Major League Baseball’s 2009 season will be remembered as the season that the New York Yankees returned to prominence. The perennial favorites spent over 201 million on their roster (over 50 million more than the Mets who were second highest spenders) and proving that although money cannot buy you happiness, (unless you are a woman with a shopping problem, a relapsing drug addict or Kim Kardashian) it can buy you a championship. The Yankees won it all for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 1999 and 2000. It was the first championship for Alex Rodriguez and the fifth for Derek Jeter. 2009 was one of those very rare instances in the MLB where all of the clear-cut powerhouse teams made the playoffs. The Yankees, Phillies, Angels, Dodgers and Red Sox all had strong teams on paper and it actually translated onto the field. Here are the Top Five teams of the 2009 season:
5 Boston Red Sox
These Red Sox were only two seasons removed from winning their second ever World Series Championship and had most of the team still intact. They team had lost Manny Ramirez which proved to be the difference as they were swept by the Angels. The team’s offense was led by the gutsy Dustin Pedroia, with David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis seemingly always driving him in. Their pitching staff included aces Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. 2009 was the beginning of the end for the Red Sox as the team gradually split up, piece by piece.
4 Los Angeles Dodgers
Do you remember when the Dodgers were good? It seems like a distant memory but it was only in 2009. These Dodgers were led by the braid-rocking, pot smoking, steroid using Manny Ramirez. Manny was definitely being Manny in Los Angeles and it resulted in his own section in Dodger Stadium named “Mannywood.” But that’s actually not the most memorable thing about the Dodgers’ 2009 season. What is, you ask? The emergence of young studs Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. They proved that they were the future of the franchise and led the Dodgers to a National League best 95-67 record while Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for steroids. The Dodgers swept the Cardinals in the first round (thanks to Matt Holliday’s crucial error in game two) but lost to a clearly better, more experienced team in the Phillies. Although they were the fourth best team in 2009, the future was undoubtedly in good hands for the Dodgers.
3 Anaheim Angels
These Angels were a problem for every team in the American League. They had the second best record in baseball at 97-65 and many considered them favorites to beat the Yankees on the basis of their history when playing them. They had caused headaches for the Yankees for years and always seemed to get the upper hand. Not this time. They were eliminated four games to two in the American League championship by those infamous Yanks. The Angels’ style of play is in a lot of ways the complete opposite of the Yankees’ style. They played small ball. Stolen bases, bunting runners over, sacrificing, going from first to third base on a single and rarely relying on home runs to score runs. Their brand of baseball was a thing of beauty in 2009 but it was not good enough to get past the Bronx Bombers.
2 Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies were one year removed from winning the World Series and had pretty much the same roster. Problem is they ran into the finest team money can buy, the Yankees. After going 93-79 in the regular season and winning the National League East division they breezed through the first two rounds of the playoffs going 7-2 en route to eliminating the Colorado Rockies and Dodgers. They had a pitching staff that was anchored by two aces in Cole Halmels (2008 World Series MVP) and Cliff Lee (2008 AL Cy Young Award winner). The offense was led by former UCLA star second baseman Chase Utley and his gritty style of play. They also had 2007 MVP Jimmy Rollins and 2006 MVP Ryan Howard banging out hits in Philly. Unfortunately, they were out-hit by the juggernaut Yankees in the World Series, otherwise they would have beat any other team.
1 New York Yankees
The Yankees had the best record in baseball at 103-59. They dominated in the regular season and continued that dominance into the postseason where they went 11-4. They swept the Minnesota Twins in the first round and beat the Angels four games to two in the American League Championship Series. They then beat the Phillies four games to two in the World Series for the franchises 27th title, easily the most of any franchise in baseball (the Cardinals have the second most with 11). The 2009 Yankees team included nine potential future Hall of Fame players and was led by captain Derek Jeter who broke the all-time Yankees hits record on September 11 when he notched his 2,722nd hit (surpassing “The Iron Horse” Lou Gherig). This Yankees team proved itself to be the best team in baseball and with a roster oozing with talent, they seemed prime to repeat and win many more Championships together.
History really did repeat itself as the Yankees once again won the World Championship. The Phillies and Dodgers were once again on top and the Red Sox were free-falling. The Yankees seemed destined to dominate for years to come with the team they bought. But baseball does not work that way. Pitching and defense will eventually prevail over the Yankees’ power-ball style of play. But in 2009 the Yankees made the “haters” eat their words and confirmed that they were the best. Wouldn’t you agree?