NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Yankees christened the new $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium the same way they opened “The House That Ruth Built” 86 years ago — with a World Series title, the 27th for Major League Baseball’s storied franchise.
The Bronx Bombers battered the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3 Wednesday to clinch the Fall Classic in six games and return the pinstripers to the pinnacle after a nine-year absence that seemed like an eternity to Yankee fans spoiled by success.
The master plan drawn up by the Steinbrenner family owners and executed by general manager Brian Cashman to mark the new team home with a championship paid off after an off-season investment of $423.5 million to three free agents.
“You can call us anything you want, but you also have to call us world champions,” Cashman told reporters.
Times have not changed that much, since the Yankees won the first of their World Series championships after paying the Red Sox the considerable sum of $100,000 and sending several players to Boston for the services of Babe Ruth.
Pitchers CC Sabathia ($161 million) and A.J. Burnett ($82.5 million) and first baseman Mark Teixeira ($180 million) helped put the Yankees into winning position.
Putting the Yankees, who lost in the 2001 and 2003 World Series, over the top was a piece added to the puzzle seven years ago — Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui.
Matsui produced one of the greatest Series games in 105 years of the Fall Classic by driving in a record-tying six runs with a two-run homer, two-run double and two-run single to single-handedly overpower Philadelphia in Game Six.
“My first and foremost goal when I joined the Yankees was to win the world championship,” Matsui told reporters through an interpreter. “Certainly it’s been a long road and very difficult journey.”
The next stop for the Yankees is a ticker-tape parade Friday along the Canyon of Heroes in lower Manhattan.
Victory meant a return to the winner’s circle for captain Derek Jeter, starter Andy Pettitte, closer Mariano Rivera and catcher Jorge Posada, who were on teams that won four World Series in five years from 1996.
“I got one for the thumb and that’s awesome,” said 37-year-old Pettitte, who extended his Major League record with an 18th postseason victory after registering the clinching win in all three steps of the 2009 playoffs.
It also provided a huge relief for baseball’s highest-paid player, Alex Rodriguez, who had failed to deliver in postseasons past but produced big hits in these playoffs to win his first World Series ring.
A-Rod had hit rock bottom before the season with an admission he had previously used steroids, and hip surgery sidelined him for the first month of the campaign.
“He doesn’t have to be told anymore he can’t do it,” Cashman said about the third baseman, whose ability to hit in the clutch had come into question.
While no one can question the quality of a Yankees team that led the majors with 103 regular season wins, the roster of the champions for 2010 will see changes.
The champagne-soaked celebrations could mark the end of the road for some Yankee veterans, including Matsui and Johnny Damon.
With Matsui’s injured knees and Damon’s weak throwing arm making them liabilities in the outfield, and Posada looking shaky at times behind the plate, there will be an overflow of candidates for the designated hitter spot in the lineup.
Decisions will have to be made about the rotation, and whether young hurlers Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes should be used as starters or in relief.
Cashman, mindful of MLB’s general managers meetings that begin Monday, knows the blueprint for next season’s campaign for a 28th title must soon be plotted.
“We’ll have our meetings,” Cashman said as boisterous players sprayed champagne in the clubhouse. “Now is not the time for that.”
Editing by Alison Wildey