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The editors over at Pinstripe Alley asked for some words on my favorite moment of the 2009 season (other than game 6 of the World Series, of course.)

After sifting through a season's worth of game entries, I tried to narrow it down, as I had attempted to do so in my Season Epilogue.

How do you pick one? Well, when it comes down to it, I had to go with my boy.

Someone once asked how he can be my favorite player when I don't even get to see him play that much. Good point. I mean, my sister lives and dies for A-Rod. So much so that she did a search on Facebook for every Alex Rodriguez and sent them all requests to "be in an open relationship" with her, just so she could change her status to "In an open relationship with Alex Rodriguez." I don't know what's weirder, that or the fact one of them accepted.

Regardless, I don't know if I feel that same kind of kinetic passion for Mariano Rivera as my sister does for A-Rod. I just know that he is my favorite. I love his attitude, his ethics, his unmatched resiliency and consistent superiority. His cool, his presence. All of it.

So I had to go with Mariano Rivera Day.

500 and 1.

So here it is, my piece on my Favorite Moment of the 2009 Yankee Season:

"That (Mariano) Rivera guy, we don't need to face him anymore. He needs to pitch at a higher level, ban him from baseball. He should be illegal."
- Twins Manager Tom Kelly, April 28, 1996

Would Zack Morris look as cool if not for Screech Powers’ perennial buffoonery? Maybe that’s the real reason behind scheduled Subway Series every year. A poll done on WFAN once revealed that Mets fans consider the series with the Yankees to be the most important one every season, which just brings to amusing light the skewed set of priorities and bag of issues surgically attached to every Amazin’ loyalist.

On the weekend of June 26-28 this past season, the Yanks headed to Shea II, two weeks after the Mets had paid their “rivals” a visit in their new digs—a series that can be reduced to two words: “Castillo. Drop.”

On Sunday, June 28, the Mets and Yankees faced each other for the final time that season, the NYY looking for a sweep in Queens, the NYM looking to stop embarrassing themselves and some way liberate themselves from the stigma of the only known walk-off infield pop-up in recent memory.

It was a good game to end the weekend, albeit a bizarre one. The Yanks had tacked up 3 runs in the first inning…and then were hitless for the rest of the game. Wang (Yeah, CHIEN MING WANG. Seriously.) had managed to limit the Mets to 2 runs and 4 hits. (Which is like saying, Claire Danes managed to out-fence Estelle Getty, but semantics…)

The ninth inning rolls around, and we’re at 3-2, and in comes K-Rod, the latest pitcher to having their powers muted upon slipping on the Mets uniform.

(Pretty soon, no one but the bravest are going to want to pitch for them. It’s useless. You cannot retain your dominance as a hurler if you are pitching for the Mets. It’s like chicks trying to date the notorious player—they all think it’ll be different for them, but it never is.)

Annnnd pretty soon we’re looking at runners on first and second with 2 outs, and Jeter coming to bat. And the next 15 minutes would eventually be known as my Favorite Moment of the 2009 Season.

First, a hilarious segment when the Yankees try to "trick" the Mets into thinking Cervelli (and not Mo) is batting after Jeter, who, after getting a first pitch strike, gives this look like, "Umm, ok. You, uh, know who you're facing next, right? Just checking."

Mo comes to bat, and my heart leaps. My favorite all-time Yankee. Batting. See, when your hero is A-Rod or Jeter or Posada, you get your fill of them every game. You get to see them make clutch hits and uncanny plays. The media is all over them, they get the postgame interviews, they get their character elevated to cartoonish proportions.

But when the guy you put on a pedestal is quietly brilliant, his presence dictated by an “as needed” basis…you don’t get the luxury of having the essence of the game cloaked in his greatness.

But that night, I got it.

I wanted his at-bat to last forever, I couldn’t stop smiling, and when he took a Gary Sheffield-inspired cut at a pitch, I almost died of happiness right then and there. SWING AWAY, MO!

(On Wednesday of the week prior in a game against the Braves, Mo came to bat with bases loaded, swung away and lined out to left center. He flashed a blinding grin as he trotted to first, and it was the happiest I had ever been to see a Yankee strand 3 runners on base in the 9th inning.)

But not this time. He walked.

And brought in the 4th run.

#42 brought in his 1st ribbie to make the score 4-2.

And then in the bottom of the ninth, he closed it out for his 500th save.

500 and 1.

June 28, 2009. The moment I knew this was The Year.

Ok, I’m confused.

I feel like I’ve been asleep all semester and I just got called on in class. My inbox today was more flooded than it’s been all off-season, with varying discourse about the Javier Vasquez trade. I first got wind of it when my phone alerted me at 10:12am with a Facebook wall post: “IS VASQUEZ A GOOD ENOUGH 4th STARTER FOR YOU??”

Two days ago, I got into a heated debate with my buddy about the Granderson trade, and I’ve learned to tread lightly about some topics with this particular friend, because it tends to become on par with Vice Presidential Debates. I almost never agree with him, and he always never capitulates. No, I don’t like the Granderson move. I don’t understand it. Yeah, I get that he’s a discernible step up defensively speaking. But then what else does he buy us?


Where is he going to bat? Second? Do we need a 30-bomb hitter in the 2 spot? Particularly one with a .327 OBP? Fifth? His complete inability to hit lefties is not what I want juxtaposed to our clean-up hitter.

What was wrong with Gardner? He’s not going to knock in anywhere near as many dings, but his speed and defense are comparable, especially considering it wouldn’t cost up 3 young players to hold onto him. Three young players, I argued, who could have been used as leverage for, say, a 4th and 5th starter. And I refuse to even entertain any ideas of Joba or Hughes playing the “Let’s just see, maybe he IS a starter” game of Russian Roulette.

Which brings us to this morning. Is Vasquez a good enough 4th starter for me? Absolutely he is.
Of course, my first instinctive reaction was coated in bile, because it induced too many acerbic memories of the Game That Shall Not Be Mentioned.

But then reason kicked in, as much as reason ever really can kick in with me, anyway. Javier Vasquez was fantastic last year. Maybe he does struggle in the AL, but unlike 2004, he isn’t responsible for shouldering our rotation. He’s there to bolster it.

And if nothing else, at least I can go to bed easy knowing that Opening Day won’t bring the news that Girardi has decided to stick with a 3-man rotation for the bulk of the regular season.

Here’s where I’m getting tripped up, though:

In the past, players such as Roy Halladay and Johan Santana were on the table and ours to take…if we were willing to part with Melky Cabrera, Austin Jackson, Hughes, assorted prospects, etc. And we put our foot down and scoffed as these insulting proposals. Hell, no. We’re sticking with our young guys, thanks but no thanks. The New York Yankees are all about YOUTH and dissolving the ugly rumors that we only go for trendy players.

Now I feel like Rene Russo in Ransom, after Mel Gibson goes on television announcing that he will not pay the kidnappers’ ransom request.

“You paid off to save your airline. Why won't you pay off to save your son?”

We’re ok with dealing our babies for Granderson and Vasquez but not the league’s aces?

How is dealing all our prospects making us younger? How does Nick Johnson make us younger? He’s starting to emulate the Matt Stairs “Can we hurry this up, I got a beer league game after this I gotta go to?” look. And while I adore the fact they’re focusing on building the rotation, I can’t help but be more than a little confused about what their plans are for the outfield.

Right now, our lineup looks like:

  • Jeter
  • Johnson
  • Tex
  • A-Rod
  • Granderson
  • Cano
  • Posada
  • Swisher
  • Gardner..?
Things start to trail off a little after Posada, not unlike Chris Farley explaining to Richard the phone number he dialed.

I never thought Granderson was the second coming of Christ to begin with, so I definitely don’t think he’s exceptional enough to fortify the outfield when we don’t have any other people playing out there. And Nick Johnson doesn’t count, since he moves with the fluidity of an electrocuted grasshopper, (which makes him an interesting choice for our all-important #2 spot.) Johnson had an outstanding banner year for OBP, which means there’s no way he’s going to do the same again this year.

Why do the Yankees have this unshakeable penchant for stockpiling first basemen? I love how the justification for Johnson is “backup for Teixeira”…since, you know, Tex chronically complained of fatigue last year. Was he overworked? I didn’t notice. Sigh. My head is spinning.

We don’t have an outfield. We traded the farm to enhance it, and look at where we are right now. I loved the 2009 Yankees more than I’ve loved any other team I’ve seen play. How many times have we read that a major factor in the 27th World Series Title was the team chemistry? It just strikes me as odd that every move done since has scrambled the chemistry, and not given us any discernible net advantage. Right now, is this team better than last year’s? Talent-wise, you could PERHAPS argue that it’s splitting hairs.

But how can you break up your championship team like that? As my coworker said in an email today, “The other thing about Melky. Aren’t he, Robbie and A-Rod pals? Like him or not, I think a Yankee strategy going into this year has to be: DON’T ROCK AROD’S BOAT.”

AND HOW DO YOU GET RID OF YOUR WORLD SERIES MVP???! Is there any worse karma? Yeah, he was literally useless defensively. But he was pretty good in the DH spot, I think, no?
The only explanation is that the Yankees are going into full-out noncommittal mode.

Like Patrick Dempsey in “Can’t Buy Me Love.” He goes from geek to BMOC by buying the head cheerleader’s company for a month. And then when he’s the envy of the school, he turns into a social butterfly, flitting about, not letting any grass grow under his feet. He’s gotta keep things fresh, he’s got no time for long-term commitments.

Not with hot free agents like Joe Mauer, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford matriculating next year.

Things didn’t end well for Patrick Dempsey though. He got too caught up in non-committal nature and it came back to bite him in the ass. If the Yankees don’t field a dominant, dynamic, and charismatic club this year, the free agent meat market isn’t going to be impressed.

No more moves, Cashman. Please. Wait, no, I take that back. Pick up some outfielders, JUST IN CASE it turns out Granderson can’t play all 3 positions at once. Or, you know, gets hurt.

And I’m pretty sure I’ll overreact to cinematic proportions if I see any of the following players get slighted:
• D-Rob
• Hughes
• Gardner
• Cano

Regarding the last name on that Save Until Manually Erased List, I would have been okay with trading him if we hadn’t already sent the rest of our underage players packing. But now that he’s the last of our “homegrown” talent outside of the Old Guard, I’d like to keep him around. How he performs without the moral support of his partner in crime is another story entirely.

Ah, so here we are. I’m confused. The Yankees are approaching unrecognizable. In Cashman I trust. Do I dare ask what they'll do next?

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