Bidding farewell to ’09
As I prepared to brave the sidewalks last night, it crossed my mind that we were 50 days from pitchers and catchers reporting to Tampa, Fla. on Feb. 17 — baseballs flying over manicured green grass on sunny, warm afternoons, with every team in first place, no serious games to play for weeks and the optimism of spring dominating every day of the news cycle.
It’s coming sooner than you think, and with tomorrow being New Year’s Eve, it’s a good time to look back on the year that 2009 was.
We know everything turned out all right in the end for the Yankees in the end, but it’s not easy to remember that it sure didn’t look that way in the beginning, when Cody Ransom was the Opening Day third baseman, they couldn’t beat the Red Sox and former ace Chien-Ming Wang couldn’t get anybody out. They always say the Yankees play 162 one-game seasons, and it sure seemed like some of the fan base thought they were done then.
It all turned around in June, really. I still remember the day that Brian Cashman showed up unannounced in Atlanta and chewed the guys out behind closed doors. The bats were wasting the good pitching, and it couldn’t last. Mark Teixeira was unusually forthcoming that night after the game on the tone of the meeting, saying, “Sometimes the principal needs to show up in the classroom if the
teacher is having trouble with the students.”
That’s a fascinating dynamic to think about. It’s difficult to imagine that things ever looked that dire when you think about how the second half progressed, with the Yankees spraying champagne all over their new glitzy clubhouse three times (after the AL East clincher, the ALCS and the World Series).
I guess the sky is always falling in some circles. Remember how people said there was no way they could get past the Angels, that their speed and grit was too much to overcome? A little cold weather sure helped that – wow, those Angels looked like they wanted no part of New York in October in Games 1 & 2. Remember how some Yankee fans declared the World Series was over after Game 1 when Cliff Lee dominated? (Yes, that happened. I had the e-mails.)
It all worked out in the end, huh?
Why? Well, it didn’t hurt that the Yankees weren’t only a group of well-paid, talented athletes, though they certainly were that. With Joe Girardi fostering a productive clubhouse atmosphere and the newcomers meshing well with the old guard, the ’09 Yankees were actually a team that was fun to be around, which I hope translated to our coverage all throughout the season.
Sure, the faces have changed a little now, but the core should be in place for a defense of the title. When the ball drops in Times Square tomorrow night, it will officially mark the ‘reset’ button for the Yankees, who now have to go out and begin the hunt for a world championship all over again.
(Off topic: I have to fire in this note. I’m reading an excellent history of New York City called Inside The Apple, and came across this tidbit. Times Square was named for the New York Times in 1904 – the original name was Longacre Square – and there were New Year’s Eve celebrations there then. But the ball drop came about in 1907 when the city banned fireworks and they had to find a new way to celebrate.
The Times borrowed an idea from Western Union, which used to drop a very visible metallic ball on Lower Broadway every day at noon so people could synchronize their watches, seen from the harbor and many points downtown. The Times extended the metaphor, essentially making it a resetting of one’s watch for the entire year. The ball still drops from the Times Tower, but the newspaper moved out years ago. And now you know.)
So anyway, is No. 28 in the cards for 2010? I guess we’ll all find out soon enough.