Yankees Score Yet Another Championship
NEW YORK - They were assembled to win the World Series, paid to win the World Series, expected to win the World Series; brought to the baseball holy land of the Bronx from Louisiana and Panama and Tokyo.
There would be no need for these New York Yankees to even bother trying to excuse anything less.
Accumulating championships is what the Yankees must do, or else face the consequences. Outside the clubhouse door is a spoiled public, a moody press, demanding ownership, a universe of resentful haters ready to revel at the first sign of underachievement.
And even more intimidating: the mystique of their own uniforms.
No team of any sport has more promises to keep. Nobody has more ghosts to appease. Every time they build a new stadium, they're supposed to win the World Series.
Come to think of it, they do.
And it never matters how good they look on paper, because, really, when's the last time a Yankees' team didn't look good on paper?
"Everybody asked going into the postseason, what would be on your wish list?" Andy Pettitte said. "There was nothing."
The implication was staggering. These Yankees had everything. They looked it Wednesday night, extinguishing the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3.
For a franchise that now has 27 championships and chases trophies with a single-minded, open-wallet fury, this one had so many reasons to be special.
For George Steinbrenner, giving ground to age.
For Joe Girardi, questioned all week, a championship manager at the end.
For Pettitte and Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada - the heart and soul of the pinstripe empire, having been around long enough to both understand what it means to win a title, and what it means not to.
For Alex Rodriguez, no longer haunted by the shadows of what he was supposed to be, but never was. No longer the athlete paid like an oil sheikh - and swinging like one in October.
The year that began so darkly - his personal life tabloid fodder, his steroid past a flaw on his legacy - ended in champagne, plus the validation only a happy ending in the World Series can bring.
"For the first time in my life," he said, "I've felt like an underdog."
Rodriguez drove in 18 runs this postseason. His first four postseasons combined for the Yankees, he had driven in nine.
And when New York needed someone to finish off the Phillies Wednesday night, here came Mr. Juichightsu.
Mr. November, in Japanese. Hideki Matsui's six RBI were the knockout blow to Philadelphia's title defense.
Yankee baseball: An answer, and a player, for every occasion.
The guiding principle in the Bronx has long been that outspending the opposition inexorably leads to outscoring them. Steinbrenner's law of relativity. But money was not at the heart of their emotions Wednesday night. Maybe time was.
Who knows how many more of these will come for Jeter and Rivera, Pettitte and Posada? Or Steinbrenner?
This was the sixth time that Pettitte won a game to clinch a postseason series, including all three this year. There are franchises that haven't won that many. He went into the sixth inning on three days' rest at the age of 37 to do it.
Jeter reached base in all 15 postseason games. And as other closers on other playoff teams faltered the past month one by one, handing a lead to Rivera was like handing a certified check to a bank teller.
Great teammates surround him, but Rivera alone has defined the high bar for his position. The last act of this World Series was his.
These aging Yankees, their era will pass. But not yet.
Girardi had cause for deep feelings, too. He missed the playoffs his first season, and already came the first stirrings of New York's favorite sport - speculating on the life expectancy of a manager or coach.
His use of a three-man rotation became a debate. Had the Yankees blown this World Series because of weary starting pitching, 2009 would not have been stapled to Girardi's name. It would have been tattooed.
The Yankees had gone eight seasons with their sole mission unaccomplished. Only 12 months ago, they paid $200 million for third place. Cash for a clunker.
But they won 114 games this season. Seldom have more Yankees had more reasons to savor the moment.
The clock has been turned back. This last view of baseball in autumn is nothing new.