi went from 1996 World Series hero, broadcaster and bench coach to the pressurized position of being the Yankees manager. Girardi was handed his jersey by management with the No. 27 as in the next World Championship for the Yankees.
The Bombers waited nine years and nine days for to reach that point again. They waited through playoff disappointment, free agent mistakes and injuries until last night when they became World Champions with a 7-3 victory in Game 6 over the Phillies.
“You can call us anything you want,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “You’re also going to have to call us World Champions.”
“This is what the Steinbrenner family has strived for year after year after year and has tried to deliver to the city of the New York,” Girardi said. “George Steinbrenner and his family are champions. To be able to deliver this to the Boss, the stadium that he created and the atmosphere he has created around here is very gratifying for all of us.”
Going nine years without a title is nothing compared to other organizations in the area. The Giants went 17 years without winning, the Mets have two in 47 years, the Rangers have one in 69 years and the Knicks are headed for a 37th straight season without a title, but things are different with the Yankees, who have the game’s highest payroll and expectations, which means World Series titles and not division titles.
“It feels better than I remember it,” said captain Derek Jeter, who won his fifth ring. “It’s been a long time.”
For eight seasons, the Yankees won a lot of regular season games but twice lost the World Series. They also suffered an epic collapse when they were just one win away from the Fall Classic, had four first-round exits and missed the playoffs in Girardi’s first season.
They finally got it done last night. After spending six months winning 103 regular season game another month winning 11 more, the Yankees are champions and the seventh time under principal owner George Steinbrenner, who was not at the Stadium but watched at home on television.
“This one was big for him and more emotional than the others probably,” Hank Steinbrenner said.
They did it behind the efforts of two of their older players – one who added his fifth ring and another who finally won that elusive title after being a superstar in his native Japan.
Pitching on three days’ rest for the seventh time in the postseason, Andy Pettitte survived 5 2/3 innings and secured his third clincher of the playoffs. Pettitte extended his own postseason record with his 18th victory as he allowed three runs and four hits and overcame five walks.
“It makes it sweet because you don’t know when you’re going to get a chance to go back,” Pettitte said. “I realize I’m 37 years old. I realize I’m getting older. I realize I’m toward the end of my career and that makes it sweet.
“The first one is always sweet because you live your whole life and you say you want to win the championship and you’re able to do it that first time. This one is sweet because so many years passed and you don’t know if you’re ever going to be able to do it again. It’s very gratifying to be able to do this.”
Hideki Matsui also was playing on three days’ rest as knee issues kept him as a full-time designated hitter and a pinch hitter when the Yankees played in Philadelphia. He returned from the idle time and went 3-for-4, tying Bobby Richardson’s World Series record with six RBIs. He accepted the MVP honors after a .615 (8-for-13) performance in his second Fall Classic.
“My first and foremost goal when I joined the Yankees was to win the world championship,” Matsui said through his interpreter. “Certainly it’s been a long road and a very difficult journey. I’m just happy that after all these years we were able to win and reach the goal that I had come here for.”
It was a fitting conclusion to a consistent season for Matsui, who was coming off surgery to both knees. During the regular season, Matsui hit lefties and righties well and it resulted in a .274, 28 home-run and 90-RBI performance.
“I don’t know if you can imagine it, but once it’s happened, you figure he’s capable,” assistant general manager Jean Afterman said. “That’s what he does. He is a professional run producer.”
So is Alex Rodriguez, who also picked up his first World Series ring. A-Rod hit clutch homer after clutch homer and was arguably the Yankees' MVP of the entire postseason with 18 RBIs -- two off the all-time record.
"It's what I've been waiting for," said Rodriguez. "There's no one else I'd rather have done it with. We're just getting started."
Finally, Mariano Rivera closed it out even if was a non-save situation. Mo recorded the final five outs and clinched the title when Shane Victorino grounded out to second base.
The Yankees won a major-league best 103 games during the regular season but the only goal they set out for was 11 wins in the postseason. It didn’t come easy. They needed the ability to out-last two pesky opponents in the Angels and Twins and then some big hits against the Phillies.
“Those are great players,” said Mark Teixeira, whose17 strikeouts during the playoff run will forever be overshadowed by a title. “We beat the world champions. We beat an incredible team over there. They deserved the championship they got last year, and we deserve this one.”
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