Old hands, new faces celebrate Series berth
From veterans to first-timers, Yanks one step away from goal
NEW YORK -- Some, such as Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, have been here time and again. They appreciate a World Series berth because they have learned just how rare it can be.
Some, such as Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, are just beginning what they hope to be long and prosperous baseball careers. They appreciate a World Series berth because it is their first. It is new. It is the goal.
Some, such as Alex Rodriguez and Jerry Hairston Jr., have played long careers without ever sniffing baseball's ultimate goal. They appreciate a World Series berth for obvious reasons.
That's what's striking about the World Series. All those players, from different backgrounds and different experiences -- they all appreciate it just as much. It's a yearning that can never truly be satisfied.
"It's tough to get to a World Series, man," Jeter said. "We're just excited."
All the Yankees shared Jeter's sentiment in the moments following Sunday's American League Championship Series-clinching 5-2 win over the Angels, from the front-office members in shirts and ties to the clubhouse attendants spraying champagne haphazardly about the room. They are all one team, with one goal.
"I'm very proud," said managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, the son of principal owner George Steinbrenner. "They're just a family. They're an unbelievable team. They play together as a team, they pick each other up when somebody's down, they've got all the talent on top of that, and they never feel like they're out of a game. It shows."
They are a mix of old homegrown talent and free-agent superstars. They are a jumble of big-money pitchers and situational hitters. They are equal parts talent, experience and desire. And now they all have a chance to take home a World Series ring -- the fifth such prize for some, the first for most others.
"This is definitely very satisfying," outfielder Johnny Damon said. "I don't know how many more opportunities I'm going to get. I came to New York for a reason -- and that's to be going to the World Series every year."
No one on the Yankees has won a World Series more recently than Damon, who did so in 2004 with the Red Sox. The team's four core players -- Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera -- have not won since 2000, and, with the exception of Pettitte, have not been here since '03.
Jose Molina won one in 2002 with the Angels. A.J. Burnett earned a ring in '03 with the Marlins, though he was injured and did not pitch. No other Yankee has come particularly close.
"It's been a long time," Posada said. "But you know what? It takes a lot to be here."
Reggie Jackson, a frequent clubhouse visitor and no stranger to World Series successes, dodged the champagne early Monday morning to note how rare of an accomplishment this really is.
"It feels good," Jackson said. "You work hard, and it feels good. It's not something that happens all of the sudden. It takes eight, nine months and a pressure-packed postseason. It does feel good. It feels right, because it's an awful lot of work."
This is the first World Series also for the new-look Yankees regime, which has taken on a different feel since Hal Steinbrenner took over the club's day-to-day ownership operations this winter. Though his father laid the groundwork for championship baseball in the Bronx, Hal has yet to stand at the head of a World Series-winning team. He thinks this might be the one.
"They're just a great team," Steinbrenner said. "We've been here all year long. They play well together, they support each other, they're never out of a game and, boy, they deserve to be here. I'm happy.
"They have just been a family. They have been a team. And they play like that every single day and that's why they're here."
They all are. From Jeter, with his trademark "this is what you play for" mantra to Hughes and Damon and Molina, every Yankee stood amidst the champagne Sunday and crossed his fingers that there may be one last reason to celebrate.
"It's just a great day," Steinbrenner said. "We're going to soak it in and look forward to Wednesday night."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.