One More Title for Yankees’ Core FourPosted: November 5, 2009
Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte – Band of Brothers.
Any discussion of the New York Yankees and their 27th World Championship starts with the Core Four.
The Core Four — Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera — earned their fifth ring when the Yankees beat the Phillies in the 2009 World Series.
They were there for the great run from 1996 through 2000, three championships in a row and four in five years.
But they were also there for the disappointing World Series losses to the Diamondbacks in 2001 and Marlins in 2003, and the epic collapse against the Red Sox in 2004. And the Core Four struggled through early-round playoff setbacks in 2005, 2006 and 2007, and last year when the Yankees failed to make it to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.
Posada, right. the switch-hitting catcher, missed most of the 2008 season after shoulder surgery….and he was sorely missed by the Yankees, both on the field and in the clubhouse. But he bounced back and hit the first home run in the new Yankee Stadium on Opening Day,
Posada wound up hitting .285 in his comeback year, with 22 home runs and 81 RBIs. And he got some huge hits throughout the playoffs, including the game-winning home run in the clincher against Minnesota in the ALDS, and a two-out, two-run single in the ninth inning of the pivotal fourth game against the Phillies in the World Series.
There was some question whether Andy Pettitte would even pitch for the Yankees this year. The angular left-hander pondered retirement, but in the end signed a one-year deal and reported to spring training in Tampa.
Pettitte, below, had a solid 14-8 regular season, marking the fifth straight season he has won at least 14 games and 12th overall. But it’s in October (and November) that Pettitte’s star shines brightest, and his 18 victories are a major league post-season record.
Pettitte was 4-0 this year in the playoffs this year, and won the clinching game in all three series for the Yankees.
In the spring of 1996, a baby-faced, 21-year-old kid was named the regular Yankee shortstop by new manager Joe Torre. That young shortstop was Derek Jeter, who went on to win Rookie of the Year and helped lead the Yankees to a comeback World Series victory over the Atlanta Braves, ending an 18-year Yankee championship drought.
Jeter has enjoyed an amazing career in pinstripes with a .317 average and 2,747 hits through the end of the year. He was named Yankee captain in 2003, and in September of this year he broke one of the Yankees most cherished team records — the all-time hit record — held for 70 years by another great Yankee captain, Lou Gehrig.
Jeter had his usual stellar post-season, capped by 11 hits and a .407 average in the World Series. His overall playoff numbers include a record 99 runs scored and 175 hits, along with 20 home runs and a .313 average. He’s batted over .300 in five of the season World Series in which he’s played.
Fittingly last on the Core Four list is the closer, Mariano Rivera, shown below with Jeter, the greatest reliever in baseball history. Rivera’s stats are the stuff of legends — 526 saves, second all-time, with a lifetime 2.25 ERA.
As good as those numbers are, Rivera’s post-season numbers are even better — an 8-1 record, 0.74 ERA, just two home runs allowed, and a record 39 saves. Against the Phillies, Rivera allowed no runs and just three hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Rivera has been on the mound for the final out in each of the Yankees last four World Series wins — in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009. Overall, in the World Series he has 11 saves and an 0.99 ERA.
There were other Yankees through the years who contributed to multiple World Series wins, players such as Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez and David Cone.
But only the Core Four has been there for more than four.
“They understand the moment; they know how to handle the moment,” said Yankee manager Joe Girardi of the Core Four, his former teammates. “They’ve been through it and can share their experiences. …. They know that they’re not going to be fazed by the situation because they’ve been through it. We like having that.”
“They may have four (titles), they want five. They get their fifth, they want six,” utility man Jerry Hairston told USA Today. “When you have Yogi Berra in the clubhouse flashing his 10 rings, it keeps everybody else here hungry.”
Berra, not coincidentally, was part of the triumvirate of Yankees legends — along with Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford— who were the last teammates before the Core Four to win five World Series together, in 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961 and 1962.