Sully Baseball Podcast Rewind – January 27, 2015

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NY Daily News (Simmons)


On January 27, 2015, I talked about how the Yankees were trying to keep money away from Alex Rodriguez.

Doesn’t that seem so insane in retrospect?

Enjoy this Podcast Rewind

Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – January 27, 2015

CHASE UTLEY – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of November 2

 (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

NOVEMBER 2, 2009 – World Series Game 5

There is a disconnect that happens in baseball from time to time. It is a team sport that celebrates the individual. The way to measure wins and loss and the essential point of the game is to score runs or drive in runs. And yet people measuring player’s individual value often ignore runs scored and RBI in the process.

A great individual accomplishment can sometimes be overshadowed or ignored because of the team’s performance. A case in point is Chase Utley, hardly an unknown player, but someone whose individual achievement in the 2009 World Series should have put him in the pantheon of greats. Instead, it has mainly been forgotten.

The Phillies were the defending World Champions in 2009. And despite some subpar performances from their pitchers, especially the once dominant and now explosive Brad Lidge, they won the NL East again. Then after dramatic if strange post season series against Colorado and Los Angeles, were back in the World Series.

They faced the Yankees, in the World Series for the first time since 2003. In Game 1 of the World Series, Chase Utley homered twice and mid season pick up Cliff Lee went the distance, giving the Phillies the early lead.

Then the Yankees won three straight wild games. Despite another homer by Utley in Game 4, the Phillies found themselves entering Game 5 with the season on the line.

Cliff Lee once again took the hill for Philadelphia. A. J. Burnett, coming off of surprise Game 2 win, started for New York.

An Alex Rodriguez double in the first game put Philadelphia in an early 1-0 hole. In the bottom of the first, Chase Utley took care of that. His no out, 3 run first inning homer gave the Phillies a 3-1 advantage. Now he had 4 homers over the first 5 games.

Utley walked to lead off the third, sparking a three run rally to chase Burnett. In the 7th Utley faced Yankee reliever Phil Coke.

On a 3-2 pitch, Utley launched a ball into the right centerfield seats. Utley had matched the highest post season series home run total. Five in a single World Series had only been accomplished by Reggie Jackson. Utley’s feat should have become the stuff of legends.

The Phillies would hang on and win Game 5 as Ryan Madson, NOT Brad Lidge, finished the game up, 8-6.

In Yankee Stadium for Game 6, Utley would go hitless. The one time that he reached base on a walk, he was driven home by Ryan Howard’s homer. The Yankees would go on to win the game, 7-3 and take the series in 6.

In the end, Utley’s posted an OPS of 1.448 in the World Series with his record tying 5 homers. But nobody remembers great performances when the team loses. Instead of being a great moment in World Series history, Utley’s home run barrage has become a foot note.

Utley has become more famous for breaking Ruben Tejada’s leg in the 2015 Division Series than any World Series heroism. But this author recognizes his greatness. That’s why I am declaring him the Sully Baseball Unsung Hero of November 2.

A. J. BURNETT – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of October 29

Generated by IJG JPEG Library - William Perlman/The Star-Ledger

Generated by IJG JPEG Library – William Perlman/The Star-Ledger

OCTOBER 29, 2009 – World Series Game 2

The Yankees have a reputation of signing big name free agents and piling up World Series titles. But save for one season, the Yankees have fallen short of the title every year since 2000. And many of the big contracts have disappointed in the long run.

The Bronx Bombers almost found themselves in a giant hole in the 2009 World Series. But they were rescued by A. J. Burnett, a pitcher who save for that game looked like the personification of a bad signing.

Going into 2009, the mighty Yankees had not won a single post season series since the Red Sox stunned them in the 2004 ALCS. With Joe Torre gone to LA, the Yankees missed the post season altogether in the final year of Yankee Stadium and the first season for manager Joe Girardi.

With owner George Steinbrenner’s health failing, the team spent big and abandoned the patient “develop the pitching staff” approach from 2007 and 2008. In came sluggers Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher as well as Cy Young contender CC Sabathia. Burnett was also acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays and the fortified Yankees were ready.

After a slow start, the Yankees clicked and won the Division with 103 wins and swept Minnesota in the Division Series, getting the monkey off of their back and advancing in the post season.

The Angels challenged the Yankees but in the end, it was an old fashioned Northeast World Series between New York and Philadelphia.

A pair of former Indian Cy Young Award winners faced off in the opener. Cliff Lee topped Sabathia and the defending World Champion Phillies had a 1-0 lead. Pedro Martinez was ready to go in Game 2. The future Hall of Famer was a shell of his former self, but the potent Philadelphia lineup seemed poised to jump all over Burnett.

The free agent pick up did not have a bad year but he had a disastrous August that was fresh on Yankee fans’ mind. So was the thrashing he endured by the Angels in Game 5 of the ALCS.

With the specter of a 2-0 hole going back to Philadelphia and at least one more Cliff Lee start, the pressure on Burnett was intense.

A ground rule double by Raul Ibanez and an infield hit by Matt Stairs put the Yankees in an early 1-0 second inning hole. Pedro made it through 3 inning unscathed before allowing a game tying homer to Teixiera.

The Phillies would get on base against Burnett but could not cash in the runners. Jayson Werth was picked off one inning. Ryan Howard struck out with runners in scoring position in another.

In the sixth, Burnett faced the mighty heart of the Phillies order and got Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth in order.

When eventual series MVP Hideki Matsui homered with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the 6th, the Yankees finally had a lead.

In the 7th, Burnett once again got the Phillies in order, getting Pedro Feliz to ground out to end the inning. He had gone 7 innings, 4 hits, 1 run and 9 strikeouts. Eventually the Yankees gave Mariano Rivera an insurance run and the series was tied heading to Philadelphia.

The Yankees took a pair of wild games before Burnett got his chance to close out the World Series in 5. His luck ran out as he could not record an out in the third and the Phillies sent the series back to New York where the Yankees won in 6.

The rest of Burnett’s time in New York was rough. A pair of season where his ERA spiked above 5 saddled him with a “Free Agent Bust” label. Eventually he was dumped by the Yankees who picked up his salary while he played (and had success) in Pittsburgh.

But anyone who tries to totally dismiss Burnett’s time in New York needs to admit one fact: Had he not won Game 2, the Yankees were probably going to lose the World Series.

They have not even played in a World Series since, let alone win one. Imagine a world where the Red Sox had won 3 World Series since the last Yankees title. That almost happened.

And for that reason, A. J. Burnett is the unsung post season hero of October 29.