Sunday, November 8, 2009

2009 World Series: A Game of Numbers

27: It’s the number of Chase Utley World Series swings that made all of Yankee Nation cringe at once. It’s the number of times every Yankee fan thought last week, ‘will you just put in Mo already?’ Twenty seven marks the amount of times Fox 5 candidly cut to Kate Hudson and Jay-Z cheering in the stands throughout the 2009 Yankee post season run and it’s also the average number of times every Yankee fan frantically clicked the refresh button after World Series tickets went on sale last month.
On Friday, however, as the Yankees made the glorious trek up the Canyon of Heroes to the tune of over one million screaming New Yorkers, 27 meant only one thing: sweet, sweet victory.
The Yankees won the World Series for an unprecedented 27th time last Wednesday, dethroning the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies with a 7-3 game-six victory at home. After falling behind early to a 1-0 series deficit, the Bombers battled back, overcoming a tenacious Philadelphia team, relentless Philly fans and unfavorable odds to bring the Commissioner’s Trophy back to New York for the first time since 2000.
The journey toward 27 wasn’t easy, but as players and fans alike will attest, it was a journey well worth the anguish. Prior to the start of the 2009 season, the stars appeared to be aligned for what we now know to be history. The big-money signings of free agent pitchers A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia, as well as slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira, had baseball fans everywhere predicting a parade up Broadway long before the season even started. Off-the-field issues and injuries involving Alex Rodriguez, however, quickly put a damper on what was expected to be inevitable. Untimely injuries to Xavier Nady and Brett Gardner, as well as the frustrations surrounding Ching Ming Wang’s unfathomably poor start and eventual trip to the disabled list further clouded New York’s pre-season oracle.
But 2009 was a war of Yankee attrition. 2009 was a war that saw the Yankees, who spent an unprecedented $384,500,000 on three players during one recession-infested summer, limp out to what was considered an unacceptable 12-10 start in the month of April. They went 0-8 to start the season against the rival Boston Red Sox and when the most expensive team in Major League Baseball history fell 22-4 in its own brand new ball park to the hapless Cleveland Indians, it seemed as though the Bombers were destined to be the priciest bust since Carl Pavano.
The Yankees, however, had other plans. Sixteen 2009 Yankee walk-of wins, consistent pitching from Sabathia, Burnett and Yankee mainstay Andy Pettitte and gutty performances from unlikely heroes like Melky Cabrera, Francisco Cervelli, Phil Hughes and Damaso Marte all amounted to countless Burnett-trademark cream pies and ultimately, Yankee Championship number 27.
So what is it about the number 27 that sets the Yankees apart from all other Major League Baseball teams? What is it about the number 27 that further distinguishes the Yankees from all other professionally competitive organizations?
For starters, 27 has long been a numeric mark of legendary greatness. In music, Wolfgang Mozart completed 27 concerti for piano and orchestra. In baseball, ironically, 27 is considered to be the modal age of peak performance for Major League Baseball positional players, as based on a study put together by sabermetrician Bill James. 27, in its holy existence, is also argued to be one of the most divine of numbers, as there are 27 letters in the Hebrew alphabet and 27 books in the New Testament.
But 27 also accounts for more than 25 percent of the 104 World Series Championships ever played. New York, with its latest triumph, now boasts over one quarter of all the Commissioner’s trophies ever handed out. Together, the next three winningest teams in Major League Baseball history [Cardinals with 10 World Series Championships, Athletics with nine and Red Sox with seven] only account for 26 titles. No other Major League baseball team has even made 27 World Series appearances, while the Yankees have made 40.
27 trumps the 17 National Basketball Association titles won by the Boston Celtics, the six Super Bowl victories earned by the Pittsburgh Steelers and the 23 NHL titles won by the Montreal Canadians.
So on Friday, as Yankee fans took to the ticker tape-infested streets in celebration of the arduous journey that was the 2009 Major League Baseball season, they were in fact celebrating more than just another title; they were there in honor of 27, the number that pays homage to the many years of pinstripe tradition and achievement.
9: 27 divided by three equals nine, the number of innings in a Major League baseball game. Cats are said to have nine lives, and expecting mothers wait impatiently for nine months before giving birth. New Yorkers, however, will argue that the nine years they spent impatiently waiting for another World Series ring were more trying than any mother could ever understand. The nine years, marked perpetually by Luis Gonzalez walk-off bloop singles (see 2001 World Series vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, game seven), a series loss of historic proportions (see 2004 American League Championship Series vs. Boston Red Sox) and Joba Chamberlain- infesting mayflies (2007 American League Divisional Series vs. Cleveland Indians, game two), have been the cause of countless broken televisions, doorframes and hearts.
How the Earth has changed in the nine years that Yankee fans have been waiting for restoration to glory. Since the last Yankee World Series (prior to last Wednesday), there have been three presidential campaigns, one resulting in the nation’s first ever African-American President. Since the Yankees’ 2000 World Series victory over the New York Mets, the world has seen unprecedented economic downturn and unparalleled political unrest. The world’s biggest banks have gone under and so too, have some of America’s once proud cities. New Yorkers saw two airliners fly directly into their very emblem of civic pride, forever revolutionizing the world as we once knew it. The United States has gone to war with two different nations and the entire planet has become one giant revolutionary melting pot.
To a Red Sox fan, maybe nine years doesn’t seem like that long of a wait, but nine years were all it took for New York, and the Earth alike, to spin on its axis, and nine years was all that was necessary to remind New Yorkers how important, and how interrelated the New York Yankees are to the very pulse of the city.
So on Friday, when the Yankees hit the Canyon of Heroes for the first time in nearly a decade, the celebration was about more than World Series number 27. It was a tribute to the nine years that the city has waited, and all the tribulations that it has undergone, in the process.
3: nine divided by three equals three, the amount of hours Yankee fans spent daily watching the Bombers take to the field in search of retribution. Three marks the number of hours we will now have to fill with some arbitrary hobby until Feb. 13, 2010, when pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Perhaps “So You Think You Can Dance,” or “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader” can provide New Yorkers with some temporary solution. Some may even hit the gym or the books to fill the void left behind. But three hours is a lot of time and perhaps it is not unusual for a Yankee fan to go through a period of baseball withdrawal or an unusual sense of postpartum depression. Three is the amount of months that fans will have to wait for Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera to return to the diamond.
1: and that leaves us with one. Three divided by three equals one. After seven months of baseball, there is only one team left standing: 2009 World Series Champions, the New York Yankees.

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