After an eight-year drought, why did these Yankees finally win it all?
These Yankees, with 103 wins, were the best team in baseball this season
The Yankees had baseball's highest payroll -- but also a renewed focus
In the Series, they had the big play, solid relief and a red-hot hitter
NEW YORK -- The Yankees clubhouse reeked of champagne, it smelled the way you might imagine Don Ho's living room used to smell. Well, this is what you get when you win a World Series. Here Mariano Rivera stood in the doorway waiting for family. There Mark Teixeira wore goggles and talked about how God led him to the right team. Over there two Yankees players prepared to double-team Johnny Damon with a champagne attack. The sound was laughter and happy souts and the popping of champagne corks.
And there's really only one question left worth asking: Why THIS Yankees team?
In one way, it's an easy question to answer: These Yankees were the best team in baseball in 2009. There really wasn't much doubt about that. They won 103 games, the most in baseball. They scored the most runs, they hit the most home runs, closed out the most saves. They were the best team, and in a World Series that offered just enough drama to keep the tabloids interesting (but no more), they closed out the Phillies in six games. They clinched their 27th World Series championship with a dry and bloodless 7-3 strangling Wednesday night in the new Yankee Stadium.
Still, in the larger sense, the question remains: Why THIS Yankees team? New York had not won a World Series since 2000, and while eight years hardly seems to be a dry spell, it is a major dry spell when you are spending a lot more money to get players than any other team. And the Yankees spent a lot more money every year. Well, in 2001, they spent only about $3 million more than the team with the second-highest payroll. But they lost the World Series in seven games (to the EXPANSION Arizona Diamondbacks, for crying out loud), and it was time for some serious New York overkill.
2002: Yankees spent $17 million more on payroll than any other team.
2003: Yankees spend $35 million more.
2004: Yankees spend $57 million more.
2005: Yankees spend $85 million more.
2006: Yankees spend $74 million more.
2007: Yankees spend $40 million more.
2008: Yankees spend $72 million more.
Now, look, when you are spending that much more money than any other team -- and remember this is more than ANY team -- you should win. You better win. You have no excuses when you don't win. The Yankees won plenty of games -- averaged 97 victories a year -- and they won some playoff series. But they didn't win it all.
And you heard it everywhere: Something was missing. The Yankees got shut out by a young Josh Beckett. The Yankees blew a 3-0 lead against Boston. The Yankees got taken out by teams from Cleveland and Detroit and Anaheim. Something was missing. Character? Focus? Hunger? Everyone had theories. The Yankees didn't have enough pitching. They didn't have the cohesiveness of their great teams. They hired too many mercenaries who did not know what it meant to play for the New York Yankees.
Or simply: Blame it on A-Rod.
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