We should have known the New York Yankees were going to the World Series this fall, long before Mariano Rivera closed out the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday night and long before Alex Rodriguez turned into Reggie Jackson this month. We should have known the Yankees were destined for anther long postseason the moment we learned they would open their new stadium this season.
It’s what they do: Open a new stadium in the spring, reach the World Series in the fall.
The Yankees first did that in 1923 when Yankee Stadium opened for business, and again in 1976 after the refurbished new Yankee Stadium opened its gate.
Now that they play in the new new Yankee Stadium we have the Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies in what some are calling the Liberty World Series. Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, get it? Beats the I-95 Series or the Amtrak Series.
All that leads to this: Every time the Yankees open a new stadium, they find themselves playing the defending champions in the World Series.
And, if that isn’t too coincidental, there is also this: The 1976 Cincinnati Reds were the last National League team to repeat as World Series champions. The last to turn that trick before the Big Red Machine? The New York Giants, who won back-to-back titles in 1921 and 1922 but were denied a three-peat by Babe Ruth and company.
While we’re on that topic, you might want to consider this before casting a guess as to which team will win: The ’43 St. Louis Cardinals, ’56 Brooklyn Dodgers, ’58 Milwaukee Braves and ’96 Atlanta Braves where each denied a chance of a repeat by the Bronx Bombers.
Not sure what this all means, except baseball is a sport that lends itself to digging into the past, and no team has a past like the Yankees. This is their 40th trip to the World Series, which means they have been to nearly half of them since that series debut in 1923.
Philly fans, meanwhile, are experiencing the golden era of Phillies baseball.
Four straight division titles. Back-to-back National League pennants. Defending World Series champions.
The Phillies are acting downright Yankeeish.
And they hit like them, too. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jason Werth, Raul Ibanez. You want to pitch to that lineup?
Did you know that once C.C. Sabathia throws the first pitch Wednesday (or Thursday if the dire forecast for New York holds true), the Phillies will have faced every team in the American League East in the World Series? That’s pretty amazing since the AL East includes the Tampa Bay Rays.
Boy, wasn’t that fun last October? Could have done without the rain and cold in Philly, but the 2008 Rays were certainly a blast.
You remember what Brooklyn Dodger fans used to say. ‘Wait ’til next year!”
And while we’re waiting, maybe the Rays can find a closer and a designated hitter and some help for the bullpen and a catcher.
OK, back to the Bronx.
The Phillies and their current World Series experience vs. the Yankees and their World Series history.
As an old baseball scout I know would say, “Won’t mean a hill of beans if you don’t get the pitching.”
Game 1 is a matchup of the last two AL CY Young Award winners: Cliff Lee and Sabathia.
It’s also a matchup of the first game played at the new ball yard in the Bronx. Lee, with the Cleveland Indians then, bested Sabathia, and the Indians crushed the Yankees’ bullpen for a 10-2 win.
So who wins?
I say the Yankees have the homefield and A-Rod and Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira and Sabathia and Rivera and win in six.
But, what do I know? I thought the Rays were going to beat the Phillies last year.
I do know this: While getting to the World Series the same year they open a new stadium is now a given for the Yankees, winning isn’t a sure thing.
The Yankees beat the Giants in six games in 1923. They were swept by the Reds in 1976.
Roger Mooney, sports writer, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112.