MLB

Pettitte swallows pride and leads Yankees

Share This Story

Bob Klapisch

Bob Klapisch covers baseball for The Record in New Jersey and worked at the New York Post and New York Daily News. The author of five books, he was recently voted a top-five columnist in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors.

MORE>>
   
 

NEW YORK

By the time it was over, no one could figure out who to hug and who to spray with champagne. So the Yankees turned the clubhouse into a frat party, shouting at each other in the way men use as a substitute for tears. It was a fitting end for a near-perfect season in the Bronx. The Bombers were just too good for the Phillies, just as they'd had too much firepower for the Twins and Angels. The National League champs put up a respectable fight, but after their 7-3 loss in Game 6 of the World Series, Charlie Manuel was forced to admit what was obvious to the industry, not to mention the entire country. "(The Yankees) were a really good team," he said quietly. "They definitely deserved to win." The Bombers were too busy celebrating to truly appreciate the precious strokes of irony. But everywhere you looked, there was evidence of how special and different this team was.
downlevel description
This video requires the Adobe Flash Player. Download a free version of the player.
There was Derek Jeter practically mugging Alex Rodriguez, dousing him with enough champagne to turn the third baseman into a human sponge. They were friends now — finally. "What does this mean to you?" Jeter asked A-Rod, to which he answered, "it means the world." Andy Pettitte basked in the same after-victory glow — out-pitching Pedro Martinez for nearly six innings, then walking off the mound to a thunderous standing ovation. This was Pettitte's 18th career postseason victory and a perfect (and unspoken) "take that" to management for offering him just $5.5 million this year. Pettitte set the tone with a 1-2-3 first inning, making it clear he had no issues pitching on three days' rest. It was Pedro, not Pettitte, who would struggle with his command and velocity. The gun-readings said it all: Martinez never once hit 90-mph, prompting Manuel to ruefully say, "(Pedro) just did not have a good fastball." His vulnerability was apparent five batters into the game, after Rodriguez led off the second inning with a walk and Martinez found himself desperately working the corners to Matsui. Pedro would later say he had "no regrets" about his performance, but he wishes he could've taken back that full-count fastball that strayed over the middle of the plate. Matsui killed it, destroyed it, sent it screaming over the right field wall. That was the start of a Reggie-like night for the Japanese slugger, who drove in six runs and was voted the Series' Most Valuable Player. It's almost certain that Matsui had played his final game in pinstripes, which made his postgame remarks more poignant. "This is the greatest moment of my life," Matsui said through an interpreter, and went on to talk about the "long and difficult" road to his first world championship as a Yankee. Jeter went one step further, saying, "Matsui has been one of the best teammates I've had in my career." He got no argument from anyone in the room. Indeed, Jeter seemed to enjoy this title as much as any of the other four of his career. He'd gone nine years since being called a champion, and despite all the accomplishments and his growing legacy, Jeter still spoke of an annual void. He was bothered by Jimmy Rollins' prediction of a five-game victory by the Phillies, as if the Yankees' 103 regular season wins counted for nothing at Citizens Bank Park. Jeter held his tongue during the Series, but standing on a temporary podium erected at second base after the game, in full view of the 50,000 fans still in the ballpark, Jeter dryly said, "people had a lot of predictions about who was going to win this Series." The crowd roared its approval — there was no need to dig any deeper. The Yankees had made their point all summer and now the message was delivered in October, too: the universe is ours. Who else but Pettitte could've started this clincher? Who else except Mariano Rivera could've finished it? The Yankees have spent more than $1 billion in the last decade waiting for this moment, when, finally, Bud Selig congratulated Hal Steinbrenner and declared the Yankees rulers of the baseball world. The party kept mushrooming on the infield — the entire organization had poured onto the field, along with family and friends, cops and media. The place had gone crazy, although many of the Phillies forced themselves to watch. They knew the Bombers had the superior team, but beating the Yankees wasn't an impossibility. Girardi said, "they played us tough, that's a very, very good lineup" but any chance the Phillies had of repeating as world champs evaporated when Cole Hamels pitched himself into oblivion in Game 3, and Johnny Damon literally snatched Game 4 with those two stolen bases in the ninth inning. The Phillies had spoken bravely about a miracle comeback on Wednesday night, but they were in crisis mode from the beginning. No one, it seemed, could stop Matsui, who took apart Pedro and J.A. Happ both, and no one could touch Pettitte, at least not when it counted. Before he finally tired in the sixth and seventh innings, the lefthander allowed only one runner to reach third base. Rollins, held hitless on the night, was too proud to say he'd been overmatched by Pettitte, insisting, "(he) was really nothing special." But the Phillies' shortstop followed up by admitting, "(Pettitte) made one great pitch every at-bat, it seemed like. When he needed that one pitch, he was able to make it. He got some double plays. That really shortened some innings. That's what Andy does — he keeps his team in the game. You walk away shaking your head. But obviously, he's pretty good." It's hard to believe this was the same pitcher the Yankees had effectively chiseled down during the last offseason, telling him after signing Mark Teixeira ($180 million) and CC Sabathia ($161 million) there were only a handful of dollars left. Pettitte knew better than to believe the Yankees actually had a budget, but he quietly took the $5.5 million and never said another word about the way he'd been treated. Instead, he pitched deep into the most important game of the season, taking the Yankees where they hadn't been in a decade. "This is what I came back here for," is what Pettitte said, shouting so loud he was practically hoarse, smiling so broadly his eyes had turned to slits.

More Stories From Bob Klapisch



SimLeague Baseball - Simulation Baseball Game

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Yankees/browse/featuredproduct/606363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_606000/ff_606363_xl.jpg&w=100 27.95 Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash
    Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/1064043/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1064000/ff_1064043_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Gray http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067359/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067359_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room Pullover Hoodie - Steel http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067382/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067382_xl.jpg&w=100 54.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room 39THIRTY Flex Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067785/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067785_xl.jpg&w=100 31.95 New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Ro..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068294/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068294_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Bl..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice Performance Jersey - Black/Orange http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068787/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068787_xl.jpg&w=100 94.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice P..